Pre-legislative scrutiny: Special Educational Needs - Education Committee Contents


1  Introduction

1. The Queen's Speech, delivered to Parliament on 9 May 2012, included proposals for a Children and Families Bill which would include "measures to improve provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs [...] to support children involved in family law cases, reform court processes for children in care and strengthen the role of the Children's Commissioner".[1]

2. The Government announced that it would bring forward draft clauses from the Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in the following areas:

  • Flexible parental leave and flexible working
  • Special educational needs (SEN) and disability
  • Office of the Children's Commissioner reform
  • Family justice reform
  • Adoption reform

3. The Government's stated intention was to introduce a Bill combining all these clauses in January 2013. We expressed an interest in conducting pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft clauses relating to SEN. The other parts of the Bill are being examined by different committees in the Commons and the Lords.

4. The notes accompanying the Queen's Speech explained that the proposed measures relating to SEN and disability would involve "cutting red tape and delays in giving early specialist support for children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and/or disabilities—the biggest reforms for 30 years." It would achieve this by:

  • Replacing SEN Statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments (for 16-25 year olds) with a single, simpler 0-25 assessment process and Education, Health and Care Plan from 2014.
  • Providing statutory protections comparable to those currently associated with a Statement of SEN to up to 25 in further education—instead of being cut off at 16.
  • Requiring that local authorities and Health services jointly plan and commission the services that children, young people and families need.
  • Giving parents or young people the right to a personal budget for their support.

5. The Government paved the way for these proposals in its 2011 Green Paper on SEN, followed by the Next Steps document published in May 2012. Both these publications were the subject of one-off hearings before our Committee. The main concerns raised at the second of these sessions, held in June 2012, related to the speed of the implementation of the proposals, particularly in relation to learning lessons from the ongoing pilots.

6. The draft clauses which would make up the part of the Bill dealing with SEN were published by the Department for Education on Monday 3 September 2012 (Cm 8438), accompanied by explanatory notes on the clauses. At the same time, the then Minister, Sarah Teather, wrote to the Chair of our Committee, setting out the approach taken to drafting the provisions and some particular issues on which the Government would welcome the Committee's views. [2]

7. We drew up terms of reference to establish whether the draft clauses were likely to achieve the ambitions set out in the Green Paper. We also sought to provide answers to Sarah Teather's questions.

8. Our call for evidence resulted in well over 200 written memoranda being submitted from witnesses including parents and young people, local authorities, representatives of the Pathfinder projects which were set up to test the core proposals described in the Green Paper, academics, charitable organisations, educational organisations, specialists in therapeutic and Health services and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism. We also held two oral evidence sessions. We are grateful to all our witnesses for providing such extensive and high quality evidence, particularly given the necessarily short timetables for this piece of scrutiny.

9. Finally, we would like to thank our specialist adviser, Professor Geoff Lindsay, and our standing special advisers on children's services, Professor David Berridge OBE and Marion Davis CBE,[3] whose expertise and advice has been invaluable in the course of our inquiry.

OUR REPORT

10. Our call for evidence listed 17 questions, 10 of which were posed by the then Minister, Sarah Teather. From the responses received, key themes emerged about certain aspects of the draft legislation and the proposed reforms and we have concentrated in this report on these issues, rather than attempting to address all the specific questions in a schematic way. This means that there is much valuable material within the written evidence submitted to our inquiry, in addition to that cited in this report, to which we would draw the attention of the Department for Education in their preparation of the forthcoming Bill. Some witnesses also provided detailed drafting suggestions which go beyond the scope of our report but which, again, should be taken into account by the Department's Bill team. We recommend that the Department for Education examine with close attention the written evidence provided to our inquiry on issues not covered in our report and give careful consideration to the points raised by witnesses in drafting the Bill which is to be presented to Parliament.


1   http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/queens-speech-2012 Back

2   http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/file/pdf/s/sarah%20teather%20letter%20to%20education%20select% 20committee.pdf Back

3   Professor Geoff Lindsay declared interests as Principal Investigator for approximately 30 research projects for the Department for Education including current roles directing the CANparent Universal Parenting Classes Evaluation and the Investigation of Key Stage 2 Access Arrangements Procedures. Professor Lindsay is a member of the Labour Party. He also conducts research on other aspects of special educational needs for other funding bodies e.g. Nuffield Foundation, National Council of Special Education in Ireland. He is also conducting research funded by the Autism Education Trust which is itself funded by the DfE. Marion Davis CBE declared interests as a former President and continuing Associate Member of the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and as a former member of the Munro review reference group, continuing to work with Professor Munro. Professor David Berridge OBE, Professor of Child and Family Welfare, Centre for Family Policy and Child Welfare, University of Bristol, declared interests in the form of research with the Department for Education and as a member of the Corporate Parenting Panel of Bristol City Council Children and Young People's Services. Back


 
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Prepared 19 December 2012