Information for parents
Primary Schools across Birmingham are being forced by the Department for Education to become academies. One of the biggest areas of concern that has emerged from recent parent discussions is provision for children with special educational needs (SEN). This is a complex issue that is further complicated by differences between what the DfE claims about SEN and academies, and what children and parents actually experience in the real world. This post aims to highlight the main areas of concern for parents and bring together links and resources where parents can find out more.
This post will look at
- Admissions for SEN children seeking a place at an academy
- The obligations of an academy to meet a child’s needs
1. Admissions for SEN children seeking a place at an academy
The DfE claims that SEN children have the same rights of admission to an academy as they do to a maintained school because, they say, if an academy refuses admission, parents can appeal to the SEN Tribunal. But the SEN charity IPSEA (Independent parental special education advice) has been complaining to the Government for many years that this is not the case, and the SEN Tribunal has just recently made the decision that it cannot hear appeals on admissions to academies because it has no power to force an academy to admit a child with SEN.
Law firm Maxwell Gillott are acting for parents in this case which concerns the flagship academy Mossbourne. The case will have enormous implications for parents of statemented children.
Our major concern with the whole academy system is that in many cases academies are able to operate outside the laws that apply to all local authority schools. Read more from Maxwell Gillott …
Barrister David Wolfe gives more detail on the SEN Tribunal’s decision on his blog ‘A Can of Worms’:
As explained here there have been rumblings for some while about whether SENDIST would start refusing to hear appeals from parents seeking places at academies for their children with statements of SEN. Read more from David Wolfe…
IPSEA is conducting a survey of parents with experience of academies refusing to take their statemented child:
IPSEA has been aware for a long time that parents of statemented children do not have the same right to obtain a place at an academy as they do if they want a maintained school place. Read more from IPSEA and take part in the survey…
2. The obligations of an academy to meet a child’s needs
The Department for Education claims that the obligations to meet a child’s needs that Academies have towards children with SEN are the same as for Maintained schools. But the SEN charity IPSEA says that this is not the case because rather than being covered directly by the laws that apply to maintained schools, an academy’s obligations are covered by a funding agreement between the academy and the DfE, however:
‘Parents and LAs are not parties to the FA contract and therefore do not have a direct right to challenge either party if they fail to follow any provision of the contract, such as the duty to have regard to the SEN Code of Practice.’
Furthermore there is no clear complaints procedure to deal with academies that fail to follow their funding agreements.
IPSEA has produced a document that explains this in more detail called ‘Academies – Current Issues’ which can be downloaded here
The barrister David Wolfe has documented concerns about SEN children being put on reduced timetables:
I am seeing and hearing about a growing number of pupils being placed by Academies on ‘reduced timetables‘, or on ‘vocational courses’ despite being clearly capable of full time and more academic courses. Read more from David Wolfe