Special needs figures do not add up

26th May 1995 at 01:00
Peter Bibby ("Nasty bumps on the statement thresholds", TES School Management Update, May 12) has assembled an impressive table of figures to support his arguments about resource allocation for special educational needs. Regrettably, these figures do not add up to anything. It would need more words than the original article to explain in detail exactly why this is so; but the main problem with his thesis is a misunderstanding of Standard Spending Assessments.

The article assumes first that SSAs are a reliable indicator of what ought to be spent by an individual education authority, and second that the additional educational needs index within SSA relates solely to school-level expenditure on children with SEN.

Neither of these propositions is true. When these figures are set alongside data from LEA Section 42 statements, which for technical reasons are never strictly comparable between authorities, the resulting calculations are meaningless.

This is sad, because his intuitive point about variations in the level of support available for individual children across the country has some validity (although he entirely misses the significance of the extent to which responsibility for SEN is delegated in different LEAs). However, the manipulation of inappropriate statistics does not make any contribution to dealing with the real issues. If, magically, spending in schools was adjusted to make his figures come out neatly, the result on the ground would be far worse than the current imperfect distribution.

Peter Bibby is billed as a barrister, and there are early indications that the new SEN Tribunal is generating additional income for some of his professional colleagues. Despite Department for Education exhortations to keep proceedings informal, significant numbers of appellants are represented by counsel - pushing LEAs into extra legal expenses defending their decisions. It is ironic that the increasing tendency of parents to resort to the law has the effect of diverting an increasing proportion of the limited cash available away from children and into the pockets of lawyers.

ALAN PARKER Education officer Association of Metropolitan Authorities 35 Great Smith Street Westminster, London SW1

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now