Schools Secretary announces revamp of Special Educational Needs "statementing" system


After a government-commissioned review of Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision (the ‘Lamb Inquiry’) highlighted major concerns about the SEN "statementing" system. The schools secretary, Ed Balls, has set out new proposals that will aim to make the process of assessing a child’s needs easier, particularly for parents, and more independent.

Brian Lamb, conductor of the "Lamb Enquiry: special educational needs and parental confidence", wrote to Mr Balls stating: "Too many parents reported that the system was not on their side and said they had to fight or do battle with the system to get what they needed for their children."

In response to the Inquiry’s many recommendations Mr Balls said, "I am keen that we look at greater communication between local authorities and parents on how to make the process less stressful and whether an assessment process that is more independent can improve parental confidence."

The thousands of parents who have had to fight and do battle with their authority will welcome the proposals, which also include a recommendation that parents be given a right of appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SEND, formally known as SENDIST) if an authority decides not to amend their child’s statement after a (annual or interim) review.

At the moment parents have no right of appeal to Tribunal after a review unless the statement is amended, and triggering a right of appeal can be tricky. Parents often have to resort to asking for a re-assessment, which is a lengthy process and in many cases causes a real delay in getting parental concerns about their child’s statement addressed through the Tribunal process. This is especially so since the High Court recently ruled that asking for re-assessment is an alternative remedy that should be taken instead of judicial review against a perverse decision not to amend the statement after review. Hopefully, cases bought on different facts will limit the impact of this judgment but a right to appeal against refusal to amend the statement would be really helpful to many parents anyway.

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