The Government has published a set of proposals for reforming the system for supporting children and young people with SEND in England. These proposals are set out in a document called SEND Review: Right support, right place, right time

It is described as a ‘green paper’, which means the Government has said what it’s thinking of doing but no final decisions have been made yet. It’s open for consultation until 11.45pm on Friday 22 July, and anyone who is interested in support for children and young people with SEND can submit their views. 

We encourage you to tell the Department for Education what you think and what your experiences are

There are two ways you can do this: 

  • Complete the consultation form on the Department for Education website and answer as many of the questions as you wish.
  • Send an email with your views to the consultation team at [email protected]     

Answering the consultation questions 

There are 22 consultation questions that DfE would like you to answer – you can answer as many or as few as you wish. You may think that the questions don’t give enough opportunity to say everything you want to say, but the last question, question 22, invites you to say “anything else” that hasn’t been covered. 

We suggest that you answer the Government’s questions if you can, especially the ones that ask whether you agree or disagree with specific proposals. You can always give a brief answer to specific questions and follow up with more detail in the final question, where you are free to express your views more widely. 

For example:

  • Question 1 concerns the introduction of national standards. If you disagree with the proposed new standards and want to emphasise the need for children to receive individualised rather than standardised support, you can say so here.
  • Question 6 asks if you agree with the proposal for national standards and mandatory mediation. If you disagree, say so here and explain why.
  • Question 20 is about how the proposed changes will be implemented. If you have things to say about how the law on supporting children and young people with SEND is implemented in your local area, you could provide details here. 

The Special Needs Jungle website has a detailed guide to the individual consultation questions and the issues you might want to think about when deciding how to answer these. 

How IPSEA is responding 

We will be submitting a detailed response to the questions we think are most relevant to our areas of expertise. 

We will also be sending the Department for Education a supplementary paper setting out our concerns about the direction the SEND Review has taken – highlighting in particular the risk that children and young people will lose some of their rights to special educational provision and support that meets their needs. 

We welcome several aspects of the green paper, specifically:

  • A national template for EHC plans.
  • The continuation of extended powers for the SEND Tribunal to make recommendations on health and social care needs and provision as well as education.
  • The proposal to put SEN Support in schools on a statutory footing for children who do not need an EHC plan but do need extra provision and support. This could be achieved by amending the Children and Families Act 2014.

 However, we are concerned that:

  • The Government is trying to solve the wrong problem. The problem is not that children and young people with SEND are receiving expensive provision that they don’t need, but that too many children and young people aren’t receiving the support that they do 
  • The Government is proposing to change the law rather than making sure that local authorities and schools follow the existing law. Variations between areas in the support that children and young people receive is not because the law isn’t clear, but because it isn’t followed. 
  • The lack of accountability in the system is being overlooked. The law on supporting children and young people with SEND is routinely disregarded, and there are no consequences for this. The onus is on families to know, understand and enforce their children’s legal rights. 
  • The system for supporting children and young people will become more complex. New legislation will be needed to create statutory national standards. It is not clear where these standards would fit into the system, what they would replace, and how they would be enforced. 
  • Children and young people’s rights will be reduced. The green paper sets out proposals that risk diluting children and young people’s entitlement to provision that meets their individual needs.
    • For example, there is a risk that a new national standard on whether a child or young person needs an Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment will raise the current threshold set out in section 36 of the Children and Families Act 2014. (It is already clear when an assessment should be carried out, but the current law is routinely not followed.)
    • Another example is the proposal to restrict parents’ and young people’s current right to choose an education setting for their child. Instead local authorities will offer parents a “tailored list” of settings that they deem “appropriate” for their child’s needs. It’s unclear how this list will be determined, and there’s a risk that the starting point will be what exists in a local area rather than what a child’s needs are. 
  • Children will be less likely to be considered as individuals. The green paper seems to envisage a SEND system where a child with SEND is either a “mainstream school child” or a “special school child” – but that is not how children’s needs work. 
  • It will be harder to appeal against unlawful decisions. The Government wants to reduce the number of appeals to the SEND Tribunal and is proposing to make changes to the process of “redress” (ie putting things right when they have gone wrong). In our view, the priority should be reducing the need for families to seek redress, not making it more difficult to do so. The most obvious way of reducing the number of appeals would be to require local authorities to comply with the law, with serious consequences for failure. If there were no grounds for appeal, appeals would not succeed. 

If you share any of these concerns, it is very important that you let the Department for Education know before 22 July by completing the consultation form. 

If you respond to the consultation on the SEND Green Paper, please do let your local MP know that you have done so and what your views are. We are in regular contact with MPs, but it’s very important that they hear directly from their constituents too. You can find out who your MP is and how to get in touch with them here.