Flimsy propaganda on special needs

2nd October 1998 at 01:00
"Getting in on the Act", the Audit Commission's report on local authorities' special needs service (TES, September 18), appears to have been written with one intention: to create panic over the number of children with statements. But the review is high on views and short on facts. It asks more questions than it answers and its badly labelled graphs conceal more than they clarify.

Most damningly, however, this review fails to mention the outcomes for children with special educational needs.

The Audit Commission's slogan is "promoting the best use of public money" but it makes no serious attempts to discover the best way of funding special needs. Instead it spreads alarm about the rising percentages of "educational resources" spent on SEN. This doesn't match Department for Education and Employment figures which show a drop in local authority expenditure on children with statements since 1994.

The report goes on to call for further investigation into the rise of statements - surely the job of the review if it had serious intent.

When the Audit Commission published an earlier report in 1992, it examined in detail the way special education was provided. This time its flimsy eight-page report (which incidentally costs Pounds 5) reads more like propaganda than research.

Action on Entitlement is a group of organisations supporting parents of children with special educational needs. It was formed after the Green Paper on SEN because of concerns about the threat to the legal entitlement of these children. Our view is that the real reason for the timing and publication of this report is to pave the way for unpalatable changes to special education provision promised in the form of a ministerial statement and action plan later this month.

Margaret McGowan

Action for Entitlement 1b Aberdeen Studios 22 Highbury Grove London N5

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