Commenting on media reports of the Coalition Government's response to the consultation on the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Green Paper, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers' union said:
“The reform of critical support for children and young people with SEN is being proposed at a time when the health service is being plunged into the chaos of reorganisation, the free market is being introduced into schools and massive cuts and job losses are being faced by essential services.
"It appears that consultation on this complex and critical issue has been reduced, once again, to a cosmetic exercise and the Coalition Government is simply proceeding with its original proposals in the Green Paper.
"Whilst it is true that the current statement arrangements can be bureaucratic at times, it is not at all clear that the proposed changes to the system will address the issues of concern.
"It is all too apparent that the Coalition Government's proposed reforms will do nothing to address the real concern of parents that sufficient resources are made available to meet their children's needs. In circumstances where education funding is declining in real terms, the ability of the system to ensure that pupils with high levels of need get the care and support they require is only likely to become increasingly constrained.
"Personal budgets may sound superficially attractive but are simply vouchers by any other name. They rightly will be seen by many parents as wholly irrelevant to their concerns.
“Vouchers are about opening up a market in the provision of special needs rather than ensuring that parents, teachers and other professionals can work together to support pupils with the most complex and challenging SEN.
"Despite Government and Ofsted assertions to the contrary, it is simply not the case that pupils are identified as having SEN as a result of schools' low expectations of their capability and potential. This claim denigrates unjustifiably the expertise and commitment of the school workforce and highlights the lack of respect for the teaching profession that underpins a great deal of Coalition Government policy.
"The key message is that Coalition Government is seeking to redefine what constitutes SEN, in the context of an economic austerity programme.
“This can only mean that fewer children will qualify for additional support and teachers and parents will be left to pick up the pieces.
"If the Coalition Government's intended reforms are introduced, the ability of schools to identify and remove the barriers to achievement pupils with SEN face will be undermined severely, causing real alarm and distress for parents of some of the most vulnerable children within the education system.”
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