Government launches major review into support for children with SEND

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The Government has today launched a 'major' review that will look at the support available for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and how it can be improved.


The Government review will look at how to provide better support for families of children with SEND

The aim of the review is to improve the services available to families of children with SEND, equip staff in schools and colleges to respond effectively to their needs as well as end the ‘postcode lottery’ of support.

It follows a call for evidence on the SEND funding system, which the education secretary invited schools and local authorities to contribute to in May.

The review will look at how the system has evolved since the SEND reforms were introduced five years ago (2014), how it can be made to work best for all families and ensure quality of provision is the same across the country.

The review of support for children with SEND will also consider and put forward new actions on: 

  • The evidence on how the system can provide the highest quality support that enables children and young people with SEND to thrive and prepare for adulthood, including employment.
  • Better help for parents to make decisions about what kind of support will be best for their child.
  • Making sure support in different local areas is consistent, joined-up across health, care and education services, and that high-quality health and education support is available across the country.
  • How to strike 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 and young people with SEND.
  • Understand what is behind the rise in Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans and the role of specific health conditions in driving demand.
  • Ensuring that public money is spent in an efficient, effective and sustainable manner, placing a premium on securing high-quality outcomes for those children and young people who need additional support the most.

In recognition of the importance of joined-up support, the review will also explore the role of heath care in SEND in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care.

The news follows the announcement by the Prime Minister last week of a funding boost of £700 million in 2020/21 for pupils with the most complex needs.

The Government has also announced today that Tony McArdle, lead commissioner of 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 Endownment Fund (EEF) chair Sir Kevan Collins and Anne Heavey, national director of Whole School SEN.


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 barriers to a good education and making sure the system works for families. 

‘Our reforms in 2014 have 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.’

Minister for care Caroline Dinenage added, ‘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.’

Sector response

Dame Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children, said, ‘This review presents an important opportunity to look across health, education and social care to identify how well we are supporting children and young people with SEND, including through the significant changes in the NHS Long Term Plan. In particular I am keen to see the review further understanding on how mainstream schools can better meet the needs of a wider range of children.

‘The Government will need to work closely with young people, parents and carers as they take forward this review, while providing continuity and stability for those using and operating the current system. I look forward to engaging with the review and taking positive steps forward to improve the support for children and young people with SEND.’

The National Day Nurseries Association said it is 'vital' that the review engages with early years experts and professionals working with children in settings.

Chief exective Purnima Tanuku OBE, explained, 'This review and the planned extra money for supporting children with SEND shows a welcome focus on the issue which is desperately needed.

'Nurseries across the country tell us that the resources aren’t there to meet all the needs of the children they work with. 

'It’s vital that money and resources are invested in early years where they can make a significant difference to a child’s development and lifelong learning potential. This includes training and support across the SEND spectrum for nursery professionals who are the first to identify signs of developmental delay.'

The National Education Union (NEU) however said another 'long-drawn out' review is the last thing needed.

'We don't need another review to tell us that children with SEND need quicker assessments, timely access to CAMHS, and flexibility in how they access the curriculum. More widely, we need to see an end to the tesing culture in schools, which impacts negatively on young people with SEND, explained joint general secretary Kevin Courtney.

'The Government must also invest in the professional skills of staff so that all families and schools benefit from best pratcice ideas about SEN teaching.

'The NEU will continue to campaign for schools to get the funding they require to give children the education they deserve.'

While The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) welcomed the review, it said sustained investment will be needed to reverse to impact of chronic underfunding.

Policy manager Dr Chrissie Pepper said, 'RNIB research has found a third of local authorities cut their spending on children and young people with vision impairment from 2016/17 to 2017/18, and over a third of local authorities who responded to our research had seen a decrease in the number of specialist teachers for children with vision impairment between 2017 and 2018. These cuts have left many struggling with a visually-based education system that is completely inaccessible.

'We hope the new Government will use this review to improve the system, enabling thousands of children and young people with vision impairment to reach their potential.' 

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