Statements must spell out need

12th January 2001 at 00:00
WE welcome David Blunkett's decision, announced last month, to strengthen the proposed revised code of practice for special needs education by retaining the current code's advice on the law requiring authorities to specify the exact provision required by a child.

The decision is a tribute in part to Action on Entitlement, an alliance of 16 voluntary organisations representing parents of children with disabilities. More importantly, it will be a positive move towards safeguarding the educational rights of many thousands of disadvantaged children.

We look forward to seeing Mr Blunkett's honourable intentions converted into statutory guidance when the new code is published.

However, we also need real action, not just words. Mr Blunkett does not reassure us when he said that "provision would be quantified as necessary". We have been telling the Department for Education and Employment that on quantification the law is the opposite of what the department ppears to believe. The Secretary of State is maintaining that quantification is discretionary. Case law, however, has developed the statute so that an authority must normally quantify in order to satisfy the law.

This is important because the DFEE's interpretation will continue to allow authorities to ignore the law and routinely write statements which do not specify the amount of help the child should get. It will be only those children whose parents are aware of the correct interpretation of the law who will get what they are legally entitled to.

If Mr Blunkett means what he said, he should join with us in actively pursuing better statements for all children who have special needs, not just those whose parents are able to fight.

Margaret McGowan, Advisory Centre for Education Petrina Noyes, Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Sally Capper, Down's Syndrome Association John Wright, Independent Panel for Special Education Advice

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