Children with SEND falling through ‘serious gaps’ in provision

Olivia Rook
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The SEND system has thrown families into ‘crisis’ and left schools unable to cope.

The Education Select Committee heard from more than 70 witnesses and received more than 700 submissions of written evidence.
The Education Select Committee heard from more than 70 witnesses and received more than 700 submissions of written evidence.

Parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are forced to ‘wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, full of conflict, missed appointments and despair’, according to a report published today.

The Education Select Committee has found massive failings in the SEND system, which was reformed by the Government in 2014 through the introduction of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). These were designed to help children and young people with SEND better plan for their futures, with the support of local authority specialist services.

The Committee has been told the quality of EHCPs is consistently poor, with the contents of existing documents, such as statements or reports, being copied and pasted into new documents, which has led to a lack of specificity in provision. The Government is currently undertaking a review of the reforms.

The SEND report follows an 18-month inquiry into the Government reforms. The Committee heard from more than 70 witnesses and received more than 700 submissions of written evidence.

The Committee has concluded that while the reforms were ‘the right ones’ in terms of their intent, poor implementation has thrown families into ‘crisis’, put local authorities under pressure and left schools unable to cope.

While children in schools have been left isolated and unable to make friends, young adults have been unable to access good quality training and employment opportunities. The report concludes this is because there is a ‘fundamental lack of ambition for young people with SEND across the country’.

Robert Halfron MP, chair of the Committee, said: ‘Despite the good intentions of the reforms, many children with special educational needs and disabilities are being let down day after day. Many parents face a titanic struggle just to try and ensure their child gets access to the right support. 

‘Children and parents should not have to struggle in this way – they should be supported. There needs to be a radical change to inspection, support for parents, and clear consequences for failure to ensure the 2014 Act delivers as the Government intended.’

The Committee has made a series of recommendations to improve the support families of children with SEND receive across the country:

  • 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.

Responses to the report
Nicola Gibson, inclusion manager of the Early Years Alliance, expressed disappointment that little reference was made to SEND and early years.

She said: ‘Too many children with SEND are missing out on the high-quality early years provision available to their peers, and this is simply not acceptable. Parents of children with SEND need better cross-agency working, more funding directed at early intervention and better, earlier support - recommendations that we would have hoped would appear in the report’s conclusion.

‘The early years is a crucial element of a child's educational journey, and yet we continue to see reports on education that focus solely on primary, secondary and post-16 education. We hope in any ongoing work on SEND, the committee will take steps to address this omission.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: ‘No child should be held back from reaching their potential, including those with special educational needs.

‘That’s why we recently announced a £780 million increase to local authorities’ high needs funding, boosting the budget by 12 per cent and bringing the total spent on supporting those with the most complex needs to over £7 billion for 2020-21.

‘This report recognises the improvements made to the system over five years ago were the right ones, and put families and children at the heart of the process. But through our review of these reforms, we are focused on making sure they work for every child, in every part of the country.’

 

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