England & Wales Education and children's services

The DfE’s SEND review – right answers?


Image by 41330 from Pixabay

The DfE (with DHSC) published (29 March 2022) the review of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision , and alternative provision (AP), in England. The SEND review: right support, right place, right time started in 2019 and follows on from the reform of the SEND system under the Children and Families Act 2014.

While the 2014 reforms “brought many positive changes: increased co-production with children, young people and their families, an expectation of greater joint working between education, health and care, and a focus on the child’s journey from birth to 25”, it also caused parents “difficulty and delay in accessing support for their child” through a process that became “adversarial”. Ministers concluded that “in reality the system is not working as it should” and, importantly for corporate local government, “local authorities are in deficit and overspending on their dedicated schools grant, with total deficits now standing at more than £1 billion” with implications for council financial viability.

The publication is a “green paper” and contains 22 consultation questions. The deadline for responses is Friday, 1 July 2022.

The LGIU will produce a policy briefing shortly.

The Green Paper has been generally supported. Charlotte Ramsden, President, Association of Directors of Children’s Services said “The paper’s emphasis on meeting the needs of children in mainstream education settings, with targeted support where needed, and where this isn’t possible in high quality specialist provision is welcome”.

Key proposals

A single national SEND and alternative provision system

In order to achieve “much greater consistency in how needs are identified and supported” DfE proposes to

  • establish a new national SEND and alternative provision system setting nationally consistent standards
  • create new local SEND partnerships bringing together education, health and care partners with local government to produce a local inclusion plan setting out how each area will meet the national standards
  • support parents and carers to express an informed preference for a suitable placement by providing a tailored list of settings, including mainstream, specialist and independent
  • introduce a standardised and digitised Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process
  • streamline the redress process to make it easier to resolve disputes earlier, including through mandatory mediation, whilst retaining the First-tier (SEND) tribunal for the most challenging cases

Excellent provision from early years to adulthood

To achieve a more inclusive education system, the DfE will:

  • increase the total investment in the schools’ budget, with an additional £1 billion in 2022 to 2023
  • improve mainstream provision through “excellent” teacher training and development and a “what works” evidence programme to identify and share best practice
  • consult on a new SENCo (special educational needs co-ordinator – a school-based role) national professional qualification (NPQ) and increase the number of staff with an accredited SENCo qualification in early years settings
  • invest £2.6 billion capital, over the next 3 years, to deliver new places and improve existing provision for children and young people with SEND or who require alternative provision
  • deliver new special and alternative provision free schools in addition to the 60 already in the pipeline
  • (from the Schools White paper) set out a timeline that, by 2030, all children and young people will be taught in a family of schools in a “strong trust” including special schools and alternative provision
  • research what children and young people with SEND need from the health workforce
  • fund more than 10,000 additional respite placements and invest £82 million in a network of family hubs
  • invest £18 million to build capacity in the supported internships programme
  • improve transition at further education by introducing common transfer files and roll out “adjustment passports” for employment and higher education

A reformed and integrated role for alternative provision

To improve the role of alternative provision so that it is not “used too late or in a way that is not best focused on children’s needs”, the DfE proposes to.

  • “make alternative provision an integral part of local SEND systems by requiring the new SEND partnerships to plan and deliver an alternative provision service focused on early intervention”
  • require local authorities to create and distribute an alternative provision specific budget to AP schools
  • “develop a bespoke performance framework for alternative provision which sets robust standards focused on progress, re-integration into mainstream education or sustainable post-16 destinations”
  • deliver greater oversight of movements into and out of alternative provision
  • launch a call for evidence on the use of unregistered provision to investigate existing practice

System roles, accountabilities and funding reform

In order to align system incentives and accountabilities, and reduce “perverse behaviours that drive poor outcomes and high costs in the current system” the DfE proposes to:

  • clarity roles and responsibilities, with aligned accountabilities, for all partners, across education, health, care and local government through the new national standards
  • equip the DfE’s new regional structure to hold “local authorities and trusts to account for delivering for children and young people with SEND locally through new funding agreements between local government and the Department for Education”
  • “introduce a new inclusion dashboard for 0 to 25 provision giving a timely, transparent picture of how the system is performing at a local and national level across education, health and care”
  • update (with Ofsted and CQC) the local area SEND inspection framework with a “focus on arrangements and experiences of children and young people with SEND and in alternative provision”
  • “deliver funding reform through the introduction of a new national framework of banding and price tariffs for funding, matched to levels of need and types of education provision set out in the new national standards” which will help “control high costs attributed to expensive provision”.

More education policy

LGIU members may also be interested in our recent briefing on the Education White Paper and our related event on Friday 1 April.

Ask the Expert: Schools White Paper

Join us for our virtual event with education and children’s services expert, John Fowler, this Friday to discuss the newly-released Schools White Paper, Opportunity for All, and how it will affect local government.

Our members-only Ask the Expert session will offer an overview of the proposals outlined in the White Paper. In addition, LGIU’s Chief Executive, Jonathan Carr-West, will chair the discussion to provide plenty of opportunities for questions and answers from our members.
Education White Paper March 2022 cover. Credit: Department for Education 28/03/22

Friday 1st April | 10:00-10:45am | virtual (Zoom) | FREE

Sign up here.

For further information, please visit www.lgiu.org or email [email protected]


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