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October 12th 2003

Children with SEN still being let down by Local Authorities

The system for assessment of SEN and the provision for children with SEN varies so much throughout the country. Recently a parent in Surrey discovered that unless a child is statemented in Year 5 and has had an annual review their child will not be put forward to Panel in November (Year 6) for a place in a special school. Rather a lottery depending on area and also timing of the assessment.

I am sure that this is not the only LEA who follow this system for allocation of SEN placements but how many of us know how the system works in our own area? And how forthcoming are the LEAs in informing parents how this system works? and what the real chances of help for their child are?

The Surrey parents discovered that the November panel allocates statemented children places for Special secondary school (Year 7). As each school has a maximum of 10 places in year 7 these places get filled up quite quickly. As a result their child who has been statemented in Year 6 will then get whatever is left over if anything.
If a child is not allocated a place in a special school in Year 7 then chances are that child will have to remain in Mainstream education unless a child at the special school moves away from the area.

They also found that they were required to fill in a yellow form "Admission of children with a statement to community, aided and foundation, infant, junior, primary or secondary mainstream schools, special provision or special schools."
This form was designed to give prominence to Mainstream schools and if a parent is not careful they will miss the special school section.

Although this form is handed out at the same time as the forms for normal children it places special needs children at a disadvantage because they are only eligible for a school that meets their needs if they were statemented in Year 5.

The parents have asked Alan Brockwell who heads the panel about their findings and his reply was, "All pupils (without exception) must hold an appropriate Final Statement of SEN by the published panel annual referral deadline and be at normal age of transfer for the following September, to justify their inclusion in the November County SEN Admission Panels process, and to secure panel considered for a placement in an appropriate Surrey maintained Specialist School or Unit from the following September term."

The parents searched Surrey County Council website and were unable to find any material on the "published panel annual referral deadline" Mr Brockwell refers to.

Maybe this shows that we all need to check with our LEA to find out what the policies are for our own area and then perhaps we need to try to co-ordinate a National Campaign for the policies for SEN to be consistant throughout and fairer to all children with SEN across the board.


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