Inclusive education campaigners have criticised the Lamb inquiry on special educational needs (SEN) for missing a “golden opportunity” for major reform of the system.
The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) said recommendations in the inquiry’s final report would have a “limited positive impact” on children with SEN, who will still have no right to a mainstream school place and can be forced to attend a special school.
Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s campaigns and policy co-ordinator, said they had hoped Lamb would use the opportunity to “eradicate the inequality of access to mainstream education” in the SEN system.
The Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) said many of Lamb’s recommendations were “highly pertinent and desirable”, but merely “sticking plasters” for a system that could not be fixed.
Chris Goodey, CSIE’s assistant director, said Lamb’s report fails to explain how disabled children can achieve “ordinary lives” in a system where some are educated separately in special schools.
He said the SEN framework should be replaced with a personalised system, with each child given a personal budget – combined with any other state funding they receive – to buy the support they and their parents choose.
Goodey said: “This was a golden opportunity missed. Even though the recommendations are pertinent, they are pertinent to a system that has failed.”
The National Autistic Society said the recommendations would only make a difference if the government forced councils to comply with the law.
But it said new rights of appeal on SEN statements, and the duty on Ofsted inspections to focus more on SEN, would help parents and make schools more accountable.
The disabled children’s charity Whizz-Kidz particularly welcomed the government’s pledge to tackle bullying and legislate to give disabled pupils the right to auxiliary aids and services.
It said access to equipment would “greatly enhance the inclusion and equality of disabled pupils in mainstream education”, while early results from its own survey of disabled pupils showed bullying was “an all too frequent experience”.
Scope said the report’s recommendations would make the system fairer, and welcomed the emphasis on “system-wide reform” to ensure parents and schools work together.
It also welcomed the recommendations on auxiliary aids, strengthened rights to appeal, and Ofsted’s new duties.
The Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) campaign praised the report’s call for a “core offer” to provide parents with “information, assessment, transparency, participation and feedback”, and said the government should set a timetable for its implementation.
17 December 2009