Exclusive: Heads calling for revolution in SEND support

Heads' Roundtable to call for scrapping of EHC plans in favour of system looking at how existing provision can best meet pupils needs

John Roberts

A high profile group of school leaders are calling for the EHC plan system to be replaced.

Education health and care plans should be scrapped and replaced with a new system which looks at how available resources can be used to meet the needs of SEND pupils, according to a high profile group of head teachers.

The Heads Roundtable will suggest a “new statutory assessment of best provision system” which would “flip around” the EHC process by looking at what provision is the best option for a child rather than defining the child’s needs first.

The plans are set to be part of a general election manifesto from the grass roots group  of school leaders, due to be published this week. 

They were set out at an education conference  this week by one of its members Sabrina Hobbs, who is the head of one of the country’s largest special schools.

Background:  MPs warn that poor implementation of EHC plan reforms is failing a generation

Inspection: Call for schools to face new SEND inspection checks

Analysis: SEND crisis is about more than a lack of money

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum conference she said: “Within the school system the transition to EHC plans have been costly, bureaucratic  and time inefficient.

“From a school perspective failures in the EHC process result from insufficient funds, insufficient resource, capacity and capability.

 “As a member of the Heads Roundtable we have identified and propose an alternative model to EHC plans.  One that replaces EHCPs with statutory assessment of best provision.

“This model focuses on how provision and resources can best meet pupils needs, rather than pupil needs dictating the resource and provision at any cost or availability.”

Ms Hobbs told Tes that the approach the Heads' Roundtable was proposing would flip around the EHC plan process by making decisions based on what support is available rather than defining pupils needs in isolation of what provision exists.

She said: “I use the analogy that when I ask my daughter what she wants for dinner she asks. ‘Well what do we have?”

Ms Hobbs, who is the principal of Severndale Specialist Academy, in Shropshire, told the conference  that as part of the plan there would be an expectation that resources were shared rather than provided solely for an individual pupil.

She added:“This isn’t devaluing pupils. This is identifying a progressive model that is realistic , deliverable and appropriate.” 

The creation of EHC plans were part of SEND reforms introduced by the government in 2014.

An education select committee report last month  said that poor implementation of these reforms to support children and young people have thrown families into crisis, put local councils under pressure and left schools struggling to cope.

A Tes investigation earlier this year revealed that of the first 100 areas of the country to inspected to check on how the government’s reforms have been delivered, more than half have been found to have significant weaknesses - including two-thirds of those inspected this year.

EHC plans were designed to allow education, health and care professionals to work together to shape the provision of children with SEND.

Ms Hobbs said: “Although the intention of multi-agency working is an important feature in the delivery of  SEND services , the capacity of local authority and health and social care colleagues to attend meetings and commit resources is lacking in practicality.

“Therefore more often than not it remains the responsibility of schools to carry out the process.”



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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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