We can, next week, expect DfE Ministers to set out their detailed response to consultation on the SEND Green Paper "Support and Aspiration" and a timetable for what they are describing as the biggest reform of special education in 30 years.
In a DfE press release, accompanying the Queen's Speech to Parliament yesterday, the Minister, Sarah Teather, says, "In our Green Paper, Support and Aspiration, we set out plans for the biggest SEN reforms for 30 years – giving parents real choice and joining up health, education and social care services." (In fact, the SEND Green Paper does not set out "real choice" for parents when it comes to choice of school; as a careful reading shows, it sets out arrangements for expressing a preference; not at all the same thing, but let's not quibble here just now.)
Yesterday's Queen's Speech, which sets out the Government's proposed legislative programme for the coming year, announced "My government will propose measures to improve provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs." (Full text: Guardian)
A Children and Families Bill, to be introduced "early in 2013", will cover SEN, adoption, family law, shared parenting and the Office of the Children's Commissioner. The key measures of the SEN element will be:
- replacing SEN statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments (for 16- to 25-year-olds) with a single, simpler 0-25 assessment process and Education, Health and Care Plan from 2014
- providing statutory protections comparable to those currently associated with a statement of SEN to up to 25 in further education – instead of it being cut off at 16
- requiring local authorities to publish a local offer showing the support available to disabled children and young people and those with SEN, and their families
- giving parents or young people with Education, Health and Care Plans the right to a personal budget for their support
- introducing mediation for disputes and trialling giving children the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support.
The SEND Green Paper was published in March 2011. In September 2011, DfE announced arrangements for 20 'pathfinder' projects, covering 31 local authorities, to pilot the Green Paper reforms. "The interim evaluation will be published in autumn 2012 and final evaluation in 2013. The work of the pathfinders will continue to inform the changes we make to legislation through the Bill."
And that's about it. You can read more on the Department for Education website, where there are all the links mentioned above: "Children and Families Bill to give families support when they need it most".
Me? I'd like to see a Bill setting out truly radical changes in the education and upbringing of children with cerebral palsy - and I'm talking training, pedagogy and curriculum as well as the role of local authorities in assessment, provision and funding.But that's a debate for another day. Alternatively, you can read Scope's first response, in the form of a statement from CEO Richard Hawkes "Scope responds to the Queen's Speech".
We'll have to wait and see the detail. The measures for extending assessment and planning to 25 years particularly interest me, given Paces' long-standing commitment to achieving 'independent adulthood as active citizens' - and how that provision is to be funded. "Ambitious About Autism", "welcomes the commitment made in today’s Queen’s Speech to extend the legal right to educational support up to the age of 25 for young disabled people". On the other hand, these provisions need to relate to the provisions of the also-proposed draft bill to modernise adult care and support, about which Mencap has this to say "We now have serious concerns about the Government's desire to address the crisis in social care and move beyond the limited remit of the draft Bill. People with a learning disability and their families are increasingly unable to live full and independent lives".
To end this post on a positive note, then. This, which I agree with, from Mark Atkinson, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at Ambitious about Autism on extending entitlement to 25 years: “This reform has the potential to revolutionise the life chances of tens of thousands of young people with autism who are currently denied access to any educational opportunities beyond school."
More next week ......