Lamb backs parents in damning report

18th December 2009 at 00:00

Radical changes are required in the way schools and local authorities deal with parents of children with special educational needs, a formal inquiry into the SEN system has concluded.

Brian Lamb, chair of the Special Educational Consortium, who led the inquiry, said he had met "some of the angriest parents in the country", who had been forced to battle for the support their children required.

He said there needed to be a major reform of the current system, with a stronger voice for parents, more focus on children's needs and more accountability.

One in five children has special educational needs: a term that encompasses learning difficulties, autism, communication needs and social, behavioural and emotional difficulties.

"We found many examples where disabled children and children with SEN were sidelined rather than challenged to be the best that they could possibly be," the report says.

It points to a lack of expertise in schools that had led to children with SEN being eight times more likely to be excluded - with evidence that some children were subject to "informal exclusions" when support staff were absent, staffing was stretched or to avoid the child being in school for a specific event. This had affected parents' reliability at work and some lost their job or gave up work because of it.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls accepted all the report's 51 recommendations other than two which fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice.

They include a national SEN helpline, which will be set up to provide advice for parents; pilots to look at how children's needs are assessed; and training materials for teachers, available through distance learning. The long-term aim is for all schools to have at least one teacher with advanced level SEN training in their school.

But while the system needed to be ruthlessly refocused on delivering for children, Mr Lamb added that it recommended nothing that was not already being done by the best teachers, schools and authorities. One of the most striking findings of the inquiry was the variation between authorities. It was not the framework at fault, he said, but the failure to comply with the spirit and letter of it.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today