Accessing appropriate educational support: Children with Special Needs

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Special educational needs (SEN) , needs to be identified early on. The sooner the child's learning difficulties are recognized the sooner procedures can be put in place to deal with them effectively. Parents of children with Special Educational Needs are continuously working to improve their child's education "it is the parents 'unreasonable' commitment to their child that makes them a good parent!" Nottingham schools, 2011. The SEN code of practice states that all parents who have children with SEN should be treated as partners within the education system, they play a crucial role in contributing to the individual learning of their child, Waterhouse, 2006. Within this essay I will explore the procedures a parent needs to go through to receive a statement and find out how readily available the local educational authorities and schools are in willing to help and support you get that statement in order to receive the support your child needs.

One of the first places parents can turn to when they suspect their child may have Special Educational Needs or even one they've discovered their child has, is their local Parent Partnership Scheme. All local authorities will have a Parent Partnership Scheme in place. They are funded by the government and local authorities. The Parent Partnership Scheme (PPS) is a national organisation created for parents and carers of children who have Special Educational Needs, known as SEN. All PPS's provide information, support and advise on; Parents rights and responsibilities, impartial advise on all SEN issues, they provide contact information for SEN based charities or other available services, they support in preparing you for meetings and are also available to go with you to the meeting. PPS also provide help through the graduated response process of school action, school action plus, statutory assessment and the statement.

PPS pride themselves on increasing parental confidence. A huge benefit of PPS is that they work closely with schools and the local authorities, many parents have disagreements with the child's school and Local Educational Authorities (LEA). PPS help to start off the process of resolving issues between the two parties, by supporting and directing parents in mediation and with the tribunal.

If a parent is unhappy or has concerns regarding their child's educational needs not being met, they should first make contact with their schools special educational needs coordinator, the SENCO.

The code of practice states that each teacher has the ability to differentiate the curriculum to meet each child's individual educational needs, so if a child is struggling the teacher and the schools SENCO will come together to create an individual learning plan which states what appropriate measures or strategies should be taken to improve the child's learning. This is stated in the code of practice as school action and at this stage the parents must be informed that their child will be provided with extra help and also have discussed and gone through the individual learning plan with either the teacher or the SENCO.

The next stage within a mainstream school is school action plus. If the child is still not improving and has not benefited from the school action, the schools SENCO will then request help and support from an outside source. Whether this be by the Local Educational Authority known as the LEA, a member of the health profession or even a psychologist. They may do some observations of the child and then go through the individual learning plan with the SENCO and suggest alternative or further actions to put in place.

In a very few number of cases it can progress onto the next stage which is a statutory assessment. This assessment is usually requested by the parent but can also sometimes be by the school. This is the opportunity for parents to have their say and view their concerns of their child's educational learning. Local educational authorities are often reluctant to agree to the statutory assessment. Everyone educationally involved with the child; teacher, SENCO, psychologist, including the parent will write a report on the child. They are all reviewed by the LEA and they will then decide whether the child will be issued with a statement. A statement is a legal document which clearly states the pupils needs, how they can be met and the resources necessary to achieve this.

Statements are vital in ensuring the child has the right provisions in place to guide them through the whole educational process. Parents know their child's strengths and weaknesses more than anyone else and once a statement has been made; the school, LEA and the teacher will all know the precautions needed to put in place for that specific child to learn and benefit from school as best they can, whether it be through a specialist school or mainstream.

Parents face a collection of problems when attempting to get a statement for their child. For a start, local authorities can often deliberately delay the authorisation and production of a statement to avoid high costs that will ultimately need to be paid out alongside the statement with providing specialist equipment and resources to support the child's needs Wade & Moore, 1993;3.

Secondly, the authority carrying out the assessment could be bias and therefore underplay the child's symptoms or overplay their abilities making the assessment inaccurate GB Parliament, 2006.

Thirdly, allocations of resources are being poorly recorded, this is suspected by many to allow the authorities room to 'wiggle' out of the agreement they are lawfully obliged to provide.

Another issue with statementing Is that after all of the hassle of getting a statement, if you were to move house and therefore move from your local authority area, statements cannot be moved so the long and stressful process of obtaining a statement starts all over again GB Parliament, 2006.

Once a statement has been issued it will state a specific school that the child must attend, the parent will have expressed a preference to a certain school, whether it be their local mainstream school, a special school or an independent private school. If the LEA feels the child would be affecting other pupils learning within a mainstream school they can refuse the child entry to study there. This is a very stressful process for parents as it takes around 26weeks to get to the statementing process. To then find out that the school you have been fighting for your child to get into is not going to accept them for study can be a very difficult time. As with everything there are two sides, some parents find out that their child will need to attend a special school when in-fact they couldn't think of anything worse for their child. It was argued in 1997 that "special schools are no more effective than regular schools in meeting the educational needs of students with disabilities" Jenkinson, 1997;91. Thirteen years on in 2010 it still states that "a minority of mainstream schools, meet special needs very well" Cremin, 2010. This shows little improvement that has been made within both mainstream ad special schools for education of children with special needs.

Another issue children with SEN face when in a mainstream school is the social aspect. Children find it very hard to socialise with the other students and what you often find is the student spending the majority of their time with their support worker, Howley, 2007.

Lastly, the issuing of statements are a rare occurrence. Nearly 18% of children have SEN, however only 3% have received statements, these percentages have remained pretty constant since 2000, Department of Education. This is one of the biggest issues parents face when accessing support, having a statement can massively improve the education of the pupil and with all of the hurdles a parent need to overcome to get to the statementing process, it can often end in disappointment.

Help and support for parents who have children with special educational needs is far more accessible in today's society than it would have been 10years ago.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act of 2001 stated that children with SEN must be educated in a mainstream school unless parents wish otherwise. It is a legal obligation for all mainstream schools to treat a child with SEN the same as a child without, it has been said that some schools treat a non-disabled person more favourably than someone with a disability. A lot of schools are unwilling to accept children with Special Educational Needs. This is the result of league tables, schools fear that if they were to accept children with SEN, it would bring down the overall results of the school (J.Fortin, 2005). The government for pushing for higher inclusion within mainstream school but are not taking into consideration that SEN pupils may bring the school achievement levels down, adjusting achievement targets would allow for SEN pupils to be more widely accepted into mainstream schools. Farrell, 2001. This causes parents extreme problems when trying to access an appropriate school.

Together from the start is an organisation of professionals who work with children with SEN and their families. In 2002 they found that there were three main issues coming up. The first being a lack of sensitivity when diagnosis was revealed. Second being, there was seen to be an inconsistent pattern of provision and lastly a lack of coordination between parties, Together from the start, 2002.

There is so much research done into whether special or mainstream schools are best for children with SEN. Support and information is a lot more accessible than it has ever been before, Parent Partnership Schemes and charities such as Together from the start, provide masses of information and support in helping to get the right education for your child. Local Educational Authorities and the government show commitment in wanting to improve SEN education, especially as we can see from the 2001 Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, inclusion within mainstream schools. However when looking at some of the evidence I have found it seems they are not quite coming through with the promises they are making. In order for inclusion to happen, more children need to be statemented in order to receive more support to study within a mainstream setting. As we can see funding seems to be the main contributor into why this isn't happening and with the educational funding cuts being made within the next couple of years I can only see the situation of Special Educational Needs getting worse.