Department for Education
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A stronger voice and more support for parents of children with special educational needs

Parents of special educational needs (SEN) pupils will get more help to get the right educational support for their children, Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, announced today.

Responding particularly to the recommendations on the SEN system in Brian Lamb’s final report on parental confidence, Ed Balls reasserted his commitment to listen to parents and provide them with the advice, information and support they need.
While Brian Lamb found that most parents of children with special educational needs are happy with the support and education their children receive, the Government agrees with him that more should be done to ensure all parents have access to excellent services.
Ed Balls also agrees with Brian Lamb that we need to be more ambitious for children with SEN and disabilities. He supports Brian Lamb’s call for a cultural shift in the way in which schools, local authorities and other professionals work with parents and children.
Today’s announcements focus on making the SEN system better for children with SEN and their parents:

  • a national SEN helpline to provide independent, expert advice and information directly to parents
  • new pilots which will look at how children’s needs are assessed and the transparency of local authority decision-making to give parents more confidence that  decisions are made in the best interests of their child
  • strengthened independent appeals panels on exclusions and improved statutory guidance for schools on excluding children with SEN
  • strengthening of local Parent Partnership Services by ensuring all advisors are trained in SEN and disability law
  • codes of practice for professionals providing advice on a child’s assessment will be reviewed, to make clear that advice should always put the needs of the child first rather than availability of resources
  • work with the Ministry of Justice and key stakeholders to review the exceptional funding scheme for providing legal aid for tribunal hearings
  • funding for the Local Government Ombudsman to take complaints from parents unhappy with the support they receive, giving parents greater redress
  • funding for the Anti-Bullying Alliance, to identify best practice in tackling and preventing SEN and disability-related bullying.

This follows the significant improvements to the SEN system already made by Government following earlier reports from Brian Lamb, including:

  • £38m investment in improving outcomes for children with SEN
  • a duty on Ofsted to report on the progress of children with SEN in school inspections
  • a right of appeal for parents unhappy with the review of their child’s statement.  

Ed Balls said:

Today I am improving the system for parents who have children with special educational needs and disabilities. I want every parent and their child, in every local authority, to receive the best support possible.
Parents have experience and expertise that should be central to decision making. The changes I have announced today will make the system more transparent and give parents more help. Brian Lamb’s report tells us that parents must have access to the information they need, when they need it, in ways that are convenient to them. That’s why we are launching a dedicated advice helpline, giving parents somewhere to turn for information and support. Where parents aren’t happy with the system, they will be able to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. 
Brian’s work over the last year is leading to significant improvements to the support and services delivered to children with SEN. In the new year we will set our plans to address the recommendations that Brian has made to address the changes to teaching and learning that are necessary to improve educational outcomes for children with SEN. We are now working to ensure all parents have confidence in decision making by giving them and their children a stronger voice at the heart of the SEN system.  

  Brian Lamb said:

We met some of the happiest parents in the country and some of the angriest. Many had children who are well supported and making good progress. But we also met parents for whom the education system represents a battle to get the needs of their child identified and for these to be met. The crucial issue is that both experiences happen within the same system. While the aims of the SEN framework remain relevant, implementation has too often failed to live up to them.
There needs to be a radical recasting of the relationship between parents, schools and local authorities to ensure a clearer focus on the outcomes and life chances for children with SEN and disability. We have a unique opportunity now to make a real and lasting change for future generations of children.  

Diana Johnson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, said:

The Government has made major improvements to the SEN system in the last year, both in response to Brian Lamb’s earlier reports and with the Bercow Review, Sir Jim Rose’s Review of Dyslexia and our commitment to one-to-one tuition. We have placed SEN provision at the top of our school improvement agenda. 
Today’s report from Brian Lamb tells us we need to do more to support parents and gain their confidence in the SEN system. Today’s announcements will help to ensure parents are fully supported, involved in the decisions affecting their children, and they know who to turn to when the support doesn’t meet their needs.  

The Government has committed to publishing a plan for implementing Brian Lamb’s full recommendations in the new year.
Further information

Brian Lamb’s report, his letter to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State’s reply will be available on the Lamb Inquiry website.

A range of professionals provide advice to local authorities during the process of statutory assessment. These include: educational psychologists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists.
Further details of the background to the Lamb Inquiry are on the Lamb Inquiry website.

Local authorities are required to provide a parent partnership service to provide information and advice to parents of children with SEN.