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Legal action threat over special needs

A group representing parents of children with special educational needs is threatening legal action over new rules due to come into force in September.

The Independent Panel for Special Education and Advice is consulting Cherie Blair's legal chambers over a possible challenge to the rules which they say will damage the education of pupils with special needs. IPSEA, along with other SEN groups, has also written to all MPs and peers to ask them to object to the special needs code of practice in Parliament.

They are angry that local education authorities will no longer "normally" have to say how much help a child should receive. Instead, they will have to quantify provision only "where necessary".

"This will be pounced on by LEAs as an excuse not to set out how much help a child should receive. If a statement does not quantify provisio it is worthless. This chance will result in children's needs not being met." said John Wright, from IPSEA.

The National Union of Teachers said that any weakening of provision would anger teachers and undermine the Government's policy of inclusion. A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: "We have no intention of weakening the legal position of children with statements. The code will make clear that statements should specify clearly and in detail appropriate provision to meet the child's needs and quantify provision where necessary."

The row threatens to overshadow other elements of the new code which is intended to ensure that schools and local authorities provide support to pupils on the basis of their needs rather than their medical label. There will also be a greater emphasis on early intervention.

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