Council pledge on education

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EDUCATION chiefs at Wigan Council say they are as well placed as any to cope with reforms to special needs education (SEN) despite warnings from charities that they are being implemented too quickly.

From September special needs statements will be replaced by “education, health and care statements” which aim to give more holistic support.

Mark Lever of the National Autistic Society said details of “the biggest reform of the SEN system in 30 years” had not yet been finalised.

The government said the system would allow change to “take place gradually”.

Mr Lever said he was particularly concerned that important details – such as how families would challenge decisions about support for their children – remained under review.

The learning disability charity Mencap also voiced concerns about the time frame.

Head of policy, Dan Scorer said: “Families of people with a learning disability have waited many years for the serious failings in the current SEN system to be addressed and, unless local authorities, schools and colleges are fully prepared, the impact of these important changes could be seriously undermined.”

However, Council bosses say that because Wigan has been part of a pathfinder scheme to help assess the changes for the past two years, they will be better placed than most to cope.

Anne Goldsmith, director of children and families at Wigan Council, said: “As a result of the pathfinder a lot of work has already been undertaken to develop a new framework which supports the changes and to ensure parents in the borough understand what will happen.

“As part of the programme, we have been able to offer all those whose special educational needs have been identified since September 2013, the option of an assessment under the new framework.

“There are now 84 children and families in Wigan borough who have benefited from a co-ordinated assessment and have an education health and care plan instead of a statement. Feedback from pilot families suggests a positive experience with the new process and wider evaluation is now being undertaken at a national level.

“These reforms are wide ranging and do have an impact on the way we work with children and young people with special educational needs and their families. There are challenges with any such major reforms but the work undertaken so far means that we are well placed to respond.”