England's SEN shake-up will see all children assessed by age three

18th March 2011 at 00:00
Special needs green paper focuses on early intervention

Every child will have their cognitive development assessed by the age of two-and-a-half, under plans in England to identify special educational needs as early as possible.

The Westminster Government is aiming to provide a universal assessment for all children as they make their way through the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), as too many with SEN are being spotted "needlessly late".

In a green paper on SEN published last week, the Department for Education said it was concerned that too many children were "falling through the net and starting school without the necessary skills or behaviour for formal learning".

The report added: "This can also mean that support is put in place needlessly late. Through early identification and intervention we can reduce the impact that SEN and disability have in the long run."

To ensure every child is assessed by the age of two-and-a-half, the Government intends to increase dramatically the number of health visitors, who would help administer the tests, by bringing in an extra 4,200 by 2015.

The Tickell review of the EYFS is looking into how to simplify and reduce the burden of bureaucracy of assessment for young children.

But concerns have been raised about whether there is enough capacity in the system to administer the assessments, particularly against a backdrop of cuts to local authority services.

Megan Pacey, chief executive of Early Education, a national organisation for early-years practitioners, said: "I have massive concerns about whether the workforce is in place to deliver it. It is all well and good if people manage to retain their jobs and have the ability to retrain."

KEY POINTS

- include parents in the assessment process and hand them control of funding for support of their child's needs;

- replace statements with single-assessment process and a combined education, health and care plan;

- ensure assessment and plans run from birth to 25 years;

- replace School Action and School Action Plus with simpler school-based system;

- overhaul teacher training and professional development to help pupils better;

- allow greater independence in local authority assessments;

- enable outside organisations to bid to run Every Child A Talker, Every Child A Reader and Every Child Counts programmes.

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