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New special needs code 'to be simpler'

A MORE child and parent-friendly approach to special educational needs is promised by ministers, with the launch of consultations on a revised code of practice.

They are also hoping that new guidance, to be issued with the draft code, will help reduce the demand for legalistic statements of children's difficulties and the help they need.

It is the first major revision of the code since it was introduced in 1994. Local authorities, schools, health and social services have a statutory duty to consider it when deciding on children's needs.

The old five-stage framework, progressing from school-based monitoring and support, to outside help such as educational psychology, is to be reduced to three.

The draft also proposes simplifying annual reviews and individual education plans, which set out the child's targets and goals. It emphasises that all teachers are responsible for all pupils, and sets out the role of the school's special needs co-ordinator.

Schools minister Jacqui Smith said the raft code would promote earlier identification and assessment of needs, and ensure a less bureaucratic approach to meeting them. But parents will retain the right to seek a statement of their child's needs, and specialist help will continue for those pupils difficult to include in mainstream schools - such as those with acute behavioural problems.

"Our approach is practical, not dogmatic. The new code uses simpler language and stresses the importance of working with and taking into account the views of pupils and their parents," she said.

The code is being issued with a "thresholds" document, compiled by Newcastle University. It offers good practice guidance and case studies on identification and provision for pupils. The Department for Education and Employment is hoping this will encourage a better service without parents having to resort to a statement.

The draft consultations end in October, with the final version ready for September 2001.

Enquiries: telephone 0870 000 2288.

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