Education and Skills Committee

17 April 2007

Special Educational Needs: separation of assessment of need from funding of provision

In its report on Special Educational Needs published in July 2006, the Education and Skills Committee recommended that assessment of need and funding of provision should no longer be carried out by the same body:

"There is an inbuilt conflict of interest in that it is the duty of the local authority both to assess the needs of the child and to arrange provision to meet those needs, and all within a limited resource. The link must be broken between assessment and funding of provision". (Paragraph 99)

In its response the DfES rejected this recommendation, implying that the Committee had suggested that a new agency be created to make assessments (which it had not) or that there was no alternative to such an agency taking responsibility if local authorities were no longer to make assessments. It also made a series of other criticisms of the Committee's recommendation, saying that to take such a decision would be "a leap in the dark and would endanger the position of parents and children with special educational needs".

The Committee does not accept that separation of assessment and funding would inevitably require the establishment of a new agency or quango; that it would undermine the basis of the current statementing system; or that it would necessarily reduce local accountability for decisions, as the Government claims.

In an exchange between the Chairman of the Committee and the Minister of State for Schools during an Opposition debate on SEN on 30 January this year, the Minister agreed that if the Committee put forward proposals on the practicalities of implementing the separation of assessment from funding then he would reconsider the matter. The Committee has therefore decided to examine this specific issue once again.

On the presumption that local authorities would continue to fund special needs provision, the Committee is seeking views on the following issues in particular:

  • How might assessment of special educational needs be undertaken other than by the relevant local authority without the establishment of a new separate agency for the purpose?

  • How might local accountability for assessment be maintained if the local authority does not directly undertake the assessment?

  • What other issues need to be addressed in order to make the separation of assessment and provision effective?

  • What models from other countries could usefully be drawn on to demonstrate how separation of assessment and funding for special educational needs might be achieved?

Submissions should arrive no later than noon on Monday 25 June 2007. The Committee is not intending to take oral evidence on this subject.

A guide for written submissions to the Committee may be found on the parliamentary website at: Submissions should include at the beginning a short paragraph or set of bullet points setting out the main issues addressed in the memorandum.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to with an additional paper copy to:

Education and Skills Select Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

All Committee publications and press releases are available on our website:

Information about the Education and Skills Committee

The Education and Skills Committee is one of the House's Select Committees related to government departments: its terms of reference are to examine "the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Education and Skills and its associated public bodies". The Committee chooses its own subjects of inquiry, within the overall terms of reference. It invites written evidence from interested parties and holds public evidence sessions, usually in committee rooms at the House of Commons, although it does have the power to meet away from Westminster. At the end of each inquiry, the Committee will normally agree a Report based on the evidence received. Such Reports are published and made available on the Internet. Copies are sent free to those who give oral evidence. Reports usually contain recommendations to the Government and other bodies. The Government by convention responds to reports within about two months of publication. These responses are also published.