Dear Sir or Madam,

Dear Sir or Madam,

 This is an amended version of a blog I posted last week. The trainer who I am addressing was a freelance consultant who is paid to offer advice and support to SLT’s and governing bodies within schools. I had mistakenly identified the trainer as working for the LA. They do not. But the person is an experienced and capable trainer. Which means that this person is in a unique position to influence the attitudes and the decision-making of both professionals and lay people who influence our children’s education. The points I tried to make in the original blog about choosing language carefully are critical – especially now. 
Dear Sir or Madam,
1) You referred to the notional £6k budget that a school must spend on a child with SEN/on the SEN register before the school receives a top up as “a drain on resources”:
  • Community school’s are legally and morally obliged to serve the local community. To deliver a quality education to all and to make reasonable adjustments where required. Some children at differing points in their career will require more support than others. Any public school should not actively or passively discriminate against any child no matter how much of the budget their support may consume.
  • Government policy is to teach most SEND children in mainstream school. Your language could be seen to be counter to this policy.
2) You explained a multi-million pound budget overspend on the local SEND budget as occurring  because “parents are winning appeals and choosing to send their kids to private school out of the borough, thereby funneling money out of the public and into the private sector”. This is a complex area but let me raise some points for you to consider:
  • 50% of tribunal appeals are against ‘refusal to assess’ decisions when schools or parents originally apply for an EHCP. 89% of appeals to tribunal are won by parents. That is because LA’s are increasing the barriers to the application for an EHCP above the legal requirements set out in the SEN Guidelines or the Children & Families Act. Some LA’s have active policies to brief lawyers 100% of the time when a parent appeals to tribunal – this money comes from the same funding pot.
  • If the legal requirement for an EHCP assessment is relatively low (the school can’t meet requirements), the expectations on LA’s to deliver services are high as a result, and the government chooses to under fund this area then please ask yourself if it is truly a parents fault for seeking to understand and meet their child’s needs? Would an average parent really choose to send their vulnerable child by bus or taxi for an extended period every day if their needs could be met locally by local schools with units? Or does the school offer locally just not match the needs of these children?
I’m raising these points because the language you use really does matter.
In the room where you spoke were a number of relatively inexperience governors. Most governors have a rudimentary understanding of SEND and SEND funding as you know. You – not them – are the expert.
I hope that you agree that parents, teachers, governors and the LA all have a vested interest to be supportive and work together. And that you won’t mind me raising these issues with you in this way.
The Lone Autism Parent.

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