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'Special education must change'

By More4 News

Updated on 27 October 2009

Labour MP Barry Sheerman tells More 4 News that the system of providing 1.6 million pupils with special educational needs (SEN) is in need of significant change and has urged Children's Secretary Ed Balls to act now.

Barry Sheerman

Sheerman, who chairs the influential education and skills select committee, has already clashed with the Children’s Secretary as recently as last week, over the appointment of a children's commissioner when he described him as a bully.

Sheerman's latest call comes in advance of an inquiry into schooling for special needs pupils, whose problems may range from mild learning difficulties to serious disabilities.

The Lamb Inquiry has cost a third of a million pounds and was due to report in September. However, the publication date has now been postponed until November.

Sheerman was critical of the Government's decision to set up another review. "There should be major change. We're very good at doing reviews. I get frustrated when the Government hears what we say and then commissions another review because we've done all the hard work. Please Mr Balls, get on with it now."
More 4 News has obtained an exclusive sight of some of the measures being considered for the final report and heard from critics who fear the inquiry may not recommend the huge shake up in the special needs system that many believe is necessary.
Sir Bob Balchin, who set up a Conservative commission to investigate special needs education, told the programme: "I believe the system is in need of the most serious review. All I've heard from the Lamb Inquiry so far seems to suggest it will recommend tweaks to the system. If that is the case a generation of special needs children will have been let down once again."
Commenting on announcements already made by the Lamb Inquiry, and the measures currently under discussion, the special needs lawyer John Friel said: "The Lamb Inquiry is a compromise and as such it's a compromise that represents the worst of all evils and ignores the two very good inquiries that have recently taken place."

Insiders at the new inquiry reject these criticisms saying their report should be judged on their final recommendations.
A spokesman from the Department of Children Schools and Families told More 4 News that the vast majority of parents were happy with the support they received and pleased with the school their child attends. "We want to make sure the evidence is there to demonstrate that any further changes to the system would work better for children."

More 4 News also heard from a family coping with triplets who have autism. Cate and Paul Moore, from Surrey, have described their difficulties in securing educational provision for their three nine-year-old boys.
"The pressure that it's put on the family has just been immense. It takes a very strong family not to completely break down,” said Cate Moore. They described the system of providing for children of special needs as "fudging the issues". She continued: "I think the system ought to be changed completely - thrown out and start again."

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