Will children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) be left behind by the new Academies?
As the race to become an Academy school is reaching the finish line, for this year at least, we're very concerned that children with Statements of Special Educational Needs will not receive the services and support which so far has allowed them to achieve their full potential in our education system.
At the time of writing some 1,567 schools in England have expressed an interest in becoming Academies – and 828 of those have been rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted. These top schools could be fast-tracked to academy status as soon as September, stepping away from local authority control and gaining greater freedom to operate independently from the national curriculum.
This break away from local authorities will also bring freedom over admissions – and children with Special Educational Needs require teachers who are specially trained to deal with those needs. Which raises the concern – will the way these new Academies are funded (by the government, not local authorities) mean that services for children with SEN will be withdrawn on cost grounds alone?
It is accepted by parents and education authorities alike that specially qualified teachers trained to ensure the best outcomes for children with SEN do cost more. But there seems to be a very real danger that schools converting to Academies will seek to cut back on these vital specialist staff to save money, leaving children with SEN little hope of making life-changing progress through their education.
Despite sound bite reassurances from the Department for Education and the Education Secretary Michael Gove, it remains to be seen whether new Academy status schools will pay local councils to ‘buy in’ specialist staff to educate children with SEN. With many specialist schools themselves opting to become academies, this is no doubt a very worrying time for parents of children with Statements of Special Educational Needs.
If you are at all concerned about your child’s application to a new school or the education they will receive if their current school gains Academy status, please get in touch for an informal conversation about the legal options open to you. We are a specialist Education Law firm with a strong track record of success in handling SEN cases.
You want the best for your child, and so do we. Let’s work together to ensure the very best outcome in this turbulent time of educational change.