Complex additional needs reviewed

16th November 2012 at 00:00
Report reveals mixed findings on provision of special education

A review of the learning provision for children with complex additional support needs has revealed a mixed picture.

The author of the Scottish government-commissioned report, Peter Doran, says Scotland can be "justly proud" of "progressive legislation, policy and practice initiatives". But a "sizeable number" of parents do not have positive experiences and have understandable concerns about funding and affordability of services.

"Many parents and carers told the review that they faced severe difficulties and challenges in accessing the services their child needed," he says in The Right Help at the Right Time in the Right Place, published this week.

Only 40 per cent of respondents to his call for evidence stated that education services were providing "well" or "very well" for children and young people with complex additional support needs, while 22 per cent thought provision was poor.

"Local authorities' views on the quality of their own provision and processes were therefore sometimes at odds with parental perceptions," he reports.

He describes parents' frustration at having to repeatedly "retell their story" to different professionals and not having one lead person to whom they could relate - one of the key recommendations of the government's Getting it Right for Every Child policy.

His report also identifies serious concerns about the lack of availability and affordability of professional training courses affecting teachers and educational psychologists. This and cuts to classroom assistant posts are attributed to the removal of ring-fenced funding allowing councils to use the money for other purposes.

Mr Doran also flags up concerns on the part of ADES, the education directors' body, about the government's decision to remove funding for postgraduate training for educational psychologists.

Mr Doran, former chief executive of Harmeny Education Trust, also identifies tensions between local authorities and independent providers relating to funding and the cost of out-of-authority placements.

Alasdair Allan, minister of learning, said the government would maintain its current pound;10 million per year of funding to the ASN sector - the majority of which is used for the country's seven grant-aided special schools - for the next three years. However, it is to hold a review of strategic commissioning over the next five years as needs and expectations have changed, Dr Allan told TESS.

elizabeth.buie@tess.co.uk.

FOUR-YEAR PLAN

The Scottish government has announced a four-year plan to support implementation of the Additional Support for Learning Act and the Doran review, covering four broad themes:

- the support available for particular groups of children or young people and areas for further support in implementation;

- building capacity in staff to provide support;

- information;

- law and guidance.

WHY FINDING THE RIGHT PROVISION FOR RUFUS WAS A `NIGHTMARE'

Eight-year-old Rufus is a pupil at Corseford School in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, run by Capability Scotland. His "headline" diagnosis of severe cerebral palsy was made at the age of six months, but he is also deaf and quadriplegic.

His mother, Kate Bailey, says her initial ambition was for Rufus to be educated in mainstream education, but it became apparent, even in a nursery setting, that he was going to need something quite specialist.

Corseford, where many pupils have cerebral palsy, was, says Mrs Bailey, the only school which didn't ask what her son's needs were but took the attitude: "Yes, he's in a wheelchair - so what? What can he do?"

But getting him a place at Corseford was "a nightmare", she says. She describes a meeting of 15 people where 13 education and health professionals all recommended Corseford as most suitable for Rufus's needs. But when the minutes were published, the "man with the cheque-book" from her local authority said Rufus would be going to another school.

Mrs Bailey describes herself as "fairly articulate and middle class"; her next move was to enlist the support of her MSP, who wrote to the head of education asking for the decision to be looked at again.

Original headline: Additional needs review reveals mixed blessings

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