Autumn update: November 2021

Our main priorities for national SEND policy are summarised below, along with some of our recent activities in each priority area. Previous updates on our policy work can be found here  

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

Reforms to judicial review process 

We provided a briefing to MPs who are sitting on the Public Bill Committee that is considering the Judicial Review and Courts Bill. We set out our concerns about the planned reforms to the judicial review process – in particular, the potential impact of prospective-only quashing orders on children and young people with SEND. 

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

New education ministers 

We have written to the new Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi MP, and the new Minister for Children and Families, Will Quince MP, setting out the ways in which children and young people and their families are being let down by the SEND system and urging them to publish the findings of the SEND Review without further delay. 

We have told ministers that the SEND reforms introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014 have not been properly implemented across the country, and that children and young people routinely fail to receive the special educational provision and wider support to which the law entitles them. We have made clear our view that the law itself does not need to be changed: it needs to be implemented. 

Government SEND Review 

The Government is still carrying out its review of how the SEND system in England is working for children and young people. Ministers say the findings will be published in the first quarter of 2022, and there will be a public consultation on any proposed changes. 

Some of our volunteer advisers have had the opportunity to discuss families’ experiences of the system for securing special educational provision for their children with the SEND Review team at the Department for Education. We have emphasised to the Government that legislative reform is not needed and the priority should be to implement fully the existing legal framework. 

‘The case for change’ in children’s social care 

We responded to ‘The case for change’, a consultation document published by the independent review of children’s social care. We have reiterated to the review team that disabled children are defined by law as ‘children in need’, and as such are entitled to a social care assessment and to support for their needs. 

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

Implementation of existing SEND legal framework  

Call for evidence on resolving disputes 

We responded to a call for evidence by the Ministry of Justice on methods of dispute resolution, which aims to reduce the number of cases going through the court process. 

Our evidence to the Ministry of Justice stated that any changes to the courts and tribunals system must take account of the particular factors relating to the SEND Tribunal and the families who rely on it. 

We have emphasised to the Government that, rather than focusing on a variety of methods for resolving disputes, a better solution would be to make local authorities accountable for complying with their obligations, so that disputes are less likely to arise in the first place. 

Government announcement on funding for new special school places 

While new funding for special educational provision is always welcome, we aim to help policy-makers understand that supporting children and young people with SEND doesn’t just mean special schools. 

We are asking the Government to look at why so many children need special school places. In our view this means fully implementing the law on SEND, intervening early to support children before problems escalate, requiring all mainstream schools to be genuinely inclusive, and making education, health and social care services work together. 

National guidelines on services for disabled children and young people with severe complex needs 

We commented on NICE’s draft recommendations on EHC needs assessment, EHC plans and transition. Our response stated that parents/carers should receive information about their child’s legal entitlements, and that guidelines should refer to all relevant legislation.  

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

Future of extended powers 

The extended powers for the SEND Tribunal to make non-binding recommendations about health and social care provision have continued since the national trial came to an end on 31 August 2021. We continue to press the Government on making this situation explicitly permanent.  

Improved SEN Support in schools  

Call for evidence on behaviour management in schools 

We responded to a call for evidence by the Department for Education on managing behaviour in schools. We told the Government in our response that schools’ behaviour policies should be applied flexibly for children and young people with SEND, as part of the reasonable adjustments schools are required to make for disabled pupils under the Equality Act 2010. 

There is more information here on disability discrimination and reasonable adjustments.  

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

Children and young people with SEND who live in children’s homes 

Our evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee inquiry on children’s homes was used by committee members in a session looking at the experience of children and young people with SEND in residential care. MPs asked the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and other witnesses questions about who pursues Tribunal appeals for children and young people in children’s homes. 

Rights of children and young people with SEND in criminal detention 

We will shortly publish a briefing on the rights of children and young people with SEND in criminal detention, with recommendations for policy change.