October 2022

It’s nearly three years since the Government first announced that it was carrying out a major review of the system for supporting children and young people with SEND, seven months since the SEND green paper was published setting out proposals for reform, and three months since the public consultation on these proposals ended. 

We’re now waiting to hear what the Government thinks about the thousands of consultation responses sent in by organisations and individuals, and how they intend to proceed. 

So, what’s next?

Ministers and civil servants have said that an “implementation plan” will be published before the end of the year, which we hope will be detailed enough to explain what happens next. 

Everyone involved in supporting children and young people with SEND – families, schools, local authorities, as well as all the professionals and specialist services – needs to know whether the proposals in the green paper are an actual blueprint for what the SEND system will look like in future, or whether the public consultation has led to a rethink. 

We all need to know how SEND reform would work, and if a new SEND law will be introduced. If only some of the proposed reforms are being taken forward, we will need clarity on how they will fit into the existing framework. 

What are we hearing from Government?

Everything is extra-uncertain because of all the recent political changes, including not only several Prime Ministers but also several sets of education ministers. It will be important to know what ministers think about children and young people’s rights and entitlements, and what their priorities are. 

The most recent insight into current thinking at the Department for Education is in a letter from the (now ex) Education Secretary, Kit Malthouse MP, to the chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon MP. In the letter, which was made public at the end of last week, Kit Malthouse reiterates the Government’s commitment to introducing new national standards. 

There is also some information on the proposal in the SEND green paper (which we opposed) to restrict parents’ choice of education settings to a tailored list determined by local authorities. The letter says that changes to how placements are named in children and young people’s EHC plans won’t be introduced “until the provision is in place across the system”. 

Kit Malthouse’s letter also suggests that the Government hasn’t ruled out extending the responsibilities of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) to include investigating complaints about what happens in schools. We believe this needs to happen, so that families have a route of redress in relation to, for example, exclusions or SEN Support. 

If a change like this is to be introduced, the Department for Education can’t make the decision by itself. A discussion will be needed across government, including the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. We hope that the Department for Education is leading this discussion and look forward to hearing the outcome.