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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Special Needs

The trip to Edinburgh was useful because it let us put into context some of the evidence that has been given to us as a committee on the statementing of children with Special Educational Needs. It was also topical in the light of comments by Baroness Warnock that she has changed her mind on the system she helped to put in place thirty years ago.

'Thirty years ago it seemed right that there be no stigma in education and that everyone should get the same start in life, but there are problems in mixing everyone together. I was never happy about the inclusion of children with severe autistic problems in schools, for example, and I certainly don't think it is working today.'

Similarly, the business of 'statementing' - the official defining of a child's special needs - is not working, she added. All too often, local authorities use the statementing system as a way of avoiding their obligations, which pits parents against council disability experts. 'We need something better,' she said.

This is precisely what the committee is looking at and it is likely that we will invite Baroness Warnock to give evidence to us. Scotland has just passed an Act of Parliament replacing their Record of Needs with a Co-ordinated Support Plan for children with multiple needs involving the intervention of more than one agency. They have also put in place support for children with Additional Needs. What we found was that although there are some features of their new system that we will want to look at for Wales, by and large the changes they have brought about are very much a catching-up exercise with the rest of the UK.

These conclusions are still tentative and are based on in-depth discussions with Scottish Executive Officials, representatives of Edinburgh Council, a Scottish academic and the Scottish Parliament's Education Committee. We also visited two local schools to see what they were doing and were very impressed with some of the innovative approaches to inclusion that they were taking. I think that all-in-all we believe that our review needs more time to consider all the options and to look at the approach of others.

In the meantime if you want to contribute your thoughts to this review you can do so here. This site is now fully DDA compliant I am told.
DDA Compliance

It isn't entirely clear what DDA compliance means with regards to websites but current thinking is that the W3C WAI (worldwide web consortium website accessibility initiative) Level 2, or Level AA, should be a minimum.

The forum area is making a much better stab at compliance than the rest of the wales.gov.uk site, it really is.It does contravene one or two guides still (for example, 11.2 - still using deprecated features) so it isn't 'DDA compliant' but it's clear someone at long last is making an effort.

One issue is still the crazy number of nested tables. Not exactly a total no-no, just a very bad idea.
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