Statements of special educational needs should not be assessed by councils, say MPs

The government came under pressure yesterday to end local authorities’ role in assessing children for statements of special educational needs, in a Commons debate.

Members from all sides of the house called on ministers to revisit the proposal in last summer’s education select committee report on SEN to end the perceived conflict of interest in councils both assessing children for special needs and funding provision.

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Sarah Tether said: “We cannot continue with a process that allows local authorities to delay statementing for as long as possible or draft statements in imprecise language to lessen the expense on the authority.”

Schools minister Jim Knight said he would be open to considering the issue but said that such a separation was likely to require the creation of a new agency to handle assessments, which would lack councils’ local accountability.

However, select committee chair, the Labour MP Barry Sheerman, said it would be perfectly feasible to find a system to separate the two roles without creating a quango.

He said: “There must be another way of dividing assessment from the provision of resources, and I believe that men and women of good will could find a system that was both simple and effective.”

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