March 2022

The Government published its long-awaited SEND review this week, in the form of a Green Paper that sets out proposals for changes to the way the SEND system works. Education ministers have emphasised that these are still just proposals – not definite decisions yet – and there will now be a period of public consultation lasting until Friday 22 July.

Tell the Department for Education what you think

Anyone can respond with their views, and we hope that many parents and carers of children and young people with SEND, and young people themselves, will share their thoughts and experiences.

IPSEA’s legal and policy teams are analysing the detail of what’s in the Green Paper and what the implications are for the existing SEND legal framework and for children and young people with SEND. We will share this analysis, and will produce a detailed response to the consultation.

What’s in the Green Paper?

In the meantime, the SEND Green Paper includes the following proposals:

  • New legislation for a new set of ‘national SEND standards’ with the aim of creating consistent provision, processes and systems across the country. The Government thinks there is too much variation between areas and that this is because local authorities have too much leeway to make their own decisions. The standards will cover education, health and social care. There will be standards on how to identify and assess children’s needs, what sort of provision should be available in each area for different types of need, and how children with SEND should access support in mainstream schools.
  • New ‘local SEND partnerships’, to be led by local authorities, to assess the overall needs of children and young people with SEND in their area and plan the provision they need. Every local SEND partnership will have to produce a ‘local inclusion plan’, explaining how the SEND standards will be delivered in their area.
  • A standardised national template for EHC plans.
  • New process for naming a school or college place in a child or young person’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. Local authorities will offer parents a ‘tailored list’ of provision that is appropriate for their child’s needs to enable them to express a preference, rather than parents being able to request any school as at present.
  • Emphasis on identifying children’s needs early and putting support in place at an early stage, with the aim of keeping children in mainstream settings and avoiding the need for EHC plans.
  • Introduction of a new SENCo National Professional Qualification (NPQ) for school SENCos.
  • Plans to ‘streamline’ the redress process, including the introduction of mandatory mediation before families can register a SEND Tribunal appeal, with the aim of reducing the number of Tribunal appeals.
  • New National SEND Delivery Board to hold to account all elements of the system for supporting children and young people with SEND.

Commenting on the Green Paper, our CEO Ali Fiddy said:

“We welcome the proposal to introduce an EHC plan template as this will mean that EHC plans look the same regardless of where you are in the country. We also think the proposals for early intervention and better joined-up working across education, health and social care have real merit. However, we have significant concerns about some of the other proposals in the Green Paper.

“The SEND review was an opportunity to look at the wealth of evidence on how and why the 2014 SEND reforms haven’t worked as intended, and why so many children and young people with SEND have been let down.

“We hoped the review would focus on the failure to make local decision-makers accountable for the decisions they make about the lives of individual children and young people, and would underpin the existing system with a robust set of consequences for local authorities that circumvent the law.

“We don’t share the Government’s view that new standards and structures are needed: what we need is for the existing law to be followed in every area for every child. It’s very clear that the proposals are motivated by a desire to reduce the number of EHC plans, reduce the number of children in special schools, reduce the number of appeals to the SEND Tribunal and most significantly reduce cost.

“We are concerned that the Government is proposing to restrict parental choice in relation to the school or setting that can be named in an EHC plan. Parents and carers will only be able to express a preference from a pre-determined list of schools that the local authority considers appropriate, with the focus being on what’s available in the local area rather than on individual children’s needs.

“The proposal to reform the redress process by introducing mandatory mediation is a particular concern. Currently it is compulsory to consider mediation in most cases before appealing to the SEND Tribunal, but local authorities frequently fail to send someone with decision-making power, and cases often require judicial scrutiny.

Making mediation compulsory will create a significant barrier to parents, carers and young people appealing to the SEND Tribunal and it is contrary to the spirit of mediation. It also fails to recognise the inherent inequality that exists in SEND disputes, which involve individual parents, carers and young people challenging the decisions of local authorities. The way to reduce the number of appeals to the SEND Tribunal is to make sure the law is complied with in the first place, not to restrict routes of redress.”