Special Needs in Education (1980)

In this White Paper Margaret Thatcher's first government responded to the recommendations of the 1978 Warnock Report Special Educational Needs. Its proposals formed the basis of the 1981 Education Act.

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

I The present position (page 5)
II The Government's approach (10)
III The Government's proposals (14)
IV Advisory and co-operative machinery (21)
V The next steps (23)

The text of Special Needs in Education was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 9 March 2021.

White Paper: Special Needs in Education (1980)

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1981
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

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Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Wales by Command of Her Majesty
August 1980



1.75 net

Cmnd. 7996

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The Present Legal Position5
Emerging Trends7

The Concept of Special Educational Needs10
Under Fives11
Post 1612
Higher Education12

Definition of Special Educational Needs14
Integration: Statement of Principle14
Special and Independent Schools14
Identification of Children with Special Educational Needs15
Meeting Special Educational Needs16
Post 1616
Review of the Record19
Access to Information and Advice for Parents19
A Flexible System19
Transitional Arrangements20

Local and Regional Co-operation21
The Health and Personal Social Services21


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1. The education of handicapped children, now a well-established part of the education service in England and Wales, was thoroughly reviewed by the Warnock Committee. The Committee's report is a landmark in the development of policy and practice in this important area. The Government has decided to reform the law in the light of the Committee's findings.


2. As the law now stands, the duty to cause a child of compulsory school age to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude rests on the parent whether or not his child is handicapped. Each local education authority (LEA) has a corresponding duty to secure the provision of sufficient schools so that between the ages of five and 18 pupils in its area have the opportunity of receiving education which is appropriate to their age, abilities and aptitudes; for those over compulsory school age the LEA also has a duty to secure the provision of further education under schemes approved by the Secretary of State (in England, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, and in Wales, the Secretary of State for Wales); and for children under five it has a power to secure the provision of education. These duties and powers are comprehensive and include all children and students. But they have long been supplemented by specific legal provisions for handicapped children.

3. These provisions are based on the concept that children with disabilities of mind or body require 'special educational treatment'. This is defined by law as education by special methods appropriate for those suffering from any category of handicap specified by the Secretary of State. As the law now stands, the Secretary of State defines categories of pupils who require special educational treatment. The following categories have thus been established: the blind, the partially sighted, the deaf, the partially hearing, the educationally sub-normal, the epileptic, the maladjusted, the physically handicapped, the speech defective, and the delicate. LEAs have a duty to have regard to the need to secure the provision of special educational treatment for pupils in these categories, and to identify those children who require such treatment.

4. These two duties are a specific part of the LEA's overall duty to secure the provision of primary and secondary education. But unlike the more general duty, they apply to children from the age of two; and the duty to identify those needing special educational treatment ceases when the child is no longer of compulsory school age, although the duty to have regard to the need to secure the provision of special educational treatment as part of primary and secondary education applies to all pupils up to and including the age of 18.

5. A LEA discharges its duty to identify any child needing special educational treatment when it decides that the child falls into one of the categories of handicap defined by the Secretary of State. To be able to reach such a decision, the LEA may arrange for a doctor to examine any child who appears to need special educational treatment, and must have regard to other relevant information about the child from his teachers or others who are in a position

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to give it. The parent of any child between the age of two and 16 must submit him to medical examination if the LEA requests this in writing. The LEA, for its part, has to arrange for such an examination if the parent requests it, unless the request is unreasonable. In either case, the parent has the right to be present at the examination and to be informed of the advice which the examining doctor gives to the LEA. The parent is also entitled to receive, if he asks for it, a certificate from the doctor which shows whether the child suffers from any disability of body or mind and its nature and extent. The form of the certificate is prescribed by the Secretary of State. If the parent is dissatisfied with the certificate, he has the right to ask the Secretary of State to cancel it.

6. Once the LEA has identified a child as needing special educational treatment, that need has to be met either by the parent or by the LEA. If the parent does not meet it (and he rarely does) the LEA must arrange for adequate provision. If the child's disability is serious, he must, if this is practicable, be educated in a 'special school' which is appropriate to the category of handicap.

7. A special school is a school which the Secretary of State approves for the purpose of providing special educational treatment. Such a school can either be maintained by a LEA or belong to a small group of 'non-maintained special schools' which are operated by non-profit making bodies under arrangements approved by the Secretary of State and are eligible for financial assistance from the Secretary of State towards their capital building needs. To secure the child's attendance at a special school, the LEA can require the doctor who examined the child to issue the certificate mentioned in paragraph 5 above. This applies only to children of compulsory school age.

8. If it is not practicable for the child to be educated at a special school, or if his disability is not serious, he may be educated at an ordinary (nursery, county or voluntary) school maintained by a LEA, or at an independent school (unless such a school has been notified by the Secretary of State as unsuitable for handicapped pupils). If the child cannot attend school, the LEA can arrange for him to receive education otherwise than at school (eg at home or in a hospital).

9. If the special educational treatment needed by the child is not available within normal daily travelling distance from home, the LEA has to arrange for his accommodation in a boarding school or hostel and to meet the resultant expenditure on the same basis as for pupils in that situation who do not require special educational treatment.

10. For those over compulsory school age, LEAs have no specific duty to secure special educational treatment through provision in special schools. But every LEA has the same duty towards handicapped persons as towards all others over compulsory school age and up to the age of 18 to secure the provision of sufficient and suitable schools in its area, and it has to have regard to the need to secure the provision of special educational treatment for secondary school pupils up to the age of 18. The LEA's duty to provide further education is, however, limited to what it is required to provide under a scheme of further education approved by the Secretary of State; not all such schemes contain specific provision for handicapped persons.

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11. Under the law now in force in England and Wales, which has remained substantially the same since 1944, very many children with physical, sensory, or mental disability or emotional disorders have been, and are being, educated according to their personal needs with skill and devotion by dedicated teachers, with the support of professional staff in the education, health and social services. Many schools and teachers have developed new methods of helping such children to achieve their potential and many LEAs have devised new arrangements to facilitate such progress. But the quality of provision and education varies greatly from place to place. Moreover, as the Warnock Committee recognised, the present legal framework is increasingly called into question by several important new trends.

12. First, over the last 35 years the incidence of handicap and our recognition of it has altered. As a result of medical, economic and social changes, certain handicaps, such as deformities due to rickets, have been reduced, whereas others, like maladjustment, are more common. The shift in the pattern has sometimes been gradual and subtle, sometimes dramatic, as with the congenital deformities caused by thalidomide.

13. Linked with these shifts has been our growing understanding of the complexity of handicap. It is now much more clearly recognised that children often have multiple handicaps: for example, physical handicap may be associated with sensory loss so that the child's learning difficulties are compounded. Such cases are more difficult to fit into a categorisation based on separate handicaps, and call for educational treatment which goes beyond the needs of any one category: for example, it has become good practice for some moderately mentally handicapped pupils also to be provided with speech therapy and physiotherapy, and with specialist services for impaired hearing. There has been a corresponding increase in the sophistication of the procedures for assessing handicap. Teachers, psychologists, social workers and nurses, as well as doctors, have come to be increasingly associated with this assessment. Most LEAs now incorporate some form of multi-professional assessment in the identification of children who require special educational treatment. The relative roles of each profession vary, often in accordance with the child's major handicap: thus with a physically handicapped child, the emphasis is commonly medical, whereas for a child with a moderate mental handicap, it is psychological and social.

14. There is also a growing recognition of the value of continuing attention, from a very early age, to the changing needs of handicapped children. In many cases very early intervention is crucial. This has led to the use of peripatetic teachers who visit very young children in their homes and not only give help and advice to the parents but also, for example with children whose hearing is impaired, help the parents to teach the child. As a result parents have become more closely involved in the assessment of the child's needs and in his actual education.

15. Schools increasingly review a handicapped child's assessment more systematically. The best combine a continuous monitoring of progress with regular reviews, which bring in professionals other than the teachers at critical stages such as the period before leaving school.

16. Second, there has been a marked shift in public attitudes towards separate provision for handicapped pupils. More and more people believe that,

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in order to give handicapped persons the same opportunities as other citizens, they should be involved in the ordinary processes of life and work to the maximum extent, and be integrated in their education with those who are not handicapped. (This conviction led to the enactment of section 10 of the Education Act 1976, which has not however been brought into force.) An increasing number of LEAs and teachers are tackling in ordinary schools the additional needs of children, particularly those with physical and sensory handicaps, in every age group. Sometimes such children are in the ordinary classes of primary or secondary schools; sometimes in special classes or units within such schools, and sometimes in units which do not form part of a school. As part of this process a number of school and college buildings have been modified to provide better access and facilities; and more and more LEAs are establishing in ordinary schools resource and support units which provide specialist teaching and support for children with a wide range of special needs.

17. In recent years a growing number of LEAs and colleges have shown their concern for handicapped young people over compulsory school age by providing more opportunities for those with special needs to take part in courses of further education, and by offering a whole range of new courses, particularly for those who are moderately mentally handicapped.

18. Third, much educational opinion now accepts the notion that special educational arrangements should be extended to a much wider range of children. The Warnock Committee has recommended, as a basis for future policy, a wider concept of handicap which focuses on the special educational needs of a child rather than on the possible physical, mental or emotional causes of the handicap. This concept underlies much of what is now accepted as good practice in the education of handicapped pupils and of those other children who do not benefit as much as their peers from the education provided for the generality of children. The concept also encourages the development, already begun, of co-ordinated policies by LEAs.

19. Fourth, parental influence will grow as more parents become school governors.

20. Finally, the education of handicapped pupils will also feel the effect of demographic trends. The following table gives an indication of the number of pupils in various categories of handicap. The figures are derived from returns of handicapped pupils identified by LEAs in England and Wales in January 1979 as requiring special educational treatment.

Partially Sighted2,819
Partially Hearing7,256
Physically Handicapped16,677
Educationally Sub-Normal119,005
Speech Defective2,972

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These figures do not include all the handicapped pupils who attend ordinary schools because statistics of such pupils are not collected on a uniform basis. There is little doubt that, while there may be changes in the balance between handicaps, demographic trends will reduce the total number of pupils with special educational needs in both ordinary and special schools. As a result, special schools too will be faced with the problems associated with falling rolls. But this could also serve to ease the pressure on resources. The Government's plans for a reduced total level of public expenditure on education assume that the level of expenditure on special education under existing arrangements will not be reduced in real terms up to 1983-84.

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21. The Government believes that the time has come to adapt the law so as to reflect our growing awareness of the limitations of the present statutory arrangements for dealing with handicap, and to encourage good practice and useful innovation. The present law relies too heavily on the identification of specific disabilities of mind or body, and its more general provisions do not ensure that the whole spectrum of special needs is adequately met. The law should now be expressed anew.

22. In revising and up-dating the law, the Government wishes to provide the flexibility needed for educational advance, to safeguard the interests of children and young persons with more serious difficulties, and to take full account of the legitimate wishes of parents. The Government agrees with the Warnock Committee that the education service should no longer work to the present legal framework. The present form of categorisation assumes that all handicapped children have only a single disability, whereas many have more than one; no system of classification can readily describe simultaneously the medical, psychological, educational and social aspects of a child's needs; and a medical diagnosis does not provide an adequate assessment of a child's educational requirements.

23. In one sense every child's educational needs are 'special', because they are peculiar to him; and nearly every child from time to time has difficulties which distinguish him from others. Special needs in this very general sense can be met under the law as it stands. What is needed is a further legal framework which pays regard to the special educational needs of that minority of children and young people whose problems are greater or more persistent than those of the generality, and which include not only those difficulties which arise from physical or mental disability but also those which may be due to some other cause. Such a framework would apply to a larger proportion of children and young people than the present notion of special educational treatment; it would be flexible enough to help those children who require special provision only at certain stages, or in respect of certain aspects, of their education; and it would ensure that, as a child's education develops, his needs can be reassessed. The Government therefore proposes the adoption of the concept of special educational needs as it is described in the Warnock Report.

24. The application of this concept will help to break down the legal and psychological barrier which needlessly separates the handicapped child from his peers. Certain children, whose difficulties are unusually severe, will still have to be given a special legal status, in the interest of ensuring that their needs are properly safeguarded. To this end, the new status will involve a system of recording the child which, as the Warnock Committee recommended, will not only define his needs more accurately than at present but will also specify the action proposed for meeting them. But most children with special educational needs will be indistinguishable in law from the majority of the school population and will be educated in ordinary schools. Their needs can be met as part of the integral provision which such schools make for the whole range of their pupils.


25. The concept of special educational needs puts a premium on the

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teacher's skill in recognising each child's characteristics, noticing special needs where they emerge, and responding to those needs. This should be progressively reflected in teacher education and training, as resources permit.

26. Within the inevitable constraints in initial professional training, the aim should be to heighten the sensitivity of students to the varying needs of children, and to help them to acquire a range of skills which could assist each of their pupils to learn most effectively. The Government looks to the training institutions, in consultation with the validating bodies, to review their treatment of these issues in initial training courses; many are already doing so.

27. Above all, serving teachers will need support to enable them to build upon their experience of pupils in the classroom, and many LEAs continue to regard this area as a priority in their in-service training policies. It will also be vital that teachers are kept informed of how the LEA is developing its policies and practices in relation to special educational needs and to be advised on how best to use the support which local agencies, including the health and personal social services, can offer.

28. Teachers must be able to draw freely on specialist resources provided by the local and other authorities. Recent years have seen a considerable growth in the advisory and support services available to children with special needs, to their teachers and, on a more modest scale, to their parents. These services include not only advisers and inspectors specialising in special education and remedial work, advisory and peripatetic teachers, psychologists and officers of the careers service, but also advice and support from the health and personal social services. Adoption of the wider concept of special educational needs may call for a further expansion of the support services. In the current economic situation, pressure on resources makes it more necessary than ever that authorities should co-ordinate their services effectively and avoid the inefficiencies which now occur in some areas as a result of fragmented provision. Despite their existing heavy commitments, those advisers and inspectors not predominantly concerned with special educational needs have much to contribute in this area, particularly to the work of special schools. This would also help to reduce the relative isolation of many such schools.


29. The value of nursery education is widely recognised. It contributes to children's early development. It also affords an opportunity to identify and assess special educational needs in young children.

30. The kind of activity provided in nursery schools and classes should be suitable for most of those children under five with special educational needs. But some children's needs call for something more specialised. This may take the form of nursery provision in a special school, or in a unit forming part of a maintained primary school; or it may be provided in association with nurseries for which the personal social services are responsible. A few children's needs may have to be met in their own homes. LEAs already give priority to children with special needs in admission to nursery schools and nursery classes. The Secretaries of State will continue to give priority to projects which cater for such children in making resources available for capital building.

31. The Government also agrees with the Warnock Committee that an expansion of nursery education would be desirable. But the present economic

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situation precludes any large-scale expansion. In many areas arrangements already exist to co-ordinate services for the under fives, often in the form of a joint advisory committee which contains representatives of the Education and Social Services Committees of the local authority together with representatives of the health services, and of voluntary bodies. In order to ensure that existing resources are used to the best effect, the Government looks to local authorities to review all the services for the under fives in their area. Day nurseries under the social services department provide day care for many such children but that department may lack the resources to employ a suitably qualified teacher. The Government hopes that wherever possible LEAs will take advantage of the provisions of section 26 of the Education Act 1980 which gives them the power to make the services of nursery teachers available to children in the day nurseries which local authorities maintain.

32. Pre-school playgroups and toy libraries are also important resources. Playgroups not only help to relieve the isolation and stress experienced by many parents of young children, but also allow the children to mix and play with each other. Playgroups make a particularly valuable contribution to the educational process and to the identification of special educational needs where they have contacts with schools and teachers and can call on the knowledge and experience of the LEA. An increasing number of authorities are making schools or other premises available to playgroups. Health visitors and social workers normally visit pre-school playgroups as a matter of course. Some playgroups already accommodate a few children with special educational needs. This is a useful service, provided adequate qualified and professional support is available.


33. The Government accepts the importance attached by the Warnock Committee to the transition to adult life of young persons with special educational needs. They should have the widest possible choice of avenues for continued education or training in accordance with their aptitudes. For some pupils the right course will be to remain at school or move to a college of further education. Others should be able to look to the range of establishments assisting with education and training which in the main leads to open or sheltered employment, taking advantage of courses funded by the Manpower Services Commission. MSC now offers Young Persons' Work Preparation Courses at most of their Employment Rehabilitation Centres. LEAs should be ready, where this is practicable, to co-operate in providing continued education for those who attend adult training centres or day centres, or who remain in hospital.


34. Some pupils will be sufficiently qualified to apply for entrance to a higher education institution. Some universities, polytechnics and other higher education establishments have developed and published arrangements for students with special needs on lines recommended by the Warnock Committee: this may mean concentrating or rationalising facilities in order to cope adequately with severely disabled students. The Government is confident that all institutions will consider how further progress can be achieved within existing resources, bearing in mind the variety of sites and buildings involved.

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35. There are legitimate differences of view over where and how a child with special educational needs is best educated. The Government takes as its starting point the principle that children and young people who have such needs should. be educated in association with those who do not. But this principle must always be applied so as not to frustrate the aim of giving the child or student, within the limits of what is practicable, the greatest possible opportunity to benefit from the education process. The right placement for a child with a serious disability can only be properly determined after careful assessment of his needs by competent professionals and in close consultation with his parents. For some children with special needs association, or full association, with other children is the wrong solution and to impose it would be unfair to the child, his parents, other children and the taxpayer. In such a case the arguments for full association must give way to other arguments which are more valid in that case.

36. Accordingly the Government does not propose to bring into force section 10 of the Education Act 1976. To do so would entail perpetuating the concept of categories of disability, because the section builds on the provision in the Education Act 1944 which incorporates that concept. But section 10 is open to more general objections. It gives no opportunity to the expression of parental preference. It is too narrowly concerned with merely placing a handicapped pupil in an ordinary school, which does not by itself guarantee that the child will be educated in association with children who are not handicapped. Above all, it does not take sufficient account of the fact that every child has his own educational needs. Many handicapped children would stand less chance of having their needs met if they were obliged to attend the ordinary schools with their present facilities and resources. Yet in present economic circumstances there is no possibility of finding the massive additional resources for the education and health services which would be required to enable every ordinary school to provide an adequate education for children with serious educational difficulties, without thereby providing a less than adequate education for the other pupils.

37. The Government intends that the process of planned and sensible integration of handicapped children into ordinary schools should continue. However, children with serious difficulties must not be obliged to attend ordinary schools if these cannot fully provide for their needs. In the Government's view, it will continue to be necessary to provide places in special schools and classes, and to make other special arrangements, eg through education at home or in hospital, for some of the most seriously handicapped children.

38. The development of the education service will need to take place within the financial limits set by the public expenditure plans which the Government has announced. Present arrangements for handicapped persons make relatively modest calls on local authority budgets. In the Government's view, authorities will be able to give progressively fuller expression to the new approach outlined in this White Paper by the gradual redeployment of resources. The good practice already achieved by some authorities provides a substantial base on which to build. The Secretaries of State will also be ready to advise authorities about meeting their proposed new responsibilities.

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39. In accordance with the approach outlined in Section II, the Government proposes legislation which will do away with the present system of special educational treatment for children ascertained as belonging to a category of handicap. Instead it proposes in this area to base the duties and powers of LEAs and schools, and the rights and duties of parents, on the concept that certain children have special educational needs. A minority of such children will, as the Warnock Committee recommended, be the subject of a formal record, on the basis of which the LEA, in the interest of the child, will take special steps in regard to his education and keep his progress under regular formal review. But most such children will be educated without the formality of a record. It is likely that, at least initially, 'recorded' children will roughly correspond to those who at present have been ascertained as requiring special educational treatment. It will be for the LEA to decide whether a child's needs are such that he ought to be 'recorded'; and it will not be able to decide that he should, except on the basis of a multi-professional assessment carried out in accordance with rules prescribed by the Secretary of State.


40. The Government envisages a broad definition of special educational needs, to include those needs which are attributable to a physical, sensory, or mental disability or an emotional or behavioural disorder and which call for special provision in respect of such matters as the location, content, timing, or method of education, and any other needs which are similar in their effect. Within its general duty to secure a sufficiency of schools for its area the LEA will have a duty to have regard to the need to secure adequate provision for pupils with special educational needs, instead of, as at present, for pupils who require special educational treatment because they fall into a defined category of handicap.


41. The Government proposes that a child with special educational needs who is not a 'recorded' child should normally be educated in an ordinary school; and that a 'recorded' child shall also, wherever this is reasonable and practicable, be so educated. Accordingly the proposed legislation will provide that a child with special educational needs shall be educated with children without such needs, provided that the arrangements are capable of meeting his needs, are compatible with the efficient education of the children with whom he is to be educated, and with the efficient use of public resources, and take proper account of the wishes of his parents. This provision will replace section 10 of the 1976 Education Act.


42. The adoption, on this basis, of the principle of integration makes it necessary to ensure that where a 'recorded' child cannot be educated at an ordinary school, alternative arrangements can be made available. The Government therefore proposes to retain the present system of maintained and non-maintained special schools whose arrangements are subject to the approval of the Secretary of State; and to augment it by a new category of independent schools which will be approved by the Secretary of State as suitable for the

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admission of 'recorded' children. As in the case of the special schools, approval will be conditional on the school's compliance with regulations governing its general conduct, staffing, premises and educational standards. The Secretary of State will maintain a list of all independent schools suitable for the admission of 'recorded' children. A LEA will not normally be allowed to place a 'recorded' child in an independent school which is not on this list.

43. The Government is consulting non-maintained special schools about alterations to the composition of their governing bodies to bring them into line with the requirements for the governing bodies of maintained special schools under the Education Act 1980. The Government has also considered whether independent schools approved for the education of 'recorded' children should, as the Warnock Committee recommended, be required to have governing bodies. The Government has decided that such a requirement would be neither fair nor practicable. Many independent schools are commercial enterprises and their proprietors could not reasonably be expected to surrender control to persons whom they did not themselves appoint. The Government considers that the power to approve an independent school for the admission of 'recorded' children adequately protects the public interest. But it will encourage such schools to appoint advisory committees to help them discharge their highly specialised task.

44. Under the present law the Secretary of State has to approve the establishment of a new special school. But a LEA does not need his approval for closing a special school which it maintains. The Government proposes that LEAs should be required to afford an opportunity to the parents of children attending the school and to other interested parties to make representations about a proposal to close such a school; and to seek the Secretary of State's approval to closure.


45. The present duty of LEAs to discover children requiring special educational treatment can in practice be fully discharged only in respect of children registered at a school maintained by the LEA. The LEA is in no position to inform itself of the potential educational problems of every child in its area who is under compulsory school age or attends an independent school. Under the proposed new legislation a LEA will only be required, in relation to children between the ages of two and five who are not receiving education in a school maintained by the LEA and children attending independent schools, to follow up cases which come to its notice (eg through the parents or a health visitor) of any child whose special educational needs might justify his being 'recorded'; in relation to pupils of any age in a school maintained by the LEA there will be a duty either on the school or on the LEA to identify all children with special educational needs, and not only those who should be 'recorded'. Once a child with special needs has been identified, there will be a duty on the LEA or school to meet his needs in accordance with the arrangements set out in paragraph 47 below.

46. Since it is sometimes desirable to tackle special educational needs when children are under two years of age, it is proposed to empower LEAs to 'record' such children and to arrange for their education. But this power will be exercised only with the consent of the parents.

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47. In the case of the ordinary schools which it maintains, the LEA will be required, in consultation with school governors and head teachers in the case of county and voluntary schools, to keep under review the arrangements made in these schools for meeting the special educational needs of the pupils. Each county and voluntary school, in accordance with the respective responsibilities of the governors, the head teacher and the LEA, will be under a duty to meet the special needs of its pupils having regard to the resources available to the school, including the advisory and support services provided by the LEA and by the health and personal social services. Where a school considers that it cannot meet the special needs of a pupil, it will be required to inform the LEA, who must then consider, in consultation with the school and, as appropriate, the parents, whether the child's needs are best met by arrangements under which he remains at the school or by other arrangements. In the case of nursery schools it will be for the LEA to ensure that special educational needs are met.

48. The action taken in the case of children who are not 'recorded' will in principle be similar to what happens now when either the school or the LEA consider that a child should not attend a particular school. It will be for the LEA to control, direct and adjust its resources as at present so that they can be used to the best advantage of the schools and their pupils. But it will be even more necessary for the LEA to advise schools on good practice and the most effective use of resources, for schools to be ready to share their expertise with each other, and for the LEA and the governors to work closely together for their common purpose. The Government believes that, with goodwill, it will seldom prove necessary for either the LEA or the governors to ask the Secretary of State to settle differences which they have been unable to resolve locally.

49. The new status of 'recorded' children will place fresh responsibilities on the ordinary schools in which many such children are, and will be, educated. The success and commitment with which many schools already tackle the often complex special needs of certain of their pupils while still meeting the needs of all the others, points the way to the effective discharge of these new responsibilities.

50. Where the child is not 'recorded', the arrangements governing the choice of school and the school attendance procedures established by the Education Act 1980 will apply. For 'recorded' children new arrangements are proposed: these are set out in paragraph 58 below.


51. As a child with special educational needs reaches the end of compulsory schooling his parents - no less than other parents - are faced with important decisions about his education and training. The Government strongly endorses the recommendations of the Warnock Committee on careers education and guidance during the later years of compulsory schooling, although it accepts that the priority given to this aspect of the curriculum must be considered alongside other pressures on it. As young people in school approach school leaving age, the Careers Service as part of its general function has an important role to play, in providing vocational guidance and advice on employment,

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further education and training to handicapped young people, and working closely with careers teachers. The possibilities for continued education and vocational training will depend to a considerable extent on the nature and degree of the special educational needs of the individual child. The Government believes that the range of opportunities should, within the limits of what is practicable, be as comprehensive for young people with special educational needs as for others. Some of them will wish to pursue courses leading to public examinations; those at ordinary schools may be able to continue their studies in accordance with an authority's normal arrangements. Some pupils at special schools, where suitable arrangements can be made, should also be enabled to stay on after the age of 16 or join sixth-forms or sixth-form colleges if they would benefit from doing so. For others, however, it will be more beneficial to leave school and seek education or training in another setting. These young people should be able to look to the further education system for the help they need.

52. It is a weakness of the law governing further education that it makes no specific reference to the needs of handicapped students. The Government recognises the need to clarify the law in the interest of students with special educational needs. But this will need to be done as part of a wider review of the legal framework governing further education on which the Secretaries of State are initiating consultations with the local authority associations and will in due course consult more widely. Meanwhile a growing number of LEAs and colleges are meeting the special needs of students. Some colleges have shown commendable enterprise in developing courses suited to students with special educational needs along the lines recommended by the Warnock Committee and some progress has been made in adapting college accommodation to give easier access to courses for students with physical handicaps. Large-scale expansion of such opportunities will not be possible in present economic circumstances. But the Government hopes that LEAs will continue to examine, both locally and regionally, ways to increase the scale and variety of provision, taking into account the important contribution of the voluntary organisations active in this field.

53. The Government does not accept the recommendation of the Warnock Committee that LEAs should become responsible for a specific educational element in adult training and day centres. This is not practicable. These centres will function efficiently only if they are run under a single direction. But there should be increasing co-operation between education and social services departments over the educational aspects of the work, including the various ways in which further education teachers and facilities can best make their contribution in each situation.


54. For children whose special educational needs call for formal recording by the LEA, the Government proposes the following arrangements. As was explained in paragraph 39 above, the decision to 'record' a child will lie with the LEA. It is the Government's intention that a LEA should not 'record' a child if his special educational needs can be met by attendance at the ordinary schools maintained by the LEA without the need of systematic annual review by the LEA. The LEA will first have to decide whether there is a prima facie case for recording which is sufficiently strong to justify the multi-professional

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assessment which will be a prerequisite of recording. It will take this preliminary decision in the light of information which it receives about the child, eg from his parents or school. The parents of a child aged two or over will have the right to request a multi-professional assessment, and the LEA will have to meet that request unless it is unreasonable.

55. The exact nature of the multi-professional assessment will depend on the circumstances of each case. But the Secretary of State will prescribe broad rules which will govern the assessment. These will include the requirement that the medical, psychological and pedagogic aspects must each be covered by a qualified professional person. If the child is two or over, the parents will be required to submit him for the examinations involved in the assessment and will have the right to attend them.

56. The LEA will have to consider the assessment and also take into account any relevant reports or other information about the child. In particular it will have to consider any views expressed by the parents. If it decides that the child should be 'recorded', the record will be in a form prescribed by the Secretary of State and will have two parts. The first will be a description of the child's special educational needs stemming from the multi-professional assessment and other information received by the LEA; the second part will set out the educational arrangements which the LEA proposes to make to meet these needs: in making the proposal in the second part the LEA will have to have regard to the description of special needs in the first.

57. The Government agrees with the widely-held view that it would be wrong to require full disclosure to parents of the professional reports lying behind the record. Professional reports must remain confidential if they are to give the LEA fully and frankly the information it needs in assessing and meeting special educational needs. Parents have an absolute right to know how the LEA judges their child's educational needs in the light of the multi-professional assessment and the Government acknowledges this. It proposes that the LEA will have to give the parents an opportunity to see the record which it proposes to make in respect of their child, and will have to consider any comments they make on the record. If the parents argue that their child should not be 'recorded' and the LEA does not accept this, the parents will have the right to refer to an appeals committee, in accordance with the provisions set out below, the question of which school should provide for the child. Parents will similarly have the right to take their case to an appeals committee if the LEA decides that their child should not be 'recorded', but they wish him to be. In such cases the parents will have a right to be informed of the LEA's reasons for its decision not to 'record' the child.


58. Once the LEA has made a record, it will have a duty to act in accordance with the second part of the record, unless it is satisfied that the parents are making adequate arrangements. The LEA will normally carry out this duty by arranging to place the child in a particular school. This may be an ordinary school, possibly in a special class or unit, of the school; a special school; or an independent school approved for the admission of 'recorded' children. The placement will require the consent of the parents if the child is below compulsory school age. If the child is of compulsory school age and the parents dispute

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the placement, they will have the right to bring the matter before a LEA appeals committee established by the Education Act 1980. But in this class of case, since the circumstances may be very special and the decision may have substantial resource implications, the committee's findings will not be binding on the LEA but will be in the nature of a recommendation to it. This difference in the committee's function will affect its operation. For example it will have to be able to consider the child's record and to comment on its contents. But subject to this, the Government intends the provisions governing this part of the committee's work to be as close as possible to those which govern its other work.

59. If the committee recommends the LEA to reconsider the proposed placement, the LEA will be under a duty to do so. If it confirms its earlier decision on placement, or if the committee's recommendation endorses that placement, the parents will have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State, who will be empowered to cancel or amend the record, after consulting the LEA.


60. In the Government's view, it is essential to keep the progress of 'recorded' children under regular and systematic review. The child's teachers should be continuously aware of how he responds to the education he receives, and this should be the foundation of a periodic formal reappraisal. The Government therefore proposes that LEAs should review each child's record annually and inform the parents if as a result it proposes a change of arrangements. To facilitate this, the record will be passed to the child's new LEA if he becomes the responsibility of another LEA eg because his parents move. The annual review need not involve another multi-professional assessment. But the parents will have the right to ask for one and, if the request is reasonable, the LEA will have a duty to grant it. The LEA for its part will be expected to arrange for a further assessment if the annual review shows this to be necessary, and will be required to arrange for at least one multi-professional assessment during each of the primary and secondary stages of a 'recorded' child's education. The parents will have the same rights and duties in relation to subsequent assessments as for the initial one. If in the course of the child's education, the LEA proposes a change of school and the parents object, they will have the right to bring their case to the appeals committee (and the Secretary of State) on the basis outlined in paragraphs 58 and 59 above.


61. Parents often encounter very real difficulties in gaining and understanding information about their children's special needs and the nature of possible solutions. The Warnock Committee suggested that for 'recorded' children there should be a 'named person' at each stage of the child's life to whom the parents could look for information and advice. The Government does not consider it appropriate to prescribe such an arrangement by law but looks to local authorities to consider ways in which parents can gain access to information and advice in the most effective way possible.


62. A few examples illustrate how the Government's proposals might in practice secure the great variety of arrangements which it might be desirable

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to make so as to respond most effectively to the special needs of each child. Some children will become 'recorded' at an early stage. They may then be placed in a suitable nursery school or nursery class in a primary or special school, though this will require their parents' consent if they are below compulsory school age; or they may remain at home with the benefit of a peripatetic teacher or other professional help. Other children will not be 'recorded' until they are already at school. When they are, they may continue at an ordinary school or be placed in a special school or an independent school approved by the Secretary of State. A system of regular reviews will ensure that, where this is appropriate, the child transfers in due course to another type of school eg from a special school to an ordinary school, or vice versa. At all stages, the provisions for involving the parents are designed to give them, the LEA and the school the best chance to understand each others' point of view and to arrive at decisions about the child by agreement, without recourse to the appeals committee or the Secretary of State.


63. Once the proposed legislation is enacted, the new arrangements will come into force as soon as is practicable. But there will be problems of transition and the Government will consult the local authority associations about them. The Government envisages that the procedures for recording will apply initially only to new referrals. Children already ascertained under the present law as requiring special educational treatment will be deemed to be 'recorded'. They will then become subject to annual review by the LEA.

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64. The Warnock Report recommended the establishment of a new National Advisory Committee on Children with Special Educational Needs to advise the Secretaries of State on the provision of services for children and young people with special educational needs and their co-ordination with other services. The Government is not at present convinced that such a body is needed. The Secretaries of State can already draw on a wide range of advice and expertise eg from HM Inspectorate, DHSS, the Schools Council, the Council for Educational Technology, the National Foundation for Educational Research and the Welsh Joint Education Committee, as well as the teachers' and local authority associations, professional groups, voluntary bodies and parents through the many bodies representing specific conditions of handicap.


65. But if scarce resources are to be used to best advantage, there is a genuine need at the local level for co-operation among LEAs and others over the provision of services. There already exists informal and formal machinery for consultation and co-operative working. Some years ago LEAs established informal regional groupings to consider ways in which they might seek common solutions to problems associated with provision for handicapped pupils. These regional conferences continue to function, although some are more active than others. The Government therefore intends to consider, in consultation with the local authority associations, how these conferences can be encouraged to work more effectively.

66. More formal machinery exists in the Joint Consultative Committees established in 1973, and which are governed by the National Health Service Act 1977 to consider and advise the health, education and personal social services in the local planning, provision and co-ordination of arrangements to meet the needs of, amongst others, children and young people with disabilities and significant difficulties. These arrangements are not expected to be disturbed by the proposed re-structuring of the National Health Service and the JCCs will continue to function as focal points for the co-ordination and development of services.

67. Local and regional co-operation is equally important in further education for those with special needs and should embrace the voluntary bodies. The young people concerned are clients exercising choice: their demand for services cannot be nicely calculated in advance. The Government looks to LEAs and others to devise approaches to planning which will allow for regular reappraisal and adjustment. Every college of further education, some of which have for some years been developing and publishing their own arrangements for students with special needs, will need to be aware of discussions concerning local and regional provision in such a forum as the Regional Advisory Council, and the other regional bodies mentioned above. Finally, it will continue to be essential that local authority education and social services departments should co-operate closely over arrangements for further education in conjunction with adult training centres and day centres.


68. The Government's approach to meeting special educational needs envisages a substantial contribution from the health and personal social services.

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Staff from these services will play a major role in multi-professional assessment and the assessment itself will often reveal problems which can be alleviated only in conjunction with these services. The assessment may, for instance, demonstrate a need for continuing care or provision on the part of the health authorities or social services departments; or it may suggest that the supply of a suitable aid or prosthesis (eg an artificial limb) would be sufficient to enable a child to attend an ordinary school.

69. For many children with special educational needs, a wide range of services needs to be made available by social services departments and health authorities; and voluntary organisations also have an important role. Close co-operation and co-ordination between the statutory authorities concerned, and with voluntary organisations, is essential. Social services departments and health authorities may have to make both staff and services available. For example, the social services may have to provide day centres, residential accommodation, aids, equipment and adaptations to homes, and social work; and health authorities may have to provide a wide range of medical and nursing skills, including those of health visitors, district and school nurses, physiotherapists, and speech and occupational therapists, as well as providing personal aids and equipment.

70. Much excellent work is already being done by social services departments, health authorities and voluntary organisations along the lines recommended in the Warnock Report. But if the standard of services and the degree of professional involvement achieved already by the best authorities is to be matched elsewhere, additional manpower and funds will be needed. These will become available only as the economic situation permits.

71. The Government will ensure that the reorganisation of health authorities which it has in mind in no way affects their role, or that of individual health professionals, in relation to children with special educational needs.

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72. The previous Government carried out extensive consultations on the Warnock Committee's report. Over 350 bodies provided comments. There was overwhelming support for the report's principal recommendations of a new concept of special educational needs and statutory reform. The Government now proposes to consult its partners in the provision of services to handicapped persons on the details of the proposals set out in this White Paper. The Government hopes that this consultation can take place quickly to enable the necessary legislation to be prepared.

73. Many recommendations in the Warnock Report do not require legislation. These are addressed to local authorities, professional bodies and other agencies. Most of them do not call for Government comment at this time. Many have the valuable purpose of encouraging the spread of existing good practice and improved co-operation between all those active in the field, and do not entail significant additional resources. Only when the economic situation improves sufficiently will it be possible to bring to fruition all the committed efforts of those engaged in meeting special educational needs. But a prerequisite is the reform of the law, and this is the Government's immediate task. The Government believes that the proposals in this White Paper will advance the cause of those of our children and young people for whom the community rightly has a special concern.