Thousands Of Children Wrongly Identified As Having Special Educational Needs

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The numbers of youngsters considered to have Special Educational Needs is likely to be cut after tighter rules will be introduced on which children are identified as having SEN, it was confirmed on Tuesday.

The move comes after Ofsted warned that many children were being wrongly identified as having SEN because of poor teaching.

In a report published in autumn 2010, Ofsted found that as many as half of all pupils identified for School Action, the lowest SEN statement category, would not be identified as having these needs if schools focused on improving teaching and learning for all with individual goals for improvement.

Official figures suggest that around one in five schoolchildren - roughly 1.7 million - are classed as having special needs.
Children's minister Sarah Teather said: "The current system is outdated and not fit for purpose.

"Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. It is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post, facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment.

"These reforms will put parents in charge. We trust parents to do the right thing for their own child because they know what is best. The right to a personal budget will give them real choice and control of care, instead of councils and health services dictating how they get support."

The reforms will be included in a Children and Families Bill announced in last week's Queen's Speech.

Also, parents are to be given new rights to buy help for children with special needs under the biggest shake-up of the system for 30 years.

Under the plans, families will be given legal powers to control budgets for youngsters who need support.

Ministers are pressing ahead with the proposals in a bid to make it easier for parents to get their child help, without being passed between agencies.

The reforms will also see education, health and social services forced by law to work together to provide support for children with special educational needs (SEN).

The proposals were first laid out in a Green Paper in March last year, amid concerns that the current system for SEN children is too complex, and often leaves parents fighting for help.

In some cases, disabled children have had to undergo operations to correct growth problems caused by a system that has left them waiting months for a new wheelchair.

At the launch of the Green Paper, Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children, also suggested that some youngsters have been left in pain because their wheelchair is too small for them.

And in many cases, children have been forced to undergo dozens of assessments to establish their needs.

In their formal response to the Green Paper today, ministers confirmed that SEN statements (which set out a child's needs and requirements) and learning difficulty statements (which are usually for older children) will be axed and replaced with a birth to 25 assessment and care plan.

Parents with children who hold these care plans will be given the legal right to a personal budget to pay for help and support.

Among other reforms, SEN children will also have the right to seek a place at academies and free schools.

And there will be a new single category of SEN, replacing the current systems which have been deemed too complicated.

As part of the move, there will be tighter rules on which children can be identified as having SEN.

The move is likely to cut the numbers of youngsters considered to have SEN, and comes after Ofsted warned that many children were being wrongly identified as having SEN because of poor teaching.

In a report published in autumn 2010, Ofsted found that as many as half of all pupils identified for School Action, the lowest SEN statement category, would not be identified as having these needs if schools focused on improving teaching and learning for all with individual goals for improvement.

Official figures suggest that around one in five schoolchildren - roughly 1.7 million - are classed as having special needs.
Children's minister Sarah Teather said: "The current system is outdated and not fit for purpose.

"Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. It is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post, facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment.

"These reforms will put parents in charge. We trust parents to do the right thing for their own child because they know what is best. The right to a personal budget will give them real choice and control of care, instead of councils and health services dictating how they get support."

The reforms will be included in a Children and Families Bill announced in last week's Queen's Speech.