Councils flout law on special needs

18th May 2007 at 01:00
A GROWING number of teachers are being left to cope with special needs children alone thanks to unlawful policies being introduced by dozens of local authorities. More and more councils are refusing to produce statements for all but the most challenging children, in a clear breach of their responsibilities, campaigners say.

Local authorities are required to assess children's eligibility on a case-by-case basis, but a rising number are refusing to statement all but the bottom 1 and 2 per cent of the ability range.

Statements are legally binding documents that guarantee special needs children extra funding and support. "If a child has needs that require monitoring, the law is clear they must be assessed, but what we are seeing in more and more cases is an arbitrary blanket approach," said Roger Inman, chief executive of the Independent Panel for Special Education Advice.

"We're not talking about a few bad apples. This problem is systemic," he said.

The panel has investigated 27 councils for such breaches in the past three years and this month lodged a formal complaint against Northumberland. The authority has restricted statements to the bottom 1 and 2 per cent of the ability range and delegated special needs funding to schools, leaving many teachers struggling to cover provision.

Hexham middle school has been left with a pound;50,000 shortfall and says that provision for non-statemented children could suffer as a result. "The lump sum we've been given is just not enough," said Bill Wilson, finance administrator.

Northumberland declined to comment.

Councils have argued the moves reduce bureaucracy and promote the Government's policy of inclusion, which urges them to educate special needs children in mainstream schools where possible.

However, they are under a legal obligation to produce statements where appropriate, and have been warned against imposing unlawful restrictions on who can receive them by the Department for Education and Skills.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now