Postcode Lottery For Special Education Support

Families Struggle To Get Extra Help For Children, With Half Of All Requests Denied

18.03.2015

Families of children with special education needs (SEN) are facing a postcode lottery to get support at school, with half of all requests from parents turned down, a BBC investigation has revealed.

As many as one in five children in England and Wales has special educational needs, making them eligible for extra help at schools. In order to receive support, an assessment must be requested from the local education authority.

A Freedom of Information Request revealed that parents requesting an assessment for their child were over twice as likely to be turned down as a school or professional.

There are also large variations between different local authorities. Southampton City Council turned down all 16 of the requests for assessment received between 2013 and 2014, whereas neighbouring Portsmouth refused only one out of 13.

Of the 125 local education authorities who responded to the request, 17 had rejected more than 75% of requests.

Eleanor Wright, co-ordinator of the charity SEN SOS, says many of the reasons for rejecting requests for assessments are unlawful.

"They will say there was no evidence provided by the school, or the wrong sort of evidence was provided, when it is down to them to get that evidence - they hope they won't be challenged," she said.

"Parents have the greatest struggle, they do not go into this lightly - they are worried about their child being labelled, I do not see frivolous requests."

Expert Opinion
It is incredibly worrying to see such postcode lottery concerns emerge in relation to the support and specialist help that children with special educational needs are able to access.

"The level of support available should never be determined by where a family lives, so it is safe to say there are clear questions regarding the processes under taken by local authorities on this issue.

"Consistency is absolutely requisite and we would urge the Government and councils to work together to ensure a fair, quality system is in place which ensures no child is left behind in terms of the help they receive."
Polly Sweeney, Partner