Remove the necessity for a SEN statement to access special schools
State funded special schools should not require a statement of special educational need as a prerequisite for entry. Due to the potential financial implications of providing an SEN statement LEAs make it exceptionally difficult to obtain one. SEN lawyers often boast a near 100% success rate at obtaining statements and specialist placement from LEAs but at a cost to the parents/carers of approx £18,000 if the case is not settled pre tribunal. This prevents the vast majority of parents/carers from accessing support with their case for appropriate provision. A parent/carer can go it alone but the legislation is cumbersome and the LEAs use legally trained personnel and have significant financial resources.
At present the special needs register has three levels of provision – school action, school action plus, statement. With SA and SAP the money goes to the mainstream school and does not have to be used specifically for the child. With a statement the money has to be used to provide appropriate provision for the specific child.
Often without a statement special needs children, especially those with complex needs and verbal autistic children, do not receive appropriate support ending up in generic SEN support groups from the pooled funding. These children's needs may be better met within schools providing more specialist provision but without a statement this option is not open to them and only if their behaviour becomes unmanageable does the school look again. At the moment many parents feel that they have to wait for their child to fail completely (whether that is behaviourally or academically – the former gets faster results) before the efficacy of support is properly assessed.
I do not buy the notion any parent/carer would send their child to a special school on a whim, no one wants their child to need this but when children do parents/carers should not have to fight (often for years/ often unsuccessfully) to obtain such provision. There are issues with special school provision (as with provision of speech and language therapy and occupational therapy) but that is another idea – LEAs pay millions to independent special schools (that incorporate therapy) rather than replicating the same provision in basic surroundings.
Why does this idea matter?
Every child should have the right to reach their academic or developmental potential, the current structure of the education system does not allow for this. The better and earlier our interventions with SEN children the more optimistic their futures become – the Swedish model is based on this very notion and with bonus that over the course of a lifetime such an approach costs the state less than our current system.