Local Authorities' Experiences of Improving Parental Confidence in the Special Educational Needs Process

Richard White, Mary Atkinson, Shona Macleod, Jennifer Jeffes

10 June 2010

Download the Research Summary

In 2007 the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee Report on special educational needs (SEN) assessment and funding highlighted parental confidence as a key issue in making provision for children with SEN. The Lamb Inquiry brought together a group of expert advisers and a broader reference group of professionals and parents to investigate how parental confidence in the SEN assessment process might be improved. The LGA commissioned this research to examine the ways in which local authorities work with parents in order to feed the findings into the Lamb Inquiry. The overarching aim of the research is to provide insights into the approach and practice of local authorities’ work with parents of children with SEN. The main focus is on the period prior to formal assessment.

Key Findings

  • There is a need to focus on creating positive relationships and experiences early on in the process. This can be facilitated through encouraging parental engagement in a collaborative and consultative approach to meeting their child’s needs. Face-to-face contact with SEN professionals supports this.
  • There is a need to focus on ensuring clearer understandings of roles and responsibilities of those involved in meeting the needs of children with SEN. The information provided to parents should be accessible, useful and effective in raising their awareness and understandings. Parents need to be able to act on the information they are given.
  • Multi-agency approaches to SEN provision could be expanded through the co-location of teams and the development of virtual teams around the child. Children’s centres have been particularly effective in underpinning parental involvement in the SEN process. There is a need to maintain, capitalise on, and take forward the effective multi-agency working that takes place in the pre-school arena in school settings. Children’s Trust Board arrangements could have a central role to play in this.
  • Parental confidence may be increased when there is visible flexibility in the provision available, so that parents can see that packages of support are tailored to the (changing) needs of their child. The local authority’s review and monitoring function, along with an ability to draw-upon provision from a range of sources, was seen to be valuable in this.

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