Monday 13 June 2016

It's not supposed to be 'Them' vs 'Us'

"I'm prepared to go in fighting." I've read and heard the phrase so many times from parents of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) that I've lost count. I may even have said it myself.

By definition a SEN child needs additional support.  They are "A child or young person has special educational needs if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for them."  Where a special educational provision is "provision that is additional to or different from that which would normally be provided for children or young people of the same age in a mainstream education setting."  (Children and Families Act 2014 Section 20 and 21). 

This special educational provision is quite sensibly worked out on a case by case basis, as each SEN childs needs are as unique as they are. Some may attend mainstream school with additional supports or therapies, some may need to attend a type of specialist setting, and others may need well.. something individual to their needs.

The difficulties arise in potential disagreements about the form this special educational provision takes. As "Provision that is additional", inevitably comes with additional costs so whatever this is needs to be agreed with a Local Authority. Ofsted recently found that high needs learners are not always receiving the support they need to reach their potential, and that's all any of us should want.

In an effort to avoid disagreements and unsuitable provisions, The Children and Families Act 2014 laid out general principles that local authorities must have regard to when supporting disabled children and young people and those with SEN. It details that local authorities must pay particular attention to:
• the views, wishes and feelings of children and their parents, and young people
• the importance of them participating as fully as possible in decision-making and providing the information and support to enable them to do so; and
• supporting children and young people’s development and helping them to achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes.

The hope is by including the children and the parents, this will avoid disagreements and the need for a Tribunal. However, in such a sensitive area with a lack of provisions and resources, disagreements still occur. Parents are not only pitted against local authorities they are pitted against each other in a fight for the provisions available, ridding them of one of the key support mechanisms available to them / each other. Then ultimately parents and Local Authorities can end up potentially 'battling it out' in a legal proceeding.  It's costly to all involved and traumatic for at least some.

The Children and Families Act 2014 also required there to be a review of arrangements for disagreement resolution which started in April 2015.  The Secretary of State for Education and the Lord Chancellor were required by law to lay a report on the outcome of the review to Parliament by 1 May 2017.

The review was expected to cover:
  • the impact of the new education, health and care (EHC) assessment and planning process in resolving and preventing disagreements
  • the effectiveness of local special educational needs and disability (SEND) disagreement resolution and mediation arrangements
  • the effectiveness of local complaints procedures for resolving complaints from parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) or disabilities, taking into account other reviews such as the Francis inquiry and Clwyd review into health complaints
  • the piloting of the tribunal making non-binding recommendations about health and social care aspects of SEN appeals about the content of EHC plans
If you are not bored of all the legal and technical jargon by now, then well done. What's my point?

My point is that this is all in place for a child. A child who needs more help to access an education. A child who has difficulty and needs support. A child who deserves respect whatever else is going on. Let's not lose sight about who the processes are there for. 

It's not meant to be about 'Them' versus 'Us', it's meant to be us all for the child. Whether you are the parent, a therapist, a teacher, a SENCO, a psychologist, a member of the local authority or even a solicitor, please keep in mind what all this is for, to give a child an appropriate education, the chance of reaching their potential and their own success in the future, whatever that may be. They are the ones who deserve to be the winners out of every meeting, at school, with the borough or in court.

Council for Disabled Children - Children and Families Act brief


  1. I agree there shouldn't be one side vs another side. The primary school I went to catered for children who needed special education needs and those who didn't equally. The school was set up so that children of all abilities could learn together. it was fantastic. #bestandworst

  2. I don't have children so read this with interest. I totally agree it should be about the children's welfare and not one side v the other .. the only people to suffer then would be the children. Tracey #bestandworst

  3. Absolutely spot on and I couldn't agree more lovely. It is about the child. Problem is when we are fighting over the rights of our own child it does become emotive! Such a great post with so much information put in a brilliantly readable way. Loved it! ❤️ Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  4. SEN is a tough one and I've been there in part with our son. #candidcuddles

  5. The worst part is the parents versus parents for resources. It's just awful that there isn't more available & easier to obtain. Thanks so much for sharing with #candidcuddles, I hope to see you back in August. x


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