EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH PARENTS
369. The very difficult question is how to effectively
achieve a partnership relationship with parents. Many of the
memoranda we have received from parents claim that they are not
being involved or informed and are far from being partners in
any decisions regarding the provision for their children.
370. The DfES memorandum discusses "partnership
with parents" within the section that describes "the
current position" rather than in the section on Government
priorities for the future or next steps. This seems to assume
that there is already effective partnership working with parents.
It refers to the rights of parents to be informed through the
SEN code of practice, and the procedures available for resolving
disagreements, and then concludes from very limited evidence,
that "for the great majority of families the system is operating
effectively to meet their children's needs".
371. Within the section titled "Next Steps"
the statement is made that local authorities "have a key
role in ensuring that parents from all backgrounds can be involved
in this (reforms of services)", but with no indication of
how they might go about doing this.
372. The language used in guidance seems to be setting
the wrong tone for a partner relationship as well. The SEN Code
of Practice, SEN Strategy, DfES memorandum and the Schools White
Paper repeatedly refer to the "rights" of parents in
comparison to the "responsibilities", "requirements"
or "duties" of the local authority. The language used
seems to reflect an assumption that the rights lie with the parents
and the responsibilities with the local authorities. It is not
clear that this is a helpful basis on which to establish a partner
relationship. Rights and responsibilities come hand in hand and
both exist for all parties involved. The local authority also
has the right to undertake a planning role with regard to provision
for example, and parents also have a responsibility to act in
the best interest of their child, and a duty to act as a partner
in a proposed partnership with parents. The language used in
guidance should be more balanced to reflect the rights and responsibilities
that exists for all parties and to encourage responsible partnership
373. The Government need to re-think their approach
to involving parents. The Government should set out clear expectations
for parents in terms of minimum standards of provision and access
to a broad and flexible range of appropriate provision. The Government
should seek to actively involve parents as part of their early
intervention strategy and keep them involved as much as possible
at all stages. The Government should try to ensure that local
councils and schools do their utmost to co-operate in this process.
It is essential that mechanisms are in place to ensure that parents
are well informed throughout the whole process.
374. Community level involvement and partnership
in collective working strategies is also important for the improvement
of outcomes of children with SEN and disabilities. Community
involvement is key to improving early intervention, key transition
stages, and for reaching the most hard to reach young people and
families. Integrated health services, pre-school children's services,
and shared facilities across local communitiesnot just
communities of schoolscan all help to build links and relationships
for the benefit of all children including those with SEN and disabilities.