Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 16:26 UK

Special needs exclusions targeted

Special needs class
The move to cut exclusions follows an inquiry into special needs

Steps are being proposed to try to reduce the number of children with special educational needs (SEN) who are excluded from England's schools.

Children with special needs are eight times more likely than others to be excluded, government statistics show.

Now Children's Secretary Ed Balls is to issue new guidance for schools. He has also announced wider trials of better ways of assessing children's needs.

There is also to be a review of the supply of expert teachers.

And the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust will run a £550,000 project to develop best practice in certain schools for children with the most complex difficulties.

'Less stressful'

The moves are in response to an inquiry conducted for the government by the chair of the Special Educational Consortium, Brian Lamb.

Ministers have already accepted his finding that too many parents of children with SEN feel they have to battle the system to get what their children need.

Mr Balls said: "Parents have told me that they want the assessment process to be clearer and more transparent and that is why I have decided to ask local authorities to test out their assessment processes further.

"I am keen that we look at greater communication between local authorities and parents on how we can make the process less stressful and whether an assessment process which is more independent can improve parental confidence."

Mr Lamb welcomed this, saying: "We know that there is excellent practice in schools and local authorities across the country on how existing partnerships have reduced exclusions through early intervention, schools working in partnership, effective staff training and multi-agency support and I want all partnerships to use these approaches to drive down the level of exclusions for children with SEN."

Mainstream teaching

His inquiry's call for evidence closed on 30 June having received just over 3,400 replies: 1,941 from parents, 544 from school staff, 516 from other professionals working with children, schools and families and 400 students.

Special needs charity Nasen said the assessment process had for too long been arduous for schools and parents.

Hopefully if local authorities shared their findings, a new more transparent system could be found to ensure the needs of all children could be met, it said.

Chief executive officer Lorraine Petersen said: "The announcement today to offer support for schools with children with the most complex needs is welcomed.

"However, with many more of these children in our mainstream schools I feel that this is not just about ensuring that pupils have the highest quality teaching in special schools, we need to ensure that all pupils have the highest quality teaching."

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