SEN shake-up: every child assessed before three

11th March 2011 at 00:00
Special needs green paper focuses on early intervention

Every child will have their cognitive development assessed by the age of two and a half, under plans to identify special educational needs (SEN) as early as possible.

The Government is aiming to provide a universal assessment for all children as they make their way through the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), as too many with SEN are being spotted "needlessly late".

In a green paper on SEN published on Wednesday, the Department for Education said it was concerned that too many children were "falling through the net and starting school without the necessary skills or behaviour for formal learning".

The green paper added: "This can also mean that support is put in place needlessly late. Through early identification and intervention we can reduce the impact that SEN and disability have in the long run."

To ensure every child is assessed by the age of two-and-a-half, the Government intends to increase dramatically the number of health visitors, who would help administer the tests, by bringing in an extra 4,200 by 2015.

The Tickell review of the EYFS is looking into how to simplify and reduce the burden of bureaucracy of assessment for young children.

But concerns have been raised about whether there is enough capacity in the system to administer the assessments, particularly against a backdrop of cuts to local authority services.

Megan Pacey, chief executive of Early Education, a national organisation for early-years practitioners, said: "I have massive concerns about whether the workforce is in place to deliver it. It is all well and good if people manage to retain their jobs and have the ability to retrain.

"The real catch is that the infrastructure is collapsing; we can only do what we can with the resources we have. If the resources are stripped back, it is going to be more and more of a shoestring and less and less comprehensive."

The changes form part of the biggest shake-up of SEN by the Government in 30 years.

Among a raft of proposals, children's minister Sarah Teather (left) revealed plans to replace SEN statements with an education, health and care plan, which will run from birth to the age of 25.

The consultation also intends to hand parents control of funding for the support of their child's needs, while allowing them to choose which school they want to attend, whether mainstream, special free school or academy.

The document also proposes an overhaul of teacher training and professional development to help raise attainment among SEN pupils.

Launching the green paper, Ms Teather said: "We have heard time and time again that parents are frustrated with endless delays to getting the help their child needs and by being caught in the middle when local services don't work together.

"The new single-assessment process and plan will tackle this issue and mean that parents don't feel they have to push to get the services they are entitled to."

Responding to the launch, Steve Rose, head of children's specialist services at Sense, the national deafblind charity, said: "This must be backed by a robust long- term funding agreement for special education needs in schools and a thorough understanding of SEN issues within the teaching workforce."


- Include parents in the assessment process and hand them control of funding for support of their child's needs;

- Replace statements with single-assessment process and a combined education, health and care plan;

- Ensure assessment and plans run from birth to 25 years;

- Replace School Action and School Action Plus with simpler school-based system;

- Overhaul teacher training and professional development to better help pupils;

- Allow greater independence in local authority assessments;

- Enable outside organisations to bid to run Every Child A Talker, Every Child A Reader and Every Child Counts programmes.

  • Original headline: SEN shake-up will see every child assessed before age three

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