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'More choice' vow on special needs

Ministers are set to unveil plans for the biggest overhaul of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities in 30 years.

Under the proposals, parents will be given a bigger choice of schools and, by 2014, a legal right to control the funding for their child's support.

The current system of special educational needs (SEN) statements, used to assess what support a child needs, will be replaced by a single SEN plan which takes in education, health and care. This will stay in place until a young person reaches 25.

There will also be a school-based category for pupils who need extra help in the classroom. Teacher training will be overhauled, with teachers given professional development so they can better help SEN youngsters and boost attainment.

Around 1.7 million school-age children, just over one in five pupils in England, are identified as having SEN, according to current figures. But the proportion of pupils who have an SEN statement stands at 2.7%.

The package of measures will be outlined by Children's Minister Sarah Teather.

She said: "We have heard time and time again that parents are frustrated with endless delays to getting the help their child needs, and by being caught in the middle when local services don't work together.

"Parents and voluntary organisations have given us overwhelming examples where they have felt let down by local services. At the moment there is an appalling situation where public money is being wasted as children are growing out of equipment, like wheelchairs, before they even arrive.

"The new single assessment process and plan will tackle this issue and mean that parents don't feel they have to push to get the services they are entitled to."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said: "The SEN green paper needs to strengthen the role of local authorities and external services so they can better support schools, and funding must be found to provide the support needed."

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