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Threat of court battle over special needs

THE latest guidance on special needs could land ministers back in court, campaigners claim.

Parent support groups are appalled by proposed changes to the special needs code of practice which, they say, threaten the rights of the most vulnerable children.

The Advisory Centre for Education said it would encourage parents to pursue legal challenges, if necessary.

Criticism of the code comes only two weeks after the High Court struck out the new threshold pay arrangements for

teachers, saying the Secretary of State had acted beyond his

powers.

The SEN draft code follows the lead of some education authorities whch delegate funds to schools according to the number of pupils with legal statements of need - rather than the actual costs of teaching the particular child.

ACE and the Independent Panel for Special Educational Needs believe this guidance could be in breach of the Education Act 1996 and subsequent case law, which says that education authorities must identify children's needs, specify what they require in full, and ensure it is provided.

Consultations on the code close on October 13. The final version of the code, to be implemented in autumn 2001, will be accompanied by a welter of additional good practice guidance.

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