Guerrillamum's Blog


Spending on Special Needs faces cuts…

Over the past months I have watched the campaign to discredit children with special educational needs unfold with increasing alarm. I have listened as the spin doctors eased into the public consciousness words and phrases such as ‘over diagnosed’, ‘sharp elbowed parents’, ‘too many children have statements’, and (a real corker this one) ‘SEN is simply bad behaviour’. In terms of schools, Toby Young and others like him want something better than what is currently offered to all children in their local areas. Rather than improve or expand these schools for the benefit of all, the government is handing extremely large amounts of money over so they can set up Free Schools for the few that are more to their liking. Suddenly, it appears that the children of already well off and motivated parents are deserving of government money to boost their educational opportunities, and those who are disadvantaged either by economics or special educational needs are no longer deserving of the investment of public money. I predicted that children with SEN and disabilities would soon become the ‘benefit cheats’ of education, and here they are, apparently ensconced in schools that are ‘playing the system’ so they can gain extra funds for their schools.

In today’s Education Guardian Fran Abrams writes: ‘A green paper is expected to set out the future of special needs education this month – and there have been suggestions that ministers could use Ofsted’s findings to justify cutting the numbers classified as needing extra help.’ See the article here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/feb/08/special-needs-spending-cuts?commentpage=last#end-of-comments

If this were to happen, as I worry it will, simply brushing students with special needs under the carpet is a very poor strategy indeed. They will still be there, and they will go through the education system unrecognised and un-helped, and a whole cohort of our youth will under achieve in their education. As if that wasn’t bad enough, vocational courses and newly ‘non-humanities’ subjects such as Music that suit some children are being simply rubbed out of existence due to the requirements of the English Baccalaureate. In Academyworld, all routes of redress that parents could previously take when they felt their children’s needs were not being met have been eliminated: the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal can no longer deal with appeals from parents of children who go to academies and parents can no longer complain to the council about admissions. All routes of redress for children attending academies lead to Gove. There is something very wrong about placing so much power with one person.

When I look at the narrowed curriculum so suddenly in vogue at the Dept for Education, I worry about our most vulnerable children and I wonder what the future holds for them. I hope that one day this government will be consigned to history as an administration which shaped and paid for education for a narrow elite and consigned the rest to second best. The nature of this is very short term, as children with special needs will not take their place as wage earners but will become dependent on health, social services and benefits, their potential and prospects for fulfilment untapped. It doesn’t have to be this way.



The General Public is not objecting …

Nicola Clark says in yesterday’s Guardian ‘Stripping SEN children of their labels smacks of educational cleansing’ and she’s right. She says
‘In my view, stripping the children of their labels and giving more power and less accountability to schools smacks of educational cleansing. Without specific support, SEN children’s needs won’t be met and challenging behaviours will manifest. Predictable exclusions will no doubt follow.’

I wholeheartedly agree with this. Not only that, I think the timing of the OFSTED report that advocates that schools do less in terms of labelling or that there be a reduced legislative right for children to have their SEN identified and provided for is not an accident. The whole business of meeting the needs of SEN children in schools will cost less because they will be entitled to less, and these children will simply soon not be in mainstream schools as they find they can’t cope and schools find they don’t have to keep them.

When you look at the language used by the coalition, its ministers and some of the Press, to describe – ‘scroungers’, ‘benefit cheats’, ‘SEN misdiagnosed’, ‘sharp elbowed parents’ – you can see that a whole sector of the population that is vulerable is being set up to have the support they receive taken away. The public sector have ‘gold plated pensions’ the private sector has ‘suffered for too long;. The coalition is trying to hoodwink the electorate into going along uncomplainingly with their new ideologies that can only serve to widen the divide between the rich and poor, the haves and have nots …….. and dare I say it, the deserving and less deserving. The spin and language used by the coalition is trying to reshape the public perception of who deserves to be supported in society and who doesn’t. I find the compliance, or lack of objection from the general public utterly depressing, particularly when it comes to education and social inclusion. Meanwhile the government machine trundles on, approviing a free school here, closing a LA controlled school there, and to object is to be one of a few ‘voices in the wilderness;.

The one thing that will get this coalition government through is not the veracity of their ideals, or the legitimacy of their ideology, but the simple fact that the general public is not objecting.