Now that Baker Small has lost contracts with LAs (with more to come?), it seems that we have a window of opportunity to effect some real change. Not just in those LAs where Baker Small was commissioned, but in other LAs too. Baker Small aren’t the only solicitors firm on the block.
We could now take a leaf out of the wonderful @sarasiobhan & co’s book and keep up the pressure. Without their tenacity and dogged determination, the Southern Health scandal would have quietly slipped away and even more people will have had their deaths uninvestigated.
With SEND tribunals, we can quietly slip back into the shadows and Baker Small will be quietly replaced by Small Baker or similar, or we keep up the pressure for change. One of the first issues has to be around the Statutory Assessment (SA) process and Refusal to Assess appeals. a whopping 84% are won by parents, why? Put simply, because they are appeals that the LAs should not have allowed to happen in the first place. They are wastes of taxpayers’ money. I’m not, for one moment, suggesting that LAs just waive through everything that parents’ want unchallenged, that would be plain wrong. What I am saying is that LAs need to go back and look at what the law has to say and defend the right appeals for the right reasons.
We, as parents, want good quality assessments, we want a broad range (SEN Reg 6 again) and the reports must identify needs, provision to meet them and the outcomes that provision is to provide. This simply isn’t happening in too many cases (research results to follow). I do have to ask the question though – why has a parent asked for a SA? Is it because, perhaps, the actually want a diagnosis? If it is, the chances are that they ought to be going through their GP, not the LA. ASD (without LD), dyspraxia, ADHD and language difficulties are all high incidence Specific Learning Difficulties that can be explored by the medical profession. Dyslexia, however, isn’t in most cases. For that you do need an Educational Psychologist or a Specialist Teacher. However, it’s not about labels, it’s about provision that is in addition to, or different from, that normally found within mainstream. What a child or young person needs is not affected by their diagnosis. They remain the same person.Whether or not a plan needs writing is based on the outcomes of the assessment, and whether or not they need the legal protection it brings to secure the provision.
There are of course, other reasons parents use tribunal. But what if schools were supported and challenged to do more for the high incidence-low cost SEN/D students? LAs should have published via their Local Offer, exactly what type of support they expect schools to make from their budgets. It’s shouldn’t be waffly, or state ‘see individual school’s offers’, it should be clear. For example, 1 hr per week explicit literacy teaching for pupils who are finding hard to acquire literacy? Why not? Primary schools have phonics teachers, high school are now having to train & ensure they have a Specialist Teacher to assess for exam access arrangements, so in my book, both levels have specialists who can do this – with LA support where necessary.
LAs need to continue to hear our voices, we need to keep up the momentum to stop the slide back into unnecessary and adversarial processes. I’m not suggesting how as such, as, well, I don’t know all the answers. One thought I’ve had is to lobby you LA to hold some open meetings, get involved, co-produce (with or without you parent/carer forum). Someone else on Twitter suggested joint training, where LA officers, school and parents all train together on what the law states. Nice thought, but the training would need to be a) impartial and b) independent. This lobbying could happen in all LAs, not just those using Baker Small, we could keep the momentum of parent-power.
I shall have to pass the mantle on to parents, as I’m now dropping out of the SEN/D system as a parent. I’m still here as an advocate though! Food for thought anyway.