SEN reforms reliant on a better NHS, says Teather

27th May 2011 at 01:00

The "very slow" and "deficient" NHS must improve if radical reforms to the special educational needs system are to be successful, the children's minister has said.

Sarah Teather said children with SEN were not getting the right support from the NHS, and she would depend on key "passionate" people to ensure her changes worked.

Speaking to MPs at an education select committee meeting last week she said the NHS "can be very slow in responding to requests" and its structure "does not always deliver well" for children with SEN.

The Government announced the biggest shake-up of the special educational needs system in three decades earlier this year when it published its green paper on the subject.

The SEN statement is set to be replaced with an education, health and care plan, which will run from birth to the age of 25.

Parents will also have control of some funding to pay for services for their child, and they have been promised greater freedom of choice of school.

Ms Teather told MPs she hoped her new system would bring "significant" improvements because those in the medical and education professions would have to work with each other "right from the beginning" and this would allow them to "try to reforge relationships".

But she admitted bringing in the new education, health and care plan would not be easy.

"I don't think it's going to be straightforward; I think it's going to be difficult. However, I hope that the structural changes we are making will make that easier, and that the new plan will itself force such a type of conversation. But the detail will be in the testing - we need to test it out," she said.

Ms Teather said the success of her reforms "will depend on key people who have taken an active and passionate role in their local area in championing this issue".

"I am very determined to make sure that the health service and the education service join properly together. I am very determined to make this work," she said.

Brian Lamb, who led the last Government's review into the SEN system, told The TES Ms Teather "was right".

"It's refreshing to see the Government actually acknowledging the major gap here," he said.

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