Margaret McGowan from Action for Entitlement (TES, October 2) is understandably concerned that there should be a measured response to the Audit Commission's report which notes an increase in the number of children with special needs statements.
The update report assesses progress in implementing the recommendations of Getting In On the Act, our joint study with inspectors on children with special needs. It provides key indicators to help councils gauge their progress, part of our role in promoting improvement. Indeed, every year for the past four years the Audit Commission has drawn attention to delays in issuing statements, delays which increase stress on parents who already have a lot to cope with.
Local authorities reported a 35 per cent increase in the proportion of children with a statement since our 1992 report. This matters to parents, as it demonstrates the pressure on the system. But we have sought to present a balanced picture. The update also highlights the progress made in educating children with special needs in mainstream schools and in reducing delays.
We hope that organisations such as Action for Entitlement will support keeping this vital issue in the public eye and maintaining pressure for improvement. But the debate about how best to provide for children with special needs would not be advanced if the Audit Commission failed to publish important information about some of the difficult issues which parents, schools and councils face. This must be done responsibly - highlighting the progress as well as the concerns - and this is what the update seeks to achieve.
Paul Vevers. Director of audit support. Audit Commission. 1 Vincent Square. London.
Document of the week, 19