Hopes and fears

14th March 2003 at 00:00
Fred Wildridge. headteacher. Grange Academy, Kilmarnock

"I think Records of Needs have been diminishing in recent years and co-ordinated support plans are a better way forward.

"There were always pupils who fell through the net because the system demanded an input from medical services. The CSP is more flexible.

With a CSP you don't need to involve other agencies in a formal way. A lot of additional support can be arranged within the school and locally.

"In East Ayrshire we have learning partnerships involving cluster primaries, medical services, social work and other agencies. Coupling the CSP approach to this will deliver additional support on the ground more effectively.

"Like other education authorities, I believe East Ayrshire will be vigilant and won't dodge its responsibilities.

"It won't mean more work for staff but it will mean more focused work. We still need more training.

"We have units for visually- and for hearing-impaired pupils here and these pupils are fully integrated into the curriculum and school life. I think their parents see the value of this new approach because it crystallises and formalises their child's right to be educated along with mainstream pupils as well as their right to be treated as individuals with individual needs.

"It will mean a boosted learning experience."

Tom Williams. principal psychologist. East Ayrshire.

"Parents see the Record of Needs as being some formal action, that their child has some difficulty and therefore there is a requirement to address that.

"My view is that the most useful document is the individual education plan.

The philosophy of what will replace the Record of Needs is more akin to that.

"Any child with a Record of Needs at the moment ought to have an individual education plan. Some have it because it is considered good practice. The way we have been looking at it, what's much more important to day-to-day practice is the plan.

"Not all kids with individual education plans fall under the existing criteria for a Record of Needs.

"The change in legislation would seem to suggest there's a real possibility that a larger percentage of children could fall under this umbrella.

Lorenne Amet single parent of a seven-year-old boy with autism whom she educates at home.

"My son is profoundly autistic. He suffered major regression in a language unit attached to a primary school, so I took him out. I work with him 40 hours a week.

"A lot of parents have to pay for tutors. You need finance and an education plan in which the local authority is involved.

"My son should be entitled to occupational and speech and language therapy.

He was assessed three months ago but has received none yet.

"I had to give up my job (university research) and have asked for financial support from the education authority. I've received one reply from a lot of letters and it said there was no reason to discuss my child's education.

It's a frustrating situation. But I can protest because he has a Record of Needs and we are going for a judicial review. The Record of Needs gives me that legal right.

"With the draft Bill, home-educating parents will not get a co-ordinated support plan and, therefore, no right of appeal in law. I could try to go to court but would receive no legal aid.

"Under the new legislation my son and I will not exist. And there will be no retrospective appeals to the new tribunals.

"So, if my case is not sorted out before the Bill becomes law, I'll be in a very awkward position."

Steven Law parent of a seven-year-old boy with autism who is in a special school.

"My son has a Record of Needs but may not get a co-ordinated support plan.

It's difficult to say because the definition is so vague.

"I have two main concerns. If I had to go to a tribunal under the new system, which is supposed to be user-friendly, the education authority can turn up with legal representation. The chair will also be legally qualified. But under the system I cannot get legal aid. A lot of parents will not be able to afford legal representation. So much for user-friendly.

"Secondly, future needs assessment presently begins two years before a pupil leaves school. Under the new system this will be cut to six months.

"My son has complex needs. He will probably never work and we will need to look at a respite centre or an adult residential centre. But we'll only get the statutory six months to work this out."

Lorraine Dilworth. parent of a 14-year-old girl with dyslexia and speech and language disorder who is in a mainstream secondary.

"I've had to appeal my daughter's Record of Needs twice. I don't think she'd get a co-ordinated support plan because her barriers must be complex or multiple and 'significantly' affect her learning. But there's no definition of 'significantly' in the Bill.

"I think she will lose a lot of rights. I was told at an Executive consultation seminar that all we would get would be 'mediation'

which would not be legally binding.

"She only got an assessment for her Record of Needs because it was legally required. Under the new Bill a local authority does not have to assess fully.

"I had to appeal my older son's Record of Needs three times. He's left school now, hoping to go to university. I was told he was mentally retarded when in fact he had a speech and language disorder. They had to accept an independent assessment that he had an IQ of 120 at my first appeal.

"Under the new legislation this would not be possible. I could only challenge because he had a Record of Needs."

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