Inclusive education campaigners have welcomed the announcement that the government is to publish a green paper on disabled children and those with special educational needs (SEN) this autumn.
Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat children’s minister, said the SEN system needed to be “more family friendly so that parents don’t feel they have to battle to get the support their child needs” and “far more transparent”.
And she said the government wanted to “make sure that the most vulnerable children get the best quality of support and care”.
Teather said she would look at the results of Ofsted’s review of SEN, expected later this summer, and the other “many reviews of SEN policy in recent years”.
These are likely to include Brian Lamb’s SEN inquiry for the Labour government, which called last December for an end to the “culture of low expectations” for children with SEN.
Teather said she would also listen to the views of “parents, teachers and organisations with an interest in this area”.
Her government has already pledged to “remove the bias towards inclusion” in disabled children’s education and “prevent the unnecessary closure of special schools”.
Tara Flood, chief executive of the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said she welcomed any review of SEN policy “because it gives us the opportunity to raise again the support that there is for inclusive education across many, many parents” and “to explode the myth that there is a bias in favour of inclusion”.
She said: “They say they absolutely support the right of parents to choose mainstream schools and to ensure children get the support they need – if the review is going to put that into practice and make choice genuine for parents of disabled children we cannot do anything but welcome that.”
But she said ALLFIE was “disappointed” that Teather appeared to have changed her enthusiastic pre-election support for inclusion, and was now quoting the Conservative manifesto – which says that “the most vulnerable children deserve the very highest quality of care” – almost word for word.
Flood said the emphasis on “vulnerable children” and “care” would send “alarm bells ringing across the country”.
She said: “All children have a right to be educated and I think they are shifting away from that right and that is extremely alarming.”
Flood said she hoped Teather would work closely with disabled people on the review “because it is disabled people who are experts in this area, given that we are the ones who have been subjected to the SEN framework.”
8 July 2010