DfE launches major SEND review

Government review will look at how to give mainstream schools incentives to better support pupils with SEND

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has launched a review into SEND services for children and young people

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has launched a major review to address problems in the support available for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The government will look at how it can use “incentives and accountability” to make sure schools provide the best possible support for children with SEND.

In an announcement today, the Department for Education also said that it would look to "strike the right balance of state-funded provision across inclusive mainstream and specialist places."


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The review comes after a warning from councils that funding constraints and accountability pressures have reduced good quality provision in mainstream schools for children with SEND.

Extra funding for SEND pupils

Last week the government announced £700 million in 2020-21 for pupils with SEND.

Mr Williamson admitted that SEND reforms introduced in 2014, which saw the introduction of education, health and care plans (EHCP), have faced difficulties.

He 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 £700 million next year, an 11 per cent 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.”

The DfE has said that it wants to ensure that support in different local areas is consistent, that there is joined-up support across health, care and education services, and “that high-quality health and education support is available across the country”.

The review will also look to help parents to make decisions about what kind of support will be best for their child.

The department said it also wants to understand what is behind the rise in demand for EHCPs.

It comes after the Local Government Association called on the DfE to make schools more accountable for pupils with SEND to ensure a more inclusive education system.

Campaigners have welcomed the announcement but called on the DfE to follow up with action.

Ian Noon, chief policy adviser at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: "After years of cuts, years of parents being pushed to breaking point, and years of underachievement because children have just not being given the support they need to thrive, this review and £700 million investment couldn't be more important.

"But for this to be a success, families need to be at the heart of this review and have their experiences listened to. The last major government review of special needs education five years ago saw huge upheaval to the system, but little improvement to how many children were supported.

"This all has the potential to be a game-changer for children with special needs. But only if we see immediate action from government, not a review that goes on interminably.

"These children need an increase to their support and it needs to reach the frontline so we get more specialist teachers across the country delivering the 'superb' education Boris Johnson has promised."

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