Education Committee Inquiry on SEND

The Education Committee has today published the report of its inquiry into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). They have concluded that this generation is being let down by the current system, and that parents are facing a “titanic struggle” to find the right help and support.

We contributed to the Special Education Consortium’s submission, which was one of 700 written pieces of evidence that helped form the 18-month inquiry.

“This damning report clearly shows that a generation is being let down by the current system. It shows a lack of accountability, a lack of resources, a lack of joined-up working and a lack of funding. We welcome the fact that the government has commissioned its own review of the system, and hope that these reports are more than just ‘reports’, and lead to long-term improvements for families, children, and young people with special educational needs.” Carol Boys, Chief Executive

In 2014, Parliament introduced legislation to transform the educational experiences of children and young people with special educations needs and disabilities. Today’s report highlights that whilst the reforms were the right ones, they had: “not done enough to join the dots, to bring people together and to create opportunities for all young people to thrive in adulthood.”

Key findings:

  • The Department for Education set local authorities up to fail by making serious errors both in how it administered money intended for change, and also, until recently, failing to provide extra money when it was needed.
  • 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.
  • Nobody appears to be taking any action based on the counting and measuring that is taking place, but even worse, no one appears to be asking anyone to take responsibility for their actions.
  • The Department for Education is not taking enough responsibility for ensuring that its reforms are overseen, that practice in local authorities is lawful, that statutory timescales are adhered to, and that children’s needs are being met. It is being left to local authorities, inspectorates, parents and the courts to operate and police the system.
  • For children who require SEN Support, they rely primarily on their school to get their support needs right. If, for whatever reason, a school fails to provide high quality SEN Support, the child is failed.
  • Navigating the SEND system should not be a bureaucratic nightmare, difficult to navigate and requiring significant levels of legal knowledge and personal resilience.
  • The Government must see support for special educational needs and disabilities as a system-wide issue and ensure that all policies are ‘SEND proof’.
  • A lack of focus by the Department on quality post-16 provision and opportunities for young people with SEND perpetuates this lack of ambition and impacts on the routes that young people are taking post-16.

The report recommends a series of measures to strengthen inspections, support parents going through the Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process and ensure those responsible for SEND provision are held accountable when things go wrong.

The Committee has made the following key recommendations:

  • A more rigorous inspection framework for local authorities, with clear consequences for failure. There should be a greater focus on SEND in school inspections.
  • A direct line for parents and schools to appeal directly to the Department for Education where local authorities appear not to be complying with the law.
  • Powers for the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to investigate complaints about schools.
  • The development of more employment and training opportunities for post-16 young people

Robert Halfon, chair of the Committee added: “We need to end this major social injustice, one which affects children and their families, particularly those who are not as well equipped to navigate this bureaucratic maze.

Of course, extra funding for SEND announced in the spending round is welcome but the truth is that more cash will fail to make a difference to children with special education needs unless there is a radical change of approach throughout the system.

The Department of Education cannot continue with a piecemeal and reactive approach to supporting children with SEND. Rather than making do with sticking plasters, what is needed is a transformation, a more strategic oversight and fundamental change to ensure a generation of children is no longer let down.”

The report can be read in full here.

Read Carol’s blog: Educating our children: are things slipping?