Parental clout wins special needs aid

2nd February 1996 at 00:00
The sheer length of some parental requests for special educational help can influence decisions in their favour, according to new research.

Jean Gross, an educational psychologist, looked at what happened when a local education authority stopped relying on parental pressure and used a formula system to allocate resources, writes Nicholas Pyke.

It emerged that children with articulate parents who wrote long submissions on their behalf had been substantially over-funded. This was particularly the case with pupils with specific learning difficulties and Down's syndrome - disorders associated with middle-class pressure groups.

Writing in next month's edition of the Support for Learning journal, published by the National Association for Special Educational Needs, Ms Gross says LEAs should consider developing formula funding for special needs, an approach which has been encouraged by the Audit Commission and Her Majesty's Inspectorate but not welcomed by parental advocacy groups or the new special needs tribunals.

Of a sample of 88 children, Ms Gross found that 37 had been historically over-funded by as much as Pounds 5,000 a year, while 20 had been substantially under-resourced.

"Among the historically over-funded children there appeared to be relatively high numbers with special needs not specifically linked to social deprivation - the 'middle-class' special needs such as Down's syndrome, specific learning difficulty, language disorder, sensory impairment, physical disability, " she writes. "What they did include in some cases was a parental contribution to the child's statutory assessment, often running to many typed pages."

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