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‘Level playing field’ for non-maintained special schools? May 28, 2012

Posted by Jonathan Barnes, editor in Special Educational Needs.
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According to a report in the Times Educational Supplement, parents of children with special educational needs (SEN) may soon have more power in choosing schools in the independent sector.

The TES reports that ministers are considering giving families the right to formally demand that local authorities pay for their children to be educated at non-maintained special schools.

The Department for Education has already announced that parents will be allowed to express a preference for SEN academies or free schools over council-run special schools – and it’s believed that right could be extended to private non-maintained schools.

As it stands, parents can make representations for their children to be sent to private special schools, which generally provide for children with the complex and profound needs, but local authorities have the final say.

Parents have told the DfE that they have faced challenges in securing suitable school places for their children, prompting officials to give serious thought to strengthening parental power in the selection process. The DfE is currently overseeing a major review into SEN provision.

Claire Dorer, chief executive of the National Association of Independent Schools and Non-maintained Special Schools, told the TES  her members would welcome the chance “to be on a level playing field” with local authority schools, free schools and academies. “If we went on parental preference, the majority of our schools would be full or oversubscribed,” she said.

Whether the legislation is revised or not, it clear from our latest SEN publication – Which School for Special Needs? 2012-13 – that there are many excellent independent schools focused on meeting the most challenging needs. Anything that helps them to continue their provisions for helping those young people most in need is to be welcomed.

For more information about the 2012-13 guide, see this earlier post, or visit our bookshop. You can also visit our online directory at www.specialneedsguide.co.uk

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