Balls: Ofsted will report on school special needs standards

Ofsted’s school inspectors will be required by law to report on the quality of education for children with special educational needs, children’s secretary Ed Balls said today.

Balls made the announcement as the he accepted recommendations from Brian Lamb, chair of the Special Educational Consortium, as part of his government-commissioned review of the SEN system.

Right of appeal for parents

The children’s secretary also said parents would be given a new right of appeal if their children had a statement of educational needs reviewed but not amended by a local authority.

Children with SEN should be set “realistic but stretching objectives”, Balls said, adding: “If a parent is unhappy with their child’s statement it is right that they should have more powers to appeal the local authority’s decision.”

Legal requirement for Ofsted

Ofsted’s new schools inspection framework will include criteria on how well schools support children with SEN, but Balls will take this a step further by making this an inspection priority by law.

More details on the plans will be revealed after the publication of the final Lamb Inquiry report in September, which will be followed by the government’s full response during the autumn.

System ‘insufficiently focused on disabled children’

In a letter to Balls today, Lamb said the education system as a whole was “insufficiently focused on objectives and outcomes for disabled children and children with SEN”.

“This is a longstanding and deep-seated cultural problem that has its origins in an era before all our children were entitled to education in our schools,” he said.

‘Statements must be more outcome-focused’

Lamb also said statements of special educational needs must be “much more focused on objectives and outcomes for children”. Alongside this, there should be a “much more robust approach to annual reviews”, with statements changing when objectives are achieved and parents given the right to appeal when authorities decide not to amend a statement after a review.

In addition, Lamb called for a “major training programme” for local authority staff to ensure the views of parents and children are reflected in SEN statements.

Mencap response

Mencap’s head of policy and campaigns, David Congdon, said: “All too often parents of children with a learning disability have to fight to get the educational support their child needs. The proposed ‘right to appeal’ will take a parents knowledge and understanding of their child into account, strengthening their rights as parents.”

He described the introduction of Ofsted assessments of SEN as a “very positive step”.

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