The battles for recognition

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Ann Samuel Till has evidently failed to appreciate the opportunities for control presented to local authorities by the Additional Support for Learning Act, or she would not have been so keen to laud the supposed good faith of those authorities in relation to home education.

Whereas the guidance on home education is just that - guidance - the ASL Act lays down in law that local authorities shall have the power to intervene in the home education of children, but they do not have the responsibility for the outcome of that intervention.

There is no definition of additional support needs, merely an amorphous blob of catch-all problems that could be attributed to just about every child at some stage in their school career.

Hence, it is certainly possible that any local authority could follow the example being set by South Ayrshire Council to take legal action against a parent who is desperate to prevent further damage being wrought on her children. This is a special motivation to pursue parents who have battled to receive proper recognition and appropriate provision for the special educational needs of their child.

Meanwhile, local authorities are free to exclude children with special needs, either officially or unofficially - and, having done so, to fail to provide any education for them.

As if the scales of injustice were not weighted sufficiently in favour of local authorities, the ASL Act also makes it impossible for any parent who is home educating a child to make a request for a specialist placement. For a parent with a disabled child, that can mean a lifetime without any hope of support but with the potential for endless interference from the very body that has failed to meet the needs of the child.

Fiona Sinclair Arran View Dunure, Ayrshire

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