Sunday, 15 May 2011

Schools and special needs scams

I visit a number of blogs, forums and lists; some of them sensible and many of them completely mad. On the sensible ones, if somebody says something really offbeat or bizarre, then other people will comment saying that this is an exaggeration or that the person is going a little too far. This is in contrast to the loopy places, where each person tries to top any strange claim by going one better. If one poster asserts that there are alien corpses at Area 51, then somebody else will claim that aliens are actually walking among us. This goes on until some madman reveals that President Obama is himself an alien. I'm sure that readers will have observed this sort of thing for themselves. I have noticed this phenomenon on a couple of the larger home education lists in this country. However raving mad the story, nobody is ever discouraged from displaying their lunacy and other people commenting will often chip in with even crazier tales of their own.

On one list recently an unbalanced mother from a village in Herefordshire suggested that when her son, who has special educational needs, was enrolled at a new school, the staff pinched his funding and used it to buy a load of new laptops. This prompted another mother to claim.... Well before we examine the other claim, let's look a little at the scams involving funding for special needs as they actually do operate in schools. As is generally known, I am not a great fan of schools, but even so there is no point in entering a fantasy world where the teachers care nothing about the education of their pupils. The thesis advanced on some of the more weird home education sites is that schools are only in it for the money and have no interest in their pupils; which is ridiculous.

The scams involving schools and special educational needs do not generally have at their heart children who genuinely have special needs. The funding that such children attract is seldom sufficient to pay for all the extra help they need and many schools would rather not have such children in the first place, because their resources are just not up to the job of dealing with them. What is actually done is to try and classify existing children as having special needs, thus getting more money for the school. Say you have a few stupid or illiterate kids in your school. If you can have them diagnosed as dyslectic or having learning difficulties, then you will qualify for extra money. This is of course why something like 20% of children in British schools now have special needs or disabilities. It has grown out of this racket. The aim is not to attract more children with genuine special needs to your school and then pinch their funding; rather it is to pretend that your existing pupils have difficulties and then get extra money for them.

Which brings us to the spectacularly mad post by a woman on one of the lists, who suggested that;

'A lot of rural schools are applying for special needs money for their repairs to huts, school trips and books .The minority(special needs) must pay for the majority (the rest of the group). I noticed a lot of rural/small schools recruit special needs students out of area/residence, in order to claim necessary funds to keep the school open'

How anybody in their senses could read such nonsense and not tell the woman that she was an idiot is beyond my comprehension. The reason is of course because the people on sites such as this hate schools so much that they will willingly believe any sort of foolish allegations. As I say, I am not at all keen on schools myself, but that does not mean that I will swallow stuff like this! (How would you 'recruit' pupils with special needs? Advertise in the local newspaper, saying, 'Wanted; Down's child for rural primary school. Must have own funding'?) The person continues:

'some students education can be hindered/held back to raise money for the school. Exaggerate any learning issue, not allowed to read with other students, etc,..'

We have now stepped across the line into absolutely loopy conspiracy theory territory. Schools are subjecting SEN pupils to sensory deprivation and preventing them from developing, just so that they can get their hands on the funding associated with the children. It is significant that not one of the fifteen hundred members of this list thought that there was anything at all implausible about this scenario. It does rather make one think that lists like this belong at the whackier end of the Internet spectrum, rather than being places where parents can gather facts and find support.


  1. "This is of course why something like 20% of children in British schools now have special needs or disabilities."

    Statistically, 16% of school pupils are likely to be more than one sd from the norm in terms of their academic ability. It only takes a little systems pressure to push that up to 20%. According to the Warnock report, this figure had remained remarkably constant from the beginning of the state education system until 1978. This is hardly surprising since the criterion for deciding whether or not a child has a 'special educational need' has always been to assess their progress in relation to a child of average ability of the same age.

  2. As for schools milking the SEN system - nothing would surprise me.

  3. According to the Birthers, Obama *is* an alien and therefore not eligible for the top job.

  4. It's usually more subtle than that. My friend's child with Down's recieves 25 hours a week of one-to-one time with an LSA during the school week. On paper.

    Sounds good, doesn't it? Unfortunately, often the LSA has a whole group of children round her who need help and little Annie, let's call her, is lost and disorientated and not learning.

    Because the needs of the other children are being met by Annie's LSA, this means the school doesn't need to employ an additional member of staff.

    I'm not sure how funding works in schools these days, but does that now mean the school has more cash for repairs? Possibly you'll know the answer to this better than me.

    It's not 'conspiracy theory territory' at all.

  5. It's certainly not a conspiracy theory that there are a number of scams and rackets connected with the funding for children with special educational needs. That the money meant for one child is often used for the benefit of others as well definitely happens and should not, although I can see why the school does this. It was the idea that schools would deliberately attract children with special needs and then purposely neglect their education so that they could continue to claim funding for them that I was talking about in the context of a conspiracy theory.

  6. 'That the money meant for one child is often used for the benefit of others as well definitely happens and should not'

    Well, it seems to be more that, in this case, the money is being used 'instead of' not 'as well as' Annie, for at least part of the time.

    I have no idea if the claim you quoted is correct. 'A lot' is a very woolly term. So, the claim, 'a lot of rural schools recruit special needs students out of area' is an interesting one. I'd want to hear more information before making up my mind that it was completely preposterous and a conspiracy theory.

  7. I remember attending a parents' meeting at a school where the parents were complaining about how many SEN children seemed to be at the school and the govenors all at pains to insist that the extra money benefited the whole school. Perhaps they were not telling the truth. I don't know.

  8. Well, as some one who has 3 children with disabilities, here is my opinion...

    a) In fact many rural schools may well have more children with SEN than you might expect, but I am pretty sure that is down to parental choice rather than schools trawling for them. As a parent I deliberately chose a "village school" rather than the nearest, because I thought a smaller environment was a "good thing". This actually meant at one stage, when my SEN daughter was of school age, that we got a place because of her SEN even when it was over subscribed as having an SEN meant she got more points in the admissions criteria and overtook local children on the list.

    b) As for funding - my elder statemented son had full time LSA cover at primary level and actually he did get that 1 : 1 support all the time. It helped that he had physical disabilities (the school was always terrified that he moght be injured and they would be blamed). Dd without a statement had less LSA support and did often end up in small group work, but the point was that it was this aspect ( ie mixing with other children) which was a tricky area, so it was easy to justify the schools policy. School was still a disaster for her, but that was because she was never going to be able to cope and learn in a large group of children, however hard the staff tried.

  9. In order to start to understand this issue we would have to calculate the numbers of children being home educated that are recognised as SEN and comparing them to the figures of those children that aren't. I doubt if that would or could be done.

  10. Area 51 eh?
    You might well laugh, but every home schooler I've ever met will tell you that the aliens are nothing compared to the reptilians that run the world.

  11. Them 'loopy places' on the internet, like the David Icke forum..
    They do seem very popular with homeschoolers.

  12. Want to foil Badman's mind control plans?

    All about Tin foil hats here, they're the perfect project for homeschoolers..

  13. I think the funding system has changed since my son was funded but I think funding tends to be on the basis of how many free school meals and a few other factors. I don't think many children get funded for a number of hours (as with the old statements) any more. That means that the school get a lump sum and spend it as they see fit. I should imagine that the schools would love to be able to provide an individual education for all but funding constraints probably mean that special needs kids miss out.
    Another factor is that schools get a reputation for being good with SEN and then the LA will push more kids in their direction. If funding doesn't follow the child then that will cause a funding problem in itself.
    As for being a conspiracy, I am sure it can feel like that if your child is the one missing out!

  14. 'Anonymous said...
    Them 'loopy places' on the internet, like the David Icke forum..
    They do seem very popular with homeschoolers'

    The temptation to reveal the names of several well-known figures in British home education who believe that attempts to monitor home education are part of the New World Order conspiracy is almost overwhelming. I have also heard mention of David Icke a few times.

  15. Does one of them have a well used hammock?

  16. Everyone knows that you are pure fantasy little man Webb

  17. 'You might well laugh, but every home schooler I've ever met will tell you that the aliens are nothing compared to the reptilians that run the world.'

    EVERY HOME SCHOOLER YOU'VE EVER MET? Where on earth do you live?

  18. "The temptation to reveal the names of several well-known figures in British home education who believe that attempts to monitor home education are part of the New World Order conspiracy is almost overwhelming."

    They're a bit late. The New World Order got its monitors in place long ago. The current lot are just a bunch of cheap imitators.

  19. 'Everyone knows that you are pure fantasy little man Webb'

    Not sure what to make of this without a little punctuation. It could mean; 'Everyone knows that you are pure-fantasy-little-man', as in somebody who deals only in fantasy. On the other hand, it could equally well read; 'Everyone knows you are pure fantasy, little man Webb'. In this case, it would suggest that I am only pure fantasy and that I do not really exist. A sobering though indeed!

  20. 'Anonymous said...
    Does one of them have a well used hammock?'

    I couldn't possibly comment. On the other hand, the ravings below do sound like somebody who subscribes to the New World Order theories. Does anybody apart from such people really believe that Africa will be feeding Europe any time soon? The mad specualtions below do indeed come from the hammock!

    'From what you see in the press it also looks like Europe will use Africa as
    it's source of food over the coming 20 years. We can expect to see the EU
    putting major investment into Africa for this reason. This is why China is
    investing in east Africa so heavily. It's a 21st century scramble for Africa
    that will take on much of the character of the 19th century scramble. We
    won't necessarily put troops into Africa but we will be developing
    Europe will be supporting north south infrastructure ending up in the
    Mediterranean. This is why countries like Libya, Egypt and Tunisia are so
    important to us, they control the Mediterranean ports. We can also expect to
    see plans for a bridge over the straits of Gibraltar brought forward. It's
    also why turkey is so important, they are also considering a third bridge
    across the bospherus. Makes you think doesn't it.

    If I was a conspiracy theorist I'd say that the revolts in northern Africa
    and the ancient breadbaskets of Egypt and Mesopotamia were some kind of long
    game being played by European and American foreign ministries. Clearing the
    way to developing more open countries with whom we can trade. If that's
    right, then the next stage would be the carrot of EU membership. A return to
    the bronze age 'old Europe'.'

  21. And you still claim that you don't sign up to groups with a false name? If someone is feeding you list messages this fast, you might just as well have. I can understand someone feeding you messages when you get a mention, but they seem to be sending all of them to you. I really struggle to believe that you have not signed up with a false name. Either that, or the person forwarding them to you is a very, very sad person...

  22. Them 'mad speculations', carefully placed sensationalisms too.

  23. Simon, I really wish your site had a blogroll - I'd love a list of good HE resources to link to!

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