6th March 2023
Government Unveils Plans to Reform Support for SEND Students in England
School leaders have said the "desperately needed" new schools "will take years to build".
The Department for Education plans aim to improve what it calls a "postcode lottery" system, regarding SEND provision in schools in England. There are also plans to build 33 more special free schools. School leaders have welcomed the plans, but said the new schools "will take years to build". As part of this new initiative, there will be additional training for 5,000 early years special educational needs co-ordinators (Sencos) and 400 educational psychologists.
The government has pledged an extra £4.8m to expand "specialist taskforces" in alternative provision and to offer intensive support from experts such as mental health professionals and speech and language therapists. This is in addition to the building of 33 special free schools, as well as 49 already planned
The DfE intends to speed up responses to calls for support for parents by digitising paperwork. receive extra support for their children more quickly.
£70m has been pledged to test and refine the improvement plans
The plans say national standards for Send support will be published by the end of 2025, to help make it clear "what support should be offered at every stage of a child's journey across education, health and care".
BBC interview with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan
Speaking to the BBC about the plans, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said, "If your child needs extra support at school, you shouldn't need to get an EHCP to make sure that support is available. We've almost ended up in the worst of all worlds, with a lot more money being spent but the provision not being right - because it's being spent on going to tribunal and very expensive [school] places. I want to say to them, 'we're here... to make sure that you get more support and you know what support you should expect'." Ms Keegan acknowledged that many facilities were oversubscribed and overcrowded. "What we need to do is work much, much better with providers, people who want to set up new schools as well… but the reality is you need to build that provision locally. It will take time to build up the capacity, but we are going to improve the system." Margaret Mulholland, Send and inclusion specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "More special schools are desperately needed, but will take years to build." She said the prospect of extra special school places "will be of no comfort to those missing out right now", who cannot go to the school they need as a result of it being oversubscribed. The charity Disability Rights UK said the government's plans weren't "radical enough" and that families would be left "underwhelmed and disappointed".