Indifference sets a bleak future

7th November 2003 at 00:00
The editorial and article (TES, October 24) on the current state of funding for pupils with learning difficulties are absolutely right - current arrangements for supporting pupils in special and mainstream schools are indeed "in denial".

On the one hand families have been promised resourcing which is simply not there, other than for the lucky or tenacious handful who succeed in pursuading local authorities to allocate funding. On the other hand, authorities and schools are simply not geared up, financially or strategically, to deal with the complexities of the needs of many pupils with SENs.

So much depends on the attitude and confidence of heads, teachers and education authority officers, and their willingness to fight a child's corner. When the needs of a pupil does not fit with, say, the perspective of a school - or the agenda of an LEA - on inclusion, then supposed entitlements become a lottery. In my own experience as a head, I regularly encountered how irrelevant the statementing process can be in accessing additional funding for teaching support, speech and language therapy and specialised equipment.

Something needs to shift to make statements for pupils with learning difficulties worth the paper they are printed on. Current provision is led by good intentions but full of holes. Schools, local authorities and central government have become too thick-skinned about this neglect of our most needy pupils.

A proper debate about how pupils with learning difficulties are excluded - educationally and socially - is needed before a proper consensus for secure provision based on entitlement can be established. At present it is striking how indifferent our politicans and policymakers are to the learning needs of these pupils - it makes the outlook for a genuinely inclusive culture in our schools and society rather bleak.

Phil Goss 22 Ruskin Drive Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire (Head, Ickburgh School for pupils with severe and profound amp; multiple learning difficulties, Hackney, London 1997 - 2001)

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