The Assistive Technology Industry welcomes SEN Green Paper – “in a climate of cuts, it's great to see this commitment” says Martin Littler, Chairman of BATA
In a climate of cuts, BATA has to accept this Green Paper as a genuine, good hearted attempt to improve the education and lives of those children who face the greatest challenges – although in our view the jigsaw is still missing one piece.
The ambition to get Health and Education working together is not new but very welcome. Focusing resources and funding on the child not the institution – and from birth to twenty-five – is new and very positive. We are delighted that the “bias toward inclusion” is gone and special schools are to be celebrated again. In this Year of Communication it is great to see a commitment, in terms, to provide a voice (communication aid) to children without speech.
The reduction in the numbers of children defined as needing extra help (having special needs) is not a concern. For over a hundred years now every Government initiative finds a remarkably constant 17% to 20% needing extra help and 1.5% – 2% needing separate provision. These figures are somewhat arbitrary and, ultimately, not in the Secretary of State’s control anyway. The implication that some learners on the margin just need more effective teaching has positive echoes in Assistive Technology too. For instance the excellent and economical decision by the now disbanded BECTa to give computer based literacy support to every applicant for the Home Access programme whether they had special needs or not.
We do have concerns too. Local Authorities provide valuable SEN support services and we don’t yet see how these fit in. We are not clear either on who will assess children’s needs and where the “trained key workers” will find their expertise.
Low incidence disabilities are just that. To be honest most LAs and PCTs are too small to provide expertise in each aspect of severe and complex special needs – Academies and GP practices will be smaller and will struggle to offer the full range of expertise to parents.
The answer may be some regional centre of expertise and assessment. Otherwise locked-in ability is likely to stay locked in and potential will stay untapped just for lack of knowledge of what resources are available and what can help each child.
Founding Chairman BATA