Pupils with severe special needs sold short, says report

21st October 2011 at 01:00
They are let down by sporadic funding and services, review findings suggest

The education of children with severe special needs is being let down by a haphazard system of national funding and services that fail to meld together, the initial findings of a national review suggest.

Even at this stage the work of Peter Doran's review team - whose final recommendations are expected next spring - is proving contentious, with clashing views about the efficacy of what is already in place and the review itself.

There are "significant differences of views on the efficacy of existing systems", finds the Doran review's interim report on provision for children and young people with complex additional needs.

"There are strong views that the inter-agency co- operation required. could be improved," the report adds. "These strong views extended to the equity of the current resource contribution of relevant agencies to meet identified need."

The way national funding is divided up is a "contentious issue". Some view it as "inequitable and lacking in evidence of effectiveness", and previous recommendations to change national funding "have not been acted upon".

The report, published last week, sees more "strategic commissioning of services" as a priority to ensure the right support for all children in Scotland with complex needs.

There is acknowledgment, too, of families' anxieties: "Some parents have expressed strong views that services are not easily accessible and they often feel the process of securing those services is adversarial."

The report predicts that the review will "reopen past debates and anxieties", and underlines the difficulty of forming a consensus in this area.

The review team hopes to address the following teething problems in the coming months: "From the outset, views were expressed about the clarity of the remit and scope of the review. Concerns were raised about the complexity of the task, timescales and resources available to the review.

"Many of these views and concerns were realised and the progress of the working groups was affected by these factors."

Over the next six months, a small working group will come up with draft recommendations for the Scottish Government. This second phase of the review will pay "particular attention" to the views of parents, carers and children and young people themselves.


ASN statistics

In 2010 there were 69,587 pupils identified as having additional support needs - just over 10 per cent of all pupils in Scotland. Of these, 62,787 were supported in mainstream schools, 6,537 in the 156 local authority special schools, and 263 in the seven grant-aided special schools.

These figures do not include pupils who attended independent special schools. In 2009, 982 pupils were supported in the 45 independent special schools. Of these, 97 per cent were funded by Scottish local authorities.

Source: Doran review's interim report.

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