Post-16 high-needs system needs 'radical shake-up'

The current high-needs system is overly complicated and has a detrimental impact on students, research finds

Kate Parker

High needs students: system needs 'radical shake-up'

The high-needs system for students in further education is having a detrimental impact on students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the Association of Colleges, Natspec and the Local Government Association have said today.

A new report, Arrangements for planning, commissioning, funding, and supporting provision for post-16 high needs students, commissioned by the three organisations, calls for a “radical shake-up” of the “overly complicated” system, and says that there is too little long-term planning of post-16 high needs provision. 

The report says that education, health and care plans (EHCPs) are not sufficiently up to date or focused on further education, statutory deadlines are being missed and that arrangements for the transition from school to further education are delayed, and may not take place at all.

It also says that administrative burdens on both councils and colleges are high and that there are too many disputes about placements. 

Ofsted annual report: What it says about colleges

More: Financial future of SEND system is fragile, DfE admits

Need to know: How does high-needs SEND funding work?

'Creating unnecessary tension and red tape'

Councillor Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s children and young people's board, said that the system was “falling short of its potential and creating unnecessary tension and red tape”.  

She said: “The current high-needs further education system is falling short of its potential, creating unnecessary tension and red tape for councils and colleges, while struggling to effectively support young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

“While there is evidence of current good practice by councils, an overhaul and streamlining of processes are needed to improve the system for local authorities and colleges in order to improve the experience and aspirations of students. This has become more urgent due to the huge increase in size and complexity of the task faced by councils and providers in supporting young people with SEND with funding not keeping up with the rising demand for support.”

Clare Howard, chief executive of Natspec, said that the “detrimental effects of the system on all young people are amplified for the small number with the most complex needs, who require more specialist provision”.

She said: “This is the first piece of research into the high-needs system which has looked at further education in such detail. 

“We welcome the recommendations that specialist colleges should be more involved in planning provision with local authorities, that decisions should be made earlier, and that young people should be more supported with transition.”

Liz Maudslay, Association of Colleges’ policy manager for SEND, said: “The AoC very much welcomes the findings and recommendations of the report. FE colleges have always welcomed the vision of the SEND reforms of 2014 but have also recognised that for these reforms to be effective there is a need for significant changes to implementation processes.

“We particularly welcome the fact that this report was jointly commissioned by AoC, Natspec and LGA as it is only by close collaboration between colleges and local authorities that positive changes can come about.”

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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