That’s the question the Lamb Inquiry is currently looking at since last year after being asked by the Government to hold an inquiry on the special educational needs (SEN) system and why so many parents feel like they have to wage war to get support for their child.
We’ve been feeding in some informal thoughts but now NDCS is going to be producing a formal response which I’m currently working on. I spent much of today in a meeting with one of my colleagues to find out more about what parents of deaf children have fed back to us over the years. And one big issue that comes up time and time again is the process of how a child comes to get a statement, which sets out their entitlements to support at school, and how the SEN Code of Practice is followed in practice.
Some of the key points that seem to be emerging include:
* Lots of statements tend to be vague about a deaf child’s needs and what impact deafness has on their daily life. This makes it difficult to then specify what support is needed on a practical basis.
* Local authorities are often very reluctant to specify exactly what support the child needs / will get. For example, it might say that the child should have access to a communication support worker. But it won’t say how often or what skills the communication support worker should have. Some local authorities apparently have a policy of never being too specific on statements to avoid having to make commitments they made not be able to afford.
* Annual reviews of the statement sometimes seem to be just a talking shop. Parents are sometimes not provided with the necessary papers beforehand. Others find the meetings intimidating. Children’s views are not always sought. And perhaps worse, if a child’s objectives are not met, a few parents report that last year’s objectives are just copied and pasted into next year’s objectives, rather than using the annual review as an opportunity to problem solve why the objectives have not been met and work out what other support is needed.
One Family Officer said that in all her years of supporting parents on statements, she had “not come across one OK, let alone good, statement”.
What do you think? If you’re a parent of a deaf child, what have you been your experiences of the statementing system? What needs to be done to improve things? I’ll factor in any thoughts into the formal response.