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Interview with Ellen Power – Part 3: Where does SEN fit into the academies and free schools models?

This is the third installment of a week-long interview with Ellen Power, mum to two children with Special Educational Needs and author of the new how-to book Guerrilla Mum: Surviving the Special Educational Needs Jungle (August 2010, Jessica Kingsley Publishers), which describes how she worked with – and in some cases challenged – the authorities to get the right education for her children.

Today, Ellen shares her take on the new academies and free schools legislation in the UK.

The new academies and free schools legislation was rushed through Parliament using legislation set up to expedite anti-terror measures. The almost complete absence of consultation was wrong. I feel parents of children with SEN should have been offered information about this process and what the implications might be for children with SEN who go to academies. I have certainly received no information, but would be interested to hear of any parents who have. I have had email correspondence with our children’s school and government on this issue, and I have to say that they are all very vague about how SEN will be managed in academies and free schools. It is almost like they haven’t really thought about it and this really worries me. Why rush this far-reaching legislation through like this, and then announce a Green Paper on SEN in the autumn? Are children with SEN not really included in this? They really have put the cart before the horse!

The government’s free schools policy has been criticised for being set up in haste, based on little research, and with the potential to create a two tier education system in which middle class children will benefit and poor children will be left out. They are not with us yet, it is hoped that the first will open in September 2011. I will be interested to see how the Green Paper for SEN suggests children with SEN be provided for within free schools and academies and indeed all of our schools. What will be the model for the future?

Of course I want to be open to new ideas and processes and I would like to see if there are benefits to academies and free schools. It is vital that we have a well considered and thought-out education system for all of our children, not just those with SEN. The academies and free schools legislation was rushed through with such speed that quite literally nobody – government included – can have had any real opportunity to think about it or to really understand all of its implications. I have to question the motives of a government that would do this, and it makes me very fearful for the future of provision for SEN in our schools.

Tomorrow: Ellen’s recommendations towards an educational system that fully meets the needs of children with SEN.
Yesterday: Ellen on how she picks her battles in fighting to get the right education for her sons.

Ellen Power has a BA Honours Degree in French and History. After graduation she worked as a police officer then in commerce before having her first child in the mid 1990′s. Since then she and her husband have been tireless campaigners for their children’s rights to access the curriculum at school and to meet their potential in life. She has contributed to the National Austistic Society magazine ‘Communication’, discussing the issue of homeschooling children on the Autistic Spectrum. She lives with her husband and two young sons.

Visit Ellen’s new Guerrilla Mum blog!

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.


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