Ian Noon: How will the special educational needs reforms affect Deaf children?

Posted on August 2, 2012



The Department for Education are now full steam ahead with the biggest shake up of the special educational needs framework in England for 30 years.

Despite a recent ‘Next Steps’ update from the Department, some of the details are still somewhat hazy and will only become clear when the Department publishes their new laws in draft in September. The reforms are mega and it’s impossible to try and summarise everything in one go. But I’ll have a go.

Here’s a selection of 3 key areas of uncertainty.

1) Education, Health and Care Plans

Statements – the legal entitlements to support that around 25% of deaf children currently have – is going to be broadened out and replaced with Education, Health and Care plans. The stated intention is to better ensure joined up working and prevent parents from having to give professionals the same information over and over again.

But will it do the job? Some key issues include:

* Who will get one? When similar reforms have been done in other parts of the UK, the stated intention has been to reduce the number of children with statements…

* Who’s going to do all these assessments? NDCS’s latest Save Services report, Stolen Futures, has found that 1 in 3 councils have cut education services since April 2011…

2) Personal budgets

Parents who have a statement/plan will now get the chance to take control over the budget for their child’s services and buy in services from whoever they choose. Tricky issues here include:

* What will parents be able to buy with a personal budget?

* The concept of personal budgets assumes a choice of services for parents. Yet does this really apply to educational services for deaf children? Can a parent pop down to Tesco to get a new Teacher of the Deaf?

3) The local offer

Every council will now have to say what’s available in their area for parents of children with special educational needs via a new ‘local offer’. The idea is that it will improve accountability and help parents get the information they need more readily. But…

* Will information be broken down by type of special educational need? The needs of a child with autism will be very different from that of a deaf child.

* Do parents really want a local offer? Or do they want a national offer? To be confident that the same basic services for deaf children will be available everywhere? I suspect the latter, but the Department has effectively already ruled this out.

There are loads of other unanswered questions.  Suffice to say, it would be a shame if the biggest, and badly needed, shake up of special educational needs reform doesn’t improve things for deaf children.

So anyone with an interest in deaf education should start paying very close attention to the developing proposals in the coming months to make they do deliver for deaf children…

For more information, and to read the original post in full, please visit Ian’s blog page.

Ian Noon has been profoundly deaf since birth, giving him an interesting perspective “on what needs to change for deaf children and young people in the UK. It also means I have very questionable taste in music.” When he’s not stealing the biscuits in the office, he runs, does yoga and plans his next backpacking holiday. He works for a deaf charity but his views expressed on his blog and here, are his own.

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Posted in: features, ian noon