Special needs task force has a one-sided membership

17th October 1997 at 01:00
I was interested in the overview of the education task forces, but why are parents excluded from the special needs task force? (TES, October 3).

The membership of the advisory group on special needs is less eclectic than the others, indeed, its members are overwhelmingly local authority officers and employees. One especially startling thing about it is that it has no representation from parents' organisations or organisations whose exclusive role is to support parents.

As a parent who has gone through struggles over my child's support, and as someone who has supported other parents both locally and nationally, I know how easy it is for the local authority view to prevail, even when they are acting unlawfully, and for parents' views to be marginalised.

Very many tribunal appeals are attempts by parents to get statements that are comprehensive, detailed and clear so that children's support is guaranteed as it should be in law. Yet local authority associations are on record as attacking such parents as greedy, unfairly gaining scarce resources for "children who don't need statementing at all".

One of the chief education officers on the group comes from an authority (Bexley) that was in the top 10 of local authority in terms of numbers of tribunal appeals against them in 1995.

Another senior officer is an architect of a special educational needs initiative which recommends rationing statements on a quota system.

Where there are such real divisions between parties, and possible abuses of power by the party with the information, decision-making powers and tight purse-strings, parents have looked to the Secretary of State for a balanced and unbiased view.

I am afraid that the composition of the advisory group will not give them hope. Who is guarding the guards?

CHRIS GRAVELL 43 Green Lane Wolverton Milton Keynes

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