Reforms introduced five years ago to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are under review, the Department for Education has announced. The review aims to improve the services available to SEN families, giving vulnerable children the same opportunities to succeed, providing the necessary staff in schools to understand and support their needs effectively, and end the ‘postcode lottery’ they face a lot of the time.
This review comes after a boost of £700m in 2020–21 was announced for pupils with the most complex needs.
In his announcement, Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary, 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 the barriers to a good education and making sure the system works for families.
“That is why the Prime Minister committed to providing an extra £700m next year, an 11% increase, to make sure these children can access the education that is right for them.
“Our reforms in 2014 gave 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.”
Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, commented on the review saying: “SEND pupils need the right levels of education funding now. The last thing they need is another long-drawn-out review when their chance at education is now.
“93% of local authorities have lost out on SEND funding since 2015 because of central Government’s cuts to special needs provision.
“Campaigning by the School Cuts coalition and a range of parent groups won £250m in high needs funding for 2018–20 and, this week, the Chancellor announced that SEND funding will rise by £700m. This still leaves schools £1bn short of what is needed.
“Every school wants to provide the strategies and support which work for each individual SEND pupil, but the real-terms funding crisis has had a devastating impact.
“In a recent survey of members in primary and secondary schools, 81% told us that their school did not have sufficient staff to provide that service.
“73% confirmed that since 2017, there has been a drop in the number of teaching assistants, as a direct consequence of funding pressures.
“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 testing culture in schools, which impacts negatively on young people with SEND. The Government must also invest in the professional skills of staff so that all families and schools benefit from best practice 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.”