Ed Balls announces measures to boost SEN support

Disabled children and pupils with special educational needs (SEN) should receive more educational support under proposals announced yesterday by children’s secretary Ed Balls.

The measures include trials to test different ways of assessing children’s needs, a review of the supply of teachers trained to meet the needs of pupils with severe learning difficulties and new statutory guidance for schools to address high exclusion rates for children with SEN.

Lamb Inquiry

The proposals follow recommendations in a letter to Balls last week by Brian Lamb, the chair of the Special Educational Needs Consortium, whom the government commissioned to lead an inquiry into SEN last year.

Balls accepted proposals from Lamb to make tackling high rates of exclusion among pupils with SEN part of the remit of behaviour and attendance partnerships, which bring together schools locally to tackle behavioural problems and persistent absence. 

This will be included in new statutory guidance produced as part of the government’s forthcoming behaviour strategy.

Parental confidence

Balls also accepted Lamb’s recommendation for a second set of pilots looking at how parental confidence in the SEN system can be improved, which will include projects in which assessment of need is made more independent of councils.

Lamb published an evaluation of the first round of eight pilot projects, which ran from September 2008-July 2009, as part of the inquiry.

The study found that parental confidence could be improved, in areas including assessments, so long as councils were committed to true, rather than tokenistic, partnership with parents.

Severe learning difficulties

Balls also said that Toby Salt, deputy chief executive of the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services, has been commissioned to lead an independent review into the supply of teachers trained in meeting the needs of children with severe or profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Its formal terms of reference will be published shortly, but it will focus on identifying barriers to recruiting sufficient numbers of skilled teachers, and encouraging more teachers to work with this group of pupils, particularly in special schools.

Special schools

Balls also said that the government had commissioned the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) to lead a £550,000 project to develop special schools as centres of good practice in the teaching of children with the most complex learning difficulties.

This meets a commitment in the 21st century schools system white paper, published in June.

The Lamb Inquiry is due to publish its final report next month. It has received evidence from 1,941 parents, 544 school staff, 516 from other professionals and 400 from students. 

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