SEN pupils being failed by system
- AuthorEmma Thompson, nee Grimbly
The Guardian has published an article in relation to ‘special needs pupils being failed by system on verge of crisis’. Their investigation has shown that the current rate of success for parents at SEN Tribunal hearings is now at 89%. It is evident that the decision making process undertaken by Local Authorities is flawed and they have little understanding of how to apply the law relating to the Children and Families Act 2014 and the SEN Regulations. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who investigates complaints with respect to procedural failings by a Local Authority, have found in favour of parents in eight out of 10 cases, showing a worrying number of Local Authorities may have unlawful policies and procedures.
Despite the general duty that assumes with the right strategies and support, most children with SEN can be included in mainstream education, there is the suggestion that due to the funding constraints we are seeing a system whereby the push is for certain children to be in specialist schools which are oversubscribed and may not be suitable and is against the wishes of the parents who prefer mainstream education. These children are often being failed because of significant funding cuts, reducing the mainstream schools ability to provide SEN provision.
In cases where there is an EHC Plan, if the named school cannot provide what is in Section F of the EHC Plan, it is the Local Authorities’ duty to ensure the provision stipulated in Section F is provided. This in itself is leading Local Authorities to produce unspecified and unquantified EHC Plans which ultimately have to be challenged through appeal to the Tribunals Service.
The key here is if the Local Authority and those providing advice got it right through the EHC needs assessment process, then thousands of pounds could be saved which could be used to deliver the provision in EHC Plans rather than Tribunal proceedings which the Local Authority will often either concede or lose, contributing to that 89% success rate figure.