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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 16:59 GMT
Tories' special needs review call
Children in class
David Cameron's commission wants to scrap the system of statements
The system of identifying a child's special needs is too costly and time-consuming, say the Conservatives.

A report from a commission set up by leadership challenger, David Cameron, says that "statements" should be replaced by a "special needs profile".

The commission on special needs says some parents also perceive a bias against their choice for a special school.

Mr Cameron says there should be a moratorium on closing special schools.

The Department for Education and Skills said provision for children with special needs was improving.

Inclusion

The interim report of the Tories' Commission on Special Educational Needs says the government's policy of inclusion places many children inappropriately in mainstream schools.

It says that the current system of "statementing", setting out a child's individual needs, is not working - and proposes to replace it with a "special needs profile".

These would be faster, less expensive to administer and would provide more choice for parents, says the report.

The report, from a commissioned chaired by Sir Robert Balchin, recommends that independent specialist assessors, rather than local authorities, draw up the special needs profile, and a national funding agency assigns funds based on one of 12 levels of support.

The Conservatives say that parents can feel the local educational authority, which writes a child's statement and controls funding, "make a statement to fit the cash available".

And taking away the assessment and funding from local authorities would make the system less "adversarial", says the report.

'Battles'

Shadow Education Secretary David Cameron said parents had to fight "constant battles" to gain the support their child required.

"The Commission have rightly highlighted the added stress caused by the statementing process."

The proposals would halt the closure of special schools and encourage the establishment of new ones, the report says.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: "There are a range of measures already in place to tackle the issues identified in the report but it is important we continue to build on the work of the SEN [special educational needs] advisers, SEN regional partnerships and the national audit of low incidence needs.

"That is why we took a conscious decision to focus on a long-term programme of practical measures to improve provision on the ground rather than have a review at this stage.

"We consulted widely on the development of our SEN strategy, securing wide support, and we are continually reviewing our progress as we take forward the strategy."




SEE ALSO
Row over special needs 'closures'
03 Nov 05 |  Scotland
Special needs 'under-resourced'
14 Oct 05 |  Education
Special needs policy criticised
21 Aug 05 |  Scotland
Fall in special needs statements
29 Jul 05 |  Education

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