The government are about to bring in new legislation (The Children and Families Bill) which has major implications for how schools and local authorities meet the learning needs of pupils with disabilities.

The Act brings in Education Health and Care (EHC) plans whereby local authorities will be responsible for identifying and assessing a child or young person’s education, health and care needs and drawing up an EHC plan to meet them by preparing a local “offer of services available”.

While broadly supportive of the initiative the Labour party has sounded a note of caution about potential geographical variations in the level of support provided. Shadow education minister Sharon Hodgson said that while Labour welcomed a “great deal of the reforms” in the bill, “we still fear the government’s plans for local offers, as currently drafted, could lead to greater disparities in services across the country”.

She argued during the recent debate in the House of Commons for a baseline expectation from the department of what should be in the EHC plans otherwise “they may not be worth the paper they are printed on”.

Graham Stuart, Conservative chair of the Education Committee, compared the bill to the Disability Discrimination Act in terms of its importance but he also voiced concerns about the role of local authorities in delivering EHC plans, stating “I wish to see the power and role of parents enhanced by this legislation, not diminished.”

He made the case for setting out on the face of the bill the right of parents to educate their children at home, “because without this, councils may steamroll over home education parents trying to do the best for their children”.

Several MPs spoke about the importance of the “health” element of the Education Health and Care Plans, which aims to make it easier for schools to meet the needs of those with long-term health conditions.

Labour’s John Healey said diabetic children often faced “a lack of recognition and appreciation of staff at school about their condition, a lack of knowledge about what they had to do in order to manage it for themselves”.

Education Minister Edward Timpson rejected Labour’s argument about regional disparities and claimed that:

“Central prescription would stifle the very innovation and responsiveness we want to see the local offer trigger, and stipulating minimum standards for the local offer would weaken local accountability.”

If you are the parent of a child with SEN you might want to look at the section of my web site focusing on career planning for youngsters with disabilities.