The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (“PAC”) has published its report on support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

It’s the latest in a raft of reports on SEND, including the Education Select Committee’s report published in October 2019, the second of the LGSCO’s focus reports published in October 2019 and the annual report from Ofsted which came out in January. In September 2019, the government had announced a SEND review of its own. However, with delays from the general election and Brexit apparently stalling progress of the government’s review, the PAC inquiry report has made further criticisms of the Department for Education (DfE).

The PAC report follows two oral evidence sessions that took place on 30 September 2019 and 9 March 2020. The witnesses included parent representatives, interest groups and representatives from the DfE.

The report comes to six conclusions, each of which is accompanied by a recommendation:

  1. Many children with SEND are being failed by the support system - the PAC recommendation is that the DfE should as a matter of urgency complete and publish its SEND review.
  2. There are significant unexplained disparities between different groups of children in the support they receive - the PAC recommendation is that the DfE should further analyse its statistics to better understand disparities between groups of children (e.g. ethnicity and gender).
  3. Too many pupils with SEND are excluded from school, meaning their education is disrupted - the PAC recommends that the DfE should set out the steps it plans to take to reduce exclusions of children with SEND and explain what action it will take in response to the recommendations of the Timpson review.
  4. The DfE relies too heavily on periodic inspections for assurance that children, particularly in mainstream schools, are being properly supported - the PAC recommends that wider evidence should be reviewed as to how well local areas are meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND.
  5. Mainstream schools have little financial incentive to be inclusive of pupils with SEND - the PAC recommends that the DfE works with other organisations to establish a balance between incentivising schools to be inclusive whilst avoiding the over identification of SEND.
  6. There are not enough state special school places - the PAC recommends that the DfE undertakes an analysis of current and future demand for school places.

The DfE has more work to do than just implementing the recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee to ensure that the implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014 can finally achieve its objectives: to identify children’s needs early, involve families more in decisions about their children’s education, ensure better integration with health and cares services and improve outcomes for children and young people with SEND.