Angus wary of new battles over needs

25th April 2003 at 01:00
PLANS to simplify special educational needs services may, ironically, end up with the same bureaucratic and adversarial approaches that have dogged records of need, Angus cautions in its response to the draft Bill on additional support for learning.

The authority warns that Scottish Executive proposals to introduce mediation services and appeals tribunals when parents and councils fail to agree could merely replicate existing practice.

It welcomes any reduction in the number of children who are expected to go through the tangle of co-ordinated multidisciplinary assessments but argues that the changes still smack of confrontation and not partnership.

Angus points out that mediation services appear to be excessive and will be "costly, time-consuming and demanding upon the time of local authority staff".

It adds: "Much of this time will be at the expense of developing services or supporting children elsewhere and in that regard makes the suggestion questionable."

Officials believe the two tiers - mediation and then an appeal - could be "even more bureaucratic than the previous system". Local authorities will remain locked into a legal process and will be forced to provide strong evidence to support decisions.

Angus accepts that fewer children are likely to be formally assessed but councils will still be required to identify reasons for a child's lack of progress and record any action taken.

"There is little doubt, from previous experience of the recording process, that parents will make requests for their children to be assessed formally.

Indeed, the advice given to parents by independent advocacy groups has proven to be unhelpfully adversarial on some past occasions and there is no reason to doubt that this will change in the future," it maintains.

However, the authority welcomes the thrust of the Bill, moving away from a focus on special educational needs to additional support needs. Present legislation is more than 20 years old, has outlived its usefulness and been superseded by "significant changes in educational practices and provision".

The Bill aims to cut bureaucracy, emphasise partnership and non-intrusive assessment, involve parents and children in decision-making and introduce mediation and tribunals and co-ordinated support plans involving health and social work.


* "If schools want to bring disabled people into the school they have to think about space and having the appropriate equipment."- girl, 15

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* "Looking back, it was quite a lonely time."- school-leaver

* "Problems I have are big to me but to them (the school) it is a small thing."- girl, 16

* "It's not just the building barriers but the people barriers too."- school-leaver

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