Welsh Critics Blast Authorities for Failing Children With Special Educational Needs

by Gopalan on Oct 28 2008 12:43 PM

Welsh critics have blasted authorities for failing children with special educational needs.  They can neither be educated at home nor can they afford schools meant for them.

More than 200 children with special needs are not educated at school or in specialist units, according to Welsh Assembly Government statistics.

Many are being home-educated because of parental choice or because this has been deemed the best option by experts.

However, a minority are left in limbo, spending their days at home because a school place cannot be found for them or because the council will not pay for full-time support for these children to attend school, writes  Moira Sharkey in Western Mail.

Some local council authorities pleaded helpless in the absence of necessary financial resources.

Thomas Pepper goes to school for just one hour each day because the council will not pay for him to be supervised full-time.

Teenager Sara Abdul- Hamid, who has been excluded from mainstream education because of her behavioural problems, is now starting her third week at home as the council tries to find her a specialist school place.

Shane Tomlinson gets just five hours of tutoring each week while the council says it is seeking a place for him in a specialist school.

Their parents all believe their children have been failed by the education system, which is dogged by delays in ensuring their children’s special needs were diagnosed.

Their views are supported by Wales’ Children’s Commissioner Keith Towler, who along with the other three UK commissioners highlighted the “serious failings” in standards and consistency of educational provision in their joint review.

Councils say they are doing their best to meet the needs of all children with special needs, but the complexity of each situation delays this process.

They admit that finance is an issue as the cost of specialist provision is so high.

However, all councils which have cases of children not in full-time education say they are working with families to find a solution and the needs of the children are carefully monitored.

Andrew Barrowclough of Sinclair Solicitors in Cardiff, which specialises in education cases, believes that the greatest challenge is in ensuring that the statement of special needs is specific and sets out clearly what provision the council must provide.

He added: “The current situation is not helpful as it allows local authorities to use technical language to explain how they fund school provision which is confusing for parents.

“ It also demonstrates that some parents are left with inadequate support, irrespective of what statement of special educational needs is in place.”