Summer update: July 2021

Our main priorities for national SEND policy are summarised below, along with some of our recent activities in each priority area.  

Maintenance of children and young people’s rights and entitlements to special educational provision and wider support that meets their needs  

Independent review of children’s social care 

We responded to a call for evidence from the independent review of children’s social care set up by the Government. We told the review team that many families experience great difficulty in obtaining a ‘child in need’ assessment for their disabled child under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and even when assessments are carried out, children often don’t receive the support they need. There is a public consultation on the review’s early findings, ‘The case for change’, which is open until 13 August 2021. 

For information on getting social care support for children and young people with SEND, visit our ‘Health and social care’ page.  

Reforms to judicial review process

We responded to the Government’s proposals to reform the judicial review process, emphasising that the proposed reforms would have a disproportionate and detrimental impact on children and young people with SEND and their families. A letter on this from our Chief Executive was published in the Law Society Gazette.  

There is more information here on how judicial review can be used on behalf of children and young people with SEND.  

Government SEND Review 

The Government is carrying out a review of how the SEND system in England works. The review findings were originally due to be published in summer 2021, with a public consultation to follow, but this has been delayed.  

Implementation of existing SEND legal framework  

Local area SEND inspection 

We have been trying to find out more about what happens in local areas where Ofsted and CQC inspectors have found that SEND provision is poor and improvements haven’t been made following local area SEND inspection. We have written to MPs representing constituencies in all areas where there are serious unaddressed weaknesses, asking them how they will help to improve provision for children and young people with SEND. The main findings of local area SEND inspections are set out in a report published by Ofsted in May 2021.  

Parliamentary inquiry on child vulnerability 

We submitted written evidence to an inquiry by the House of Lords Public Services Committee on the role of public services in addressing child vulnerability. Our submission emphasised that children and young people with SEND are not intrinsically vulnerable but are made that way by the failure of public services to uphold the law.  

All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Cerebral Palsy 

Our senior SEN lawyer gave a presentation to the APPG on the process of obtaining an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan for children and young people with cerebral palsy. We have also submitted written evidence. We explained the legal framework for children and young people with SEND, gaps in implementing the law and what we want to see from the SEND Review.  

Permanent extension of SEND Tribunal powers to include health and social care  

Decision on future of extended powers 

Since April 2018, the SEND Tribunal has been running a national trial where its powers have been extended to make non-binding recommendations about health and social care provision as well as orders about education. The Government recently announced that these extended powers will continue when the national trial ends on 31 August 2021.  

Improved SEN Support in schools  

Language on school exclusions 

As a member of the Special Educational Consortium, we added our voice to the call for ministers to stop using the terms ‘expulsion’ and ‘suspension’ in place of ‘exclusion’ (outdated language that’s not reflected in current law). The Government has agreed to stop describing permanent exclusion as ‘expulsion’, but will continue to refer to fixed-term exclusion as ‘suspension’. Statutory guidance on school suspensions and permanent exclusions has been amended to reflect this.  

Behaviour management in schools 

We will be responding to a call by the Department for Education for evidence on behaviour management in schools. The Government plans to revise guidance for schools on behaviour and discipline and suspensions and permanent exclusions later in the year. The call for evidence is open for public responses until 10 August 2021.  

Special educational provision and support that meets the needs of children and young people with additional vulnerabilities  

Parliamentary inquiry on prisoner education 

We submitted written evidence to an inquiry by the House of Commons Education Committee on whether prisoners are being left behind in education. Our submission highlighted the disproportionate number of young prisoners with SEND and the weaknesses in the current legal framework for supporting them. 

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland MP, has since made a speech setting out his intention to improve the education on offer in the prison system for prisoners with learning needs, particularly those with neurodivergent conditions.   

Parliamentary inquiry on children’s homes 

We submitted written evidence to an inquiry by the House of Commons Education Committee on support for children who live in children’s homes. Our submission highlighted the ways in which children in residential care settings are particularly disadvantaged by the SEND system.  

Development of new national guidelines on looked after children

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is updating its 2010 guidelines on looked after children and young people, including support for children’s learning needs. We commented on the new draft guidelines, recommending that carers of looked after children, ‘virtual school’ SENCOs and social care staff should all have training in what the law requires on support for children and young people with SEND.