SEN reform pioneers named
If all goes according to plan, they will be the pioneers, helping to usher in the biggest reforms to the special educational needs (SEN) system for a generation.
The first teachers and schools to pilot the radical changes to the support offered to children with SEN - contained in the Government's recent green paper - have been chosen by the Department for Education. Twenty local authorities will trial changes (see below) including the axing of statements and current SEN registers. Parents in the "pathfinder" areas will also be given personal budgets to spend on the services of their choice.
The pilots, which will run until March 2013, are designed to test these proposals to make sure that, as children's minister Sarah Teather put it, "we get them right".
Reforms also include running a single "education, health and care plan" from birth to 25 years old for all SEN children, creating a stronger role for charities and community groups and stronger links between health, social and education workers.
The changes are contentious: a consultation on the green paper sparked more than 2,000 responses.
"There are some interesting responses that will help us shape future policy," said Ms Teather. "For example, people think there should be a greater emphasis on meeting particular needs that emerge in school, just as much as identifying development problems in the early years."
Each area will pilot the reforms in a different way. For example, in North Yorkshire educational psychologists are already working towards a single SEN assessment. They will now continue this work, trying to make sure disabled children aged under five do not have to be seen countless times by social and medical workers.
Michael Cotton, principal educational psychologist at North Yorkshire County Council, told TES he had seen at first hand the stress multiple assessments can cause parents. "I met the mother of a disabled young boy who had to explain her 'story' 75 times to different people; that's not untypical," he said.
Ms Teather will be hoping that her reforms will mean a 76th retelling will not be necessary.
20 IN THE VANGUARD: THE PILOT AREAS
SE7 (Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Medway, Surrey, West Sussex)
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
Bromley and Bexley
East of England
East and West Midlands
Northamptonshire and Leicestershire
Hartlepool and Darlington
Yorkshire and the Humber