A major review into the support of children with special educational needs and disabilities has been launched by the Department for Education.
Reforms were introduced five years ago to better support children with special educational needs and disabilities. The review aims to improve the services available to families who need support, ensure staff in schools and colleges are equipped to respond effectively to their needs and end the ‘postcode lottery’ that children with support needs often face.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "I want parents to know that we’re committed to boosting outcomes and ensuring the right support is in place for children with special educational needs, by breaking down the barriers to a good education and making sure the system works for families. That is why the Prime Minister committed to providing an extra £700 million next year, an 11% increase, to make sure these children can access the education that is right for them.
"Our reforms in 2014 gave vital support to more children, but we know there have been problems in delivering the changes that we all want to see. So it’s the right time to take stock of our system and make sure the excellence we want to see as a result of our changes is the norm for every child and their families," he added.
Education Health and Care plans were launched in 2014 and have resulted in more than 350,000 children and young people aged 0-25 with the most complex special educational needs receiving tailored support. Of those in schools around half (130,000) are continuing in mainstream education.
However, the review will look at the how the system has evolved since then, how it can be made to work best for all families and ensure quality of provision is the same across the country. Recognising the importance of joined-up support, it will also explore the role of health care in SEND in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care.
The review will examine:
• Evidence on how the system can provide the highest quality support that enables children and young people with SEND to fulfill their potential and prepare for adulthood, including employment.
• Helping parents to make decisions about what kind of support is best for their child.
• Ensuring support in different local areas is consistent and joined up with health.
• Getting the right balance of state-funded provision across inclusive mainstream and specialist places.
• Aligning incentives and accountability for schools, colleges and local authorities to make sure they provide the best possible support for children with SEND.
• Understanding what is behind the rise in education, health and care plans and the role specific health conditions play in driving demand; and
• Ensuring that public money is spent in an efficient, effective and sustainable manner.
The government also announced that Tony McArdle, Lead Commissioner in Northamptonshire County Council, will be the new chair of the SEND System Leadership Board, which brings together sector leaders across Education, Health and Social Care to drive improvements. He will also act as an independent advisor to the review, alongside Education Endowment Fund Chair Sir Kevan Collins and Anne Heavey, National Director of Whole School SEN.
Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said: "The support and care for people with special educational needs and disabilities is one of my top priorities. The SEND review will be crucial in widening our knowledge of the parts of the system which are working well and the areas which need improvement.
"The Department for Health and Social Care will play a key role in the review so we can ensure that high quality healthcare support is available for all throughout the country," she added.
Last week the government announced a major funding boost of £700 million in 2020/21 for pupils with the most complex needs.
Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “This cross-government review of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support is good news and is what the LGA has previously called for to identify how we can tackle the immense demand pressures councils are facing in providing vital care and support for children and young people with SEND.
“Since the introduction of the Children and Families Act in 2014, which extended eligibility for SEND support, councils have seen a near 50 per cent rise in children and young people with Education, Health and Care plans, to 354,000 in 2019, with more than 130 children and young people starting support plans with their council every day.
“The extra £700 million for SEND announced in the Spending Round is recognition of these pressures and will help councils in meeting demand for support next year, but we believe that system reform is necessary alongside additional funding.
“We are keen that this review also considers inclusion because we want to see all schools become more inclusive, so that more children with high needs can be appropriately supported in mainstream schools.
“We want to work with government and families and children with SEND on this review to get a clear picture of why demand and cost pressures are continuing to rise and what can be done to make the system work more effectively for everyone," he concluded.