SEND Review launched as minister admits previous reforms 'not up to standards'

29 March 2022, 09:46 | Updated: 29 March 2022, 09:49

Minister confronted on special education schooling

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

On Tuesday an education minister admitted that reforms introduced in the past were not "up to standard" as he launched the long-awaited special educational needs and disability (SEND) Green Paper.

Will Quince told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast it was "really fair" to ask why if the Government had been in power for more than a decade more had not been done for children with special education needs before now.

"The outcomes for children and young people with special education needs just isn't good enough," he told the radio station.

He said: "We actually had reforms in 2014, they set the right aspiration and ambition, but in truth the delivery and implementation just wasn't up to standard."

Mr Quince said: "We're going to have a real laser-like, hawk-eye focus at a national level, but also regional, local level to make sure that what our policy intent is nationally is actually been delivered at grassroots."

Headteachers have welcomed the arrival of the long-awaited special educational needs and disability (SEND) Green Paper but said the Government has not shown enough "urgency" in dealing with a system "in crisis".

The SEND and Alternative Provision paper will be published on Tuesday and can be viewed here from 10am.

proposes an end to the "postcode lottery" which means children with additional needs around the country get varying levels of support.

Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are six times more likely to be excluded from school

It says that new national standards should be set across education, health and care to improve performance while education, health and care plans (EHCPs), which help pupils with SEND access support in school, should be digitised and simplified to reduce unnecessary paper work.

Under the plans, councils will be legally required to set up "local inclusion plans" which would bring education and health services together, which would make providers' responsibilities clearer.

Councils would also have a new national framework to simplify funding for pupils and young people with SEND up to the age of 25.

The paper also proposes that mainstream schools need to become more inclusive and identify SEND needs earlier to improve support.

It plans for a reformed role for alternative provision (AP) - education that takes place outside of schools, for example pupil referral units - with a new focus in every local area on early intervention.

The proposals are backed by the equivalent of £70 million in additional funding and the consultation on the plans will be open for 13 weeks.

The Government has said it will look at approving 40 new special and AP free schools in areas of need, while over £10 million will train more than 200 extra educational psychologists from September, who can give advice on EHCPs.

Heads have expressed frustration that the publication of the SEND review was delayed for so long, with the work on it beginning in 2019.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "The current system for supporting children with special educational needs is in crisis.

"It is driven by a vicious cycle in which parents and schools are left desperately trying to access support and funding for children through education, health and care plans, often facing a postcode lottery of processes, delays and bureaucracy."

He said that the paper's proposals of identifying needs early and setting up common standards on what support should be provided ,and when, seemed "right and sensible".

"The frustration is that the Government's SEND review began in September 2019, it has taken nearly three years to reach this point, and full implementation of the green paper is some way off," he said.

"In the meantime, many thousands of children and young people will continue to pass through a broken system, with schools left to pick up the pieces without sufficient resources.

"We understand that the pandemic has delayed this review, but the Government has not shown enough urgency."

Minister says it is vital to teach children the facts about the empire

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: "Every child has the right to excellent education - particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities, who often need the most support.

"We are launching this consultation because too often this isn't the case. We want to end the postcode lottery of uncertainty and poor accountability that exists for too many families, boost confidence in the system across the board and increase local mainstream and specialist education to give parents better choice.

"I want to make sure everyone knows what to expect, when to expect it and where the support should come from.

"I know there are strongly-held views and I want to hear from as many parents, teachers and children with experience of the system so they can help shape a future policy that works for them."

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