Guerrillamum's Blog


The Special Educational Needs Review – a statement is not enough

The first thing I heard yesterday morning was an announcement on the news at 6 o’clock that claimed that hundreds of thousands of children were being misdiagnosed with special educational needs when they were simply under-achieving due to poor teaching and pastoral care at school.  Apparently, all that was needed to solve the problem was better teaching!

Half asleep, I turned the radio off straight away convinced I was having a bad dream.  But no, we are faced with yet another Coalition softening-up process towards cuts to which nobody will object, because another vulnerable sector of our society is vilified – children with special educational needs. 

If the aim of this report was to give a broad and balanced analysis of the SEN system, and its relative benefits or weaknesses, why allow the report to be heralded by a flurry of alarmist Press and scaremongering journalism, so that parents are frightened, teachers are offended and prejudices about the nanny state, disabilities and pushy parents are pandered to?  Why tell the Public about your report findings in this way?  All before breakfast and before the report actually appears on the OFSTED website!  However if you are an agency which is unsure of its future in a climate of radical change, where the government is shutting down public bodies on a weekly basis, why not produce a report that justifies and softens up the Public for government cost cutting?  

What this report does is entirely in keeping with current Coalition thinking.  It targets the most vulnerable children in the Education system.  As part of the Spin process it demonises Special Educational Needs education and will now make it more difficult for all Special Educational Needs children to get the help they need.  SEN is suddenly a ‘lifestyle choice’, the children are akin to ‘benefits cheats’ and the parents ‘grasping, ‘greedy’ and ‘sharp elbowed’ middle class parents.

If you could have found me a school where it was easy to get the help my children needed because the school was angling for more money, I’d have sent my children there.  If there is a school which is very keen to get children on to the SEN register or to have children statemented, tell me where it is because I know of plenty of parents who cannot get this provision for their children.  Do I know of any Teaching Assistants or Learning Support Assistants who are ‘social workers’ at schools on unfeasibly large salaries? (as intimated by John Humphrys, Today programme).  No, but I know plenty who are highly skilled professionals who often work through their meal breaks and after school for no pay to support the children they work with.

We are constantly being told that cuts are necessary because we simply can’t afford to spend the money. In this case we can’t afford not to.  Allowing children to fail in school is not an option because it condemns them to lifelong failure. 

There are so many things to comment about in this OFSTED report that I can‘t put them all in one blog.  However as well as the usual Guerrilla Mum posts there will be other blogs about the report on the Guerrillamum blog over the next week or so.

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As a parent of a child with SEN I am astounded by this report and believe ofsted are seriously out of touch with the reality of SEN children in the state system. I have endured years of battling my own LA over provision for my child including two tribunals and a LGO complaint which resulted in the LGO, amongst other findings, ordering the LA to amend the statement of every child in our authority who unlawfully had placed speech and language therapy in their statements as a non educational need – despite it being educational in nearly all cases. Experience as an advisor to parents of children with SEN/disability tells me that schools are often reluctant to place children on the SEN Code of Practice stages (School Action and Action plus), as, if the code is followed correctly and school implement an IEP for the child detailing any provision needed to reach set targets, then through the LA system of ‘delegated funding’, which is not ring fenced for individual children, the school should provide this. Of course SEN children bring extra money to the budget but bear in mind that it is not uncommon for many schools to have very few TA/LSAs to cover many children often resulting in many children being grouped together for support regardless of ability and SEN – this is plainly wrong. There is Government agenda to reduce reliance on statements for such children (removing barriers to achievement) and as a consequence, I have heard so many parents being told by schools ‘the LA doesn’t make statements anymore’ the pressure placed on schools by LAs is understated. Ofsted, with their many tick boxes and lack of SEN training need to wake up and smell the coffee. I have never in the last 10 years of entering the SEN minefield with my child, and nearly 7 years advising came across children who are in anyway over supported or supported without need.

Comment by Claire Jackson

Reblogged this on Living otherwise and commented:
I don’t know any family with SEN who has got what their child needed without a fight. I know lots who home educate instead, deeming it a better use of their time and energy.

Comment by liveotherwise

Thank you for your comment. In answer to your question as to why not home educate, my children actively wanted to go to school, and we all agreed that they were entitled to be able to go and to be able to access the curriculum safely to meet their potential. We did consider home education but felt that although it would have the effect of temporarily eliminating the adversity they might face at school in terms of bullying and difficulty with friendships etc, to simply ‘rescue’ them from these things would not necessarily enable them to cope when they encountered them in later life. We felt that the very good school we chose for our children offered excellent facilities, resources and a better opportunity for an all round education than we might be able to provide ourselves. Also, with the best will in the world, parents of disabled children can find life parenting their girls and boys really difficult. School enables everyone to have a bit of a break and the children have been able to benefit from positive input from a number of supportive adults and teachers in addition to their own parents. There are plenty of good reasons for parents to choose to home educate, and I can already hear dissension on all the above points from home educating parents, but believe me, parenting disabled children is very different from parenting children without disabilities. A good school has been a vital part of our plan to get our children to where they are today.

Comment by guerrillamum




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