SEND report published
The purpose of the inquiry, which began in April 2018, was to scrutinise the implementation and the human experience of Part 3 of the Children and Families Act (2014). A range of oral and written evidence was collected from, amongst others, children and young people, parents, schools, colleges, local authorities, voluntary and charitable organisations, the health sector and members of government. During this period, the Committee held an inquiry into school and college funding including issues relating to SEND. Its report, ‘A ten-year plan for school and college funding’, was published in July 2019. In addition, the National Audit Office published its report, ‘Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England’, in September 2019.
For those working in the sector as well as families which have had experience of it, the report doesn’t contain any surprises. There are many findings which include:
- The 2014 reforms were the right ones. The report identifies however that various factors have ‘badly hampered’ their implementation.
- ‘The significant shortfall in funding is a serious contributory factor to the failure on the part of schools and local authorities to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND’.
- Accountability for SEND is lacking – although data is gathered ‘nobody appears to be taking any action’ as a result and ‘no-one appears to be asking anyone to take responsibility’.
- There is ‘a lack of standardised practice, forms and an increase in bureaucracy’. The result of this is that SENCOs have less time to support teachers in the classroom or to work directly with children and young people [this is reinforced by the findings of the SENCO Workload Survey].
- Due to the unintended consequences of other education policies, the ability of local authorities to carry out their duties is limited; the report suggests that ‘the government must decide whether it wants local authorities to retain the statutory duties of the 2014 Act’.
- ‘The intense focus on Education Health and Care Plans and the transition date [from Statements to Education Health and Care Plans] has led to children on SEN Support being neglected’.
- ‘The Department for Education, and the country as a whole, is not ambitious enough for its young people with SEND’.
- Joint working between education, health and social care is not working.
There are more than 20 recommendations including the following:
- ‘The Government should introduce a reporting and accountability mechanism for non-compliance so that parents and schools can report directly to the Department for Education where local authorities appear not to be complying with the law’.
- The forthcoming SEND Review should ‘address the relationship between need and available provision’.
- ‘Ofsted must deliver a clear judgement…that schools are delivering for individual children with SEND…and that inclusive schools get the recognition that they deserve’.
- The time between taking up the role of SENCO and achieving the National Award for SEN Coordination (NASENCO) should be decreased.
- Local authorities should be able to create new specialist schools free of the constraints of the free school programme.
- ‘More needs to be done to include children and young people in the writing of their Plans and decision making about the support they receive’.
Although it is clear that more funding is needed and that changes have to be made to systems and processes, as the report says, it is essential that a change in culture is also made. The key principles outlined in the SEND Code of Practice (page 19), which firmly place children, young people and their families at the centre of the system, should be the frame of reference by which all developments and decisions are made and the measure by which success is evaluated.