SEN inquiry: Balls pledges ‘stronger voice’ for parents and children


The government has promised parents and children “a stronger voice at the heart of the special educational needs (SEN) system”, in its response to a major inquiry.

Responding to the final report of the Lamb inquiry on the SEN system – commissioned by the government – education secretary Ed Balls said he wanted to make the system “more transparent and give parents more help”.

And he pledged to find a “suitable legislative opportunity” to bring in laws to give all disabled children the right to support at school through access to auxiliary aids and services – a key, longstanding demand of disability rights campaigners and the Disability Rights Commission.

Balls said the government would publish detailed plans for implementing Lamb’s recommendations in January, but he announced several immediate measures aimed at helping parents with “the least confidence in the system”.

A new national SEN helpline will provide parents with independent, expert advice.

The government will also provide funding for the Local Government Ombudsman to deal with parents’ SEN complaints about schools and local authorities.

Balls said: “Brian Lamb’s report tells us that parents must have access to the information they need, when they need it, in ways that are convenient to them.

“Where parents aren’t happy with the system, they will be able to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.”

Balls also announced improved guidance on exclusions for governors and independent appeals panels, and new pilot projects aimed at improving SEN assessments and the “transparency” of local authority decision-making.

He also promised a review of legal aid funding for tribunals, and announced funding for a new project by the Anti-Bullying Alliance.

Over the last year, Balls has announced a series of measures following interim inquiry reports, on issues such as the high level of exclusions of children with SEN, assessments, SEN statements, teacher training, bullying, and improved information for parents.

He has also said Ofsted would be given new duties to use inspections to investigate how schools are supporting disabled children and those with SEN.

Meanwhile, new government figures have shown a small increase in parents’ satisfaction with services for disabled children.

The national score increased to 61 out of 100, up two points from last year.

The results come from a survey of parents in England between July and November, including their experiences of health, education, and care and family support.

This year, every council and primary care trust was also scored for the first time.

16 December 2009

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