Special needs reform welcomed

5th March 1999 at 00:00
Parents are pleased with alterations to the code of practice that will expand the role of schools. Karen Thornton reports.

Schools and headteachers would have the same rights as parents to request assessments for pupils with special educational needs under proposed changes to the SEN code of practice.

And local authorities would have to review provision for special needs pupils in good time for them to transfer smoothly between primary and secondary schools.

The proposals, in a consultation document from the Department for Education and Employment, were welcomed by parent support and SEN groups.

However, a first revised draft of the code is not expected until the autumn, and is unlikely to come into effect before January 2001.

The consultation paper says some authorities are failing to update SEN statements in time for pupils' transfers to new schools. Statements are the formal contracts describing children's needs and the help they require.

It is proposing a legal duty on authorities to complete statement reviews by December 31 in the year before a child transfers - allowing time to issue revised statements and for parental appeals.

It also suggests that schools and other agencies should have the same right to request SEN assessments and appeal against refusals to make assessments as parents.

The consultation document gives more details on proposals for change outlined in last November's SEN action programme, and includes promises of new guidance on the time needed by SEN co-ordinators to do their jobs, individual education plans, and the renaming of the code's stages.

Areas not mentioned in the action programme include plans for more guidance on how secondary schools can meet their statutory SEN responsibilities, and more guidance on identifying and assessing SEN pupils whose first language is not English; * A new course offering a route to a master's degree for special needs teachers has been launched by a Bristol university and a teacher supply agency.

The new qualification, developed by the University of the West of England and Select Education, an agency based in Hertfordshire, aims to meet the requirements of the Teacher Training Agency's national standards for SEN specialist teachers.

Teachers do not have to be supply teachers or live in or near Bristol to take up the qualification, which will be offered at other centres. But they must have previous or current SEN experience.

Comments on the proposed revisions to the SENcode should be sent to Andrew Taylor, DFEE, Special Educational Needs Division, 2T6, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT, telephone 0171 925 6363, fax 0171 925 6986, e-mail code.review@dfee.gov.uk

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