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Finger on buzzer, let's play the statement game!

Voiceover: "It's the moment you headteachers have been waiting for! It's time to put your pupil's future in the balance and play THE PANEL GAME!"

(Music, audience applause. Lights come up to reveal two suited judges behind desks. The host enters.)

Host: "Welcome! Tonight we could be giving away literally thousands of pounds in educational funding! And some lucky pupil will be walking away with our star prize... a Statement of Special Educational Needs."

(Audience cheers.)

Host: "Let's meet the panel who will help me decide which vulnerable pupil will get the support they need... and which will fall hopelessly through the net. On my left, representing the local authority, Ivor Tightfist."

Ivor: "Hello."

Host: "And on my right, our regular in-house expert, Ed Psych."

Ed: "Hello."

Host: "So let's meet our contestants, Senco Mrs Stevens and her pupil Connor."

(A small child and an exhausted teacher step forward into the spotlight.)

Voiceover: "Connor is nine years old and enjoys running out of class. He never does as he's told and has very low self-esteem. His hobbies include stealing and setting fire to things. His parents drink and fight a lot and he's working well below national expectations. Connor has suspected ADHD!"

Host: "Any questions, Ed?"

Ed: "Mrs Stevens, have you tried reward stickers for Connor's behaviour?"

Mrs Stevens: "Yes. Connor set fire to them."

Ed: "How about a hard stare?"

Mrs Stevens: "Have you read my report? We are constantly creative in the way we manage Connor, but we've run out of options and the school can't fund a teaching assistant anymore. He's at risk of permanent exclusion."

Ivor: "That won't look good on the local authority statistics."

Mrs Stevens: "Connor needs lots of emotional support. He needs to build up his trust, since most adults in his life have let him down."

Ivor: "You say he has suspected ADHD?"

Mrs Stevens: "Yes, that's right."

Ivor: "So not fully diagnosed? Until we get an assessment, I'm afraid it's a 'no' from me."

Mrs Stevens: "But his parents won't agree to an assessment - they won't agree on anything because they're always arguing. Connor needs one-to-one support. He spends most of his time out of class and the time he's in class, he disrupts the others."

Ed: "Without a full assessment, I'm afraid I agree with Ivor. It's a 'no' from me too."

Host: "So that's two 'no's from the panel. Which means you go away with... "

Audience: "NOTHING!"

(Connor runs off, kicking the cameraman. Mrs Stevens exits, depressed.)

Host: "So the local authority saves lots of money in the short term, but loses thousands as Connor becomes a disaffected teenager with no future and begins a lifetime of anti-social behaviour and crime! Join us next week for The Panel Game, when we'll decide the fate of another of our most vulnerable children."

Colin Dowland is headteacher of a junior school in north London.

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