28th March 2003 at 00:00
The new legal concept of "additional support needs" demands closer scrutiny.

This is a massive shift in education law and, as such, should have been made open to far wider consultation before the draft legislation stage. The proposed legislation is threatening seriously to diminish the legal rights of children with what are currently understood as special educational needs and their parents. The all-encompassing concept of "additional support needs" has implications for us all.

The gaping holes in the proposed legislation, to be filled in later with guidance and regulations, beg many questions. How exactly will councils fulfil their duty to identify and address "additional support needs"?

How many more areas of our chidren's lives are going to be subjected to the target-setting mentality, and the tick-the-box or pick-a-phrase assessments that accompany it and with which our education system is so obsessed?

What are the implications for dedicated professionals if their input is degraded to this level? Is there a risk that these once trusted professionals will come to be seen as snoopers? Who will have access to this highly sensitive information and for what purpose? How is the issue of obtaining informed consent to information-sharing to work in practice?

Sheila Struthers



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