SEN green paper will call for training overhaul

4th March 2011 at 00:00
But reform programme could be at odds with need for departmental spending cuts

The biggest reforms to the special educational needs (SEN) system for a generation will see a major "overhaul" of teacher training, ministers will announce next week.

A green paper, to be published on Tuesday, will call for "vast improvements" to the PGCE and other courses and for the creation of more SEN "experts" in the classroom.

The paper, produced by children's minister Sarah Teather (pictured), will also propose major changes to the way children with SEN are assessed, and reforms to make the system "less adversarial" for families.

There were almost 2,000 responses to Ms Teather's "call for views" as she prepared the paper. Some 40 per cent were from parents.

Under the proposals, there will be more placements in special schools for trainee teachers, something currently rarely offered on most courses.

In addition, a new scholarship programme will fund teachers to study higher-level qualifications in SEN. These teachers look likely to take on the work formerly completed by local authority SEN advisers, who have been made redundant.

Teaching assistants and support staff would also receive funding for extra training, and will be able to develop their careers - for example, by going into teaching.

Launching the green paper, Ms Teather will say teachers, children, young people and their parents have all "expressed concerns" about current SEN support and training. She wants teachers to "develop specialist skills and knowledge of teaching children with particular needs" from the start of their careers.

Special schools rated outstanding by Ofsted will be able to become "teaching schools" - the elite status introduced by the Government whereby staff run training for hundreds of teachers in a local area.

It is not known how much funding will be available for the changes to teacher training, but Christopher Robertson, lecturer in inclusive education at Birmingham University, said it was "highly likely" the Government would want cuts to multi-billion-pound annual SEN budgets.

He predicted that Ms Teather will try to save money by classing fewer children as having SEN, and this could lead to numbers on the SEN register falling from 21 per cent of the school population to 8 or 10 per cent.

"The pupil premium is likely to be called on to address myriad priorities in schools and is not going to be a limitless pot," he said.

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