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Government consultation open for changes to SEND system

On 29 March 2022 the government published its review into the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision (AP) system in England as part of its commitment to improving outcomes for children and young people with SEND and in AP.

The 'SEND review' was commissioned to better understand the challenges facing children and young people with SEND. Despite reforms having been made to the SEND system in 2014, parents had been reporting difficulty and delay in accessing support for their children. The Covid-19 pandemic has also disproportionately impacted children and young people with SEND and exacerbated the already existing challenges within the system.

Following the review, the government has published a green paper, launching a consultation process and seeking feedback as to proposals to reform the system. Views are welcomed from children and young people, parents and carers, those who work within the SEND sector and local and national system leaders.

In the Ministerial foreword to the review, Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education, and Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, commented:

"This green paper sets out proposals to ensure that every child and young person has their needs identified quickly and met more consistently, with support determined by their needs, not by where they live. Our proposals respond to the need to restore families' trust and confidence in an inclusive education system with excellent mainstream provision that puts children and young people first; and the need to create a system that is financially sustainable and built for long-term success. We know that there are places where this is already the case, and we want to make this a reality across the whole country.

We are proposing to establish a single national SEND and alternative provision system that sets clear standards for the provision that children and young people should expect to receive, and the processes that should be in place to access it, no matter what their need or where they live. We are setting out proposals for strengthened accountabilities and investment that will help to deliver real change for children, young people and their families.

Creating a single national system that has high aspirations and ambitions for children and young people with SEND and those in alternative provision, which is financially sustainable, is not a straightforward task. However, the reward for getting this right is huge: children and young people supported to succeed and thrive for generations to come."

In response to the Review and the green paper, Charlotte Ramsden, President of the ACDS, commented:

"The paper rightly acknowledges that the current SEND system is not working for many children. The 2014 reforms were ambitious, rightly raising expectations and extending support up to 25 years, but they have not delivered the intended outcomes. Despite record levels of spending there is growing frustration and dissatisfaction with how the reforms are working on the ground. The support and services children with additional needs receive has a huge impact on them and their families, all stakeholders must work together, in partnership with parents, so that collectively we are better able to meet the needs of children and young people now and help prepare them for an independent adult life in the future. So, supporting a successful transition to adulthood must be a key feature of the new national standards.

"Many aspects of the green paper are to be welcomed including those focussing on strengthening collaboration and accountability across all partners in the system and clarifying their roles and responsibilities, creating a less adversarial, more child centred system based on children's needs and inclusion. Improving the experiences and outcomes of children and young people with SEND is a joint endeavour and so we welcome the strengthened role and commitments of health partners as outlined."

For the SEND Review, click here.

For the ACDS response, click here.

Julia Queen, Barrister, Coram Chambers