Government’s answers on special needs delayed. Again

As Michael Gove’s education reforms gather momentum, an important group of vulnerable children are at risk of being left behind. Back in December, Left Foot Forward raised serious questions over the future of funding models for specialist services currently provided by local authorities...

By Laurence Turner

As Michael Gove’s education reforms gather momentum, an important group of vulnerable children are at risk of being left behind. Back in December, Left Foot Forward raised serious questions over the future of funding models for specialist services currently provided by local authorities.

In January the education select committee, on which the coalition has a majority, further warned:

“There is a risk that, as schools go through the transition from being dependent on local authority-provided services to having greater autonomy in purchasing their own support and services, some local authority services may be decommissioned, leaving schools, and more importantly pupils, without access to critical support.”

It was hoped the SEN green paper would map out a policy agenda that would mitigate this danger. In addition, the paper represents a historic opportunity to correct some of the very real injustices in the present statementing system.

Unfortunately, children’s minister Sarah Teather confirmed on Wednesday that the green paper would be delayed once again – this time until March. It is the latest in a series of delays for a paper that was originally due to be published last autumn.

Special needs have been the subject of indifference and inaccurate reporting in the mainstream press, but the delays to the SEN green paper are fast becoming an important political issue that deserves wider attention. Labour’s shadow education secretary Andy Burnham wrote last week:

“Such is the government’s rush to grab new powers that MPs are being asked to vote on [the Education Bill] without seeing the long-promised special educational needs green paper.

“That cannot be right. It sends a clear message to those parents that their kids are an afterthought.”

The onus is on the government to prove otherwise, but time is running out.

Additional time in exams is an acceptable counterbalance for those with special needs, but such extensions are less impressive from a government minister. In the meantime, across the country the severing of local authority links continues.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.