Headlines: August 28th, 2003

Education services provided for pupils with special medical needs by local authorities are improving, according to a report from the Office for Standards in Education. It found there was a good quality of teaching and learning in the 12 Local Education Authorities included in a study.Pupils were well behaved and had a positive attitude towards their work but the report says more help is needed for pupils with the greatest difficulties.The Ofsted inspectors also reported that Government guidance introduced in 2001 has helped LEAs to improve parts of the service offered to the pupils, but said more work was needed to ensure that pupils who are physically ill or injured or who have mental health difficulties receive an appropriate education.

The study was carried out between September 2002 and March this year in Bury, Coventry, Dorset, East Riding, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Kingston upon Thames, Leicester, Southwark, Swindon and Wirral. It found that in more than three-quarters of lessons teaching was good and in a third it was very good. Two thirds of the LEAs had a satisfactory provision for pupils with special medical needs. In the best cases this included hospital special schools or units, a home tuition service, hospital teaching and adolescent psychiatric units.

By contrast, a quarter of the authorities failed to provide adequate support for pupils moving from home tuition and returning to school and a third had insufficient provision for pupils to work together in group settings. This has led to pupils, especially those with anxiety, depression and phobia, being educated at home for too long. All the authorities experienced difficulties in planning the allocation of funds because of the unpredictable nature of pupils’ needs.

The inspectors’ main recommendations are that LEAs develop systems for establishing stronger links between different parts of the service and between schools and the service and that they improve procedures for monitoring the quality of education provided. It also urges schools to ensure that pupils are referred promptly to the appropriate service.