The system for supporting children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities is not working. Children and young people have a legal right to special educational provision and support that meets their needs, but the law is widely disregarded

The result is that too many children and young people are not getting the education and support they need, with long-term consequences for their educational outcomes and overall wellbeing.

We ask all political parties and general election candidates to commit themselves to:

1. Applying the law on supporting children and young people with SEND 

Children and young people’s rights and entitlements are clearly enshrined in the existing SEND legal framework set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. But too many children and young people with SEND do not currently receive the special educational provision and wider support they need and to which the law entitles them, because the law is routinely not applied. 

The key to resolving the SEND crisis lies in finding a way to ensure that local authorities fulfil their statutory duties. Non-compliance with SEND law should become unacceptable and unaffordable for local authorities and schools. The outcome will be better provision for individual children and young people, and fewer appeals to the SEND Tribunal. 

2. Maintaining children and young people’s existing rights and entitlements 

The existing SEND framework has the potential to transform the provision and support that children and young people with SEND receive, if it is fully implemented. The system does not need to be reformed again, just made to work as it should. 

It is essential that children and young people’s existing rights to an education that meets their needs are upheld and not diluted by the next government. 

3. Making mainstream schools more inclusive for everyone 

Making mainstream schools genuinely inclusive for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities means upholding both the Children and Families Act 2014 the Equality Act 2010. 

There is an urgent need for a change in the culture that too often prevails in schools, to one in which differences are accepted, reasonable adjustments are made based on children’s individual needs, and training is provided to all school staff. 

SEN Support in schools should become a statutory requirement for children with SEND who need some extra provision and support but who do not need an EHC plan. This could be achieved by amending the Children and Families Act 2014. 

4. Making the SEND system more accountable 

Children and young people with SEND are being failed by the way the system for supporting them currently operates. This brings no negative consequences for local decision-makers, only for children and young people and their families. This is what we mean by a lack of accountability. 

Thousands of children are without a school place that meets their needs, and children with SEND are disproportionately excluded from school. This has long-term consequences for their academic progress and overall wellbeing. 

The next government must introduce more robust accountability mechanisms so that no more children and young people are failed by the education system.

Conclusion

Children and young people’s rights and entitlements are clearly defined in the existing SEND legal framework, but too many children and young people with SEND do not receive the special educational provision and support they need.

The upcoming general election is an opportunity to ensure that SEND receives the necessary political focus to bring about meaningful change. By implementing the recommendations outlined in this manifesto, the next government can secure a future where children and young people with SEND receive the education they are entitled to by law.

Download our manifesto