New planned SEND reforms in England

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It was annnounced this month regarding the key changes planned for SEND over the next few years. We have summarised these so you are aware, should you be seeking support for your child.

New Planned SEND Reforms In England

In 2019, the Department for Education launched a review of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Education providers and families have been waiting for the reforms since.

On March 2, 2023, the results were published in an improvement plan. This improvement plan aimed to improve the support and services available. It focused on children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities and their families.

As part of the review, ministers spoke to families and people who support and educate those with SEN. This was to gather evidence to form the foundation of a new national SEND and alternative provision system in England. The new provision system would seek to improve current challenges. It would focus on where the education sector is falling short for families of children and young people with SEND.

The long-awaited improvement plan sets out to:

Currently, it is estimated that there is a gap of £1.9 billion between the funding available for SEND support and its cost. Without government intervention, this will rise to approximately £3.6 billion by 2025.

SEND Improvement Plan 2023
Click on the above image to access the SEND improvement plan

When Will Changes Come Into Effect?

While the improvement plan sets out significant reforms, there will be no immediate legislative changes for 2023. This is because the government is launching what it calls a “Change Programme” to test the recommended changes first. This should resolve any problems.

The government is investing £70 million into the testing programme, and it will run for two to three years. Therefore, it could be 2026 before any real change is seen. From the results of this test programme, the reforms and how they will work in real life will be finalised. The reforms can then be rolled out nationwide. This will hopefully end the current postcode lottery that families often face for SEND support and services.

The Change Programme will be trialled in 30 areas. This could potentially rise to 50 or 60 areas as it progresses. However, the trial’s duration will mean that many reforms won’t be finalised until after the next general election in 2025.

The publication of the plan was announced by the Minister for Children, Families, and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho. She said: “Parents know that their children only get one shot at education, and this can have an enormous impact on their child’s ability to get on with life.

“The improvement plan that we are publishing today sets out systemic reforms to standards, teacher training, and access to specialists as well as thousands of new places at specialist schools so that every child gets the help they need.”

Everything You Need To Know About The Announced Reforms

The announcement focused on new national standards for SEND. It also included a digital system for education, health, and care plans (ECHPs). As mentioned above, it could be years until these reforms are put in place.

Any established national standards will not be compulsory or legally binding. This would change if SEND legislation was put in place.

Here are the key highlights that you need to know about and what they mean.

New National Standards

The government intends to launch new national standards for SEND. It says it will set new and clear expectations of what is rated “good”. This will focus on identifying and meeting needs. It will also establish who is responsible for delivering support.

The standards will:

Starting in Spring, the government will talk with families and frontline staff. They will discuss the changes and how they should look. Testing the changes will begin at the end of the year. By the end of 2025, the standards will be published. They will focus on what are the most realistic changes for the current system.

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Input from families will be key in the role out of this plan

National System Of Tariffs And Banding For Consistent Funding

A national system for tariffs and banding will be put in place. These will be alongside the new national standards. This new system will ensure that funding is consistently provided. It will involve clustering different education provisions. Rules will be set on what education commissions can use to pay education providers. It means that providers will clearly know how much funding they should receive.

Accountability Measures

Accountability measures will be put in place. This is to make sure all expectations are met. This includes how schools should adapt environments so that SEND students can learn alongside others. The role of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted will be considered here.

Early Support For Children and Alternative Provision (AP)

Children and young people who need extra support can stay in their mainstream school. They can also be provided with an Alternative Provision school. Under the new plans, children will get help earlier. This will make it easier to stay in their mainstream school. If they do need to go to an Alternative Provision school, plans will be in place to help them quickly return to their mainstream school.

EHCPs Go Digital

The improvement plan intends to streamline assessing children’s needs. This will be done through changes to Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). EHCPs are currently used to help students receive support in school. These will be digitised to simplify the admin process and speed it up wherever possible. Speeding up this admin should mean that parents get support faster than before.

EHCPs go digital
To streamline the process EHCPs will become digital.

New School Places

As part of the plan, 33 new special free schools will be built. These will provide additional specialist school places for children with SEND. This will relieve pressure on existing overrun systems. These new school places are thanks to the government’s £2.6 billion investment. This was specifically to increase special school and AP capacity between 2022 and 2025.

New Qualifications For Staff

The government will introduce a new leadership level. This will be the SENCo National Professional Qualification. Staff will be better equipped to meet the needs of children, young people, and their families.

The Department for Education will also look at ways teachers can build their expertise. They intend to review the teacher training framework.

This will:

Training will also be expanded. This will be done for 5,000 special educational needs coordinators and 400 educational psychologists. This should mean help is given earlier to those who need it.  

Intervention in Failing Areas

The government has said that a “Ladder of Intervention” will be in place. This will hold providers accountable when needs are unmet or overlooked. The Department for Education has suggested its response to poor performance will follow the Ofsted and CQC framework.  

Fair Access Panels

When making arrangements for alternative provisions, the fair access panels will be altered to match the new national standards for mainstream and specialist schools.

New Inclusion Dashboard

A new national and local inclusion dashboard will be published. This will show how inclusive schools are in any given area. According to the improvement plan, the dashboard will give parents a transparent view of their area’s performance. This should help with decisions regarding their children’s education. Part of the intention of this is also that the dashboard will encourage service providers to improve.

What Will This Mean For Families?

In addition to the above measures, the Department for Education will set aside £30 million to provide respite. This will be for families of children. This will include short breaks and funding for local areas for play, arts, sports, and independent living activities.

The plans outlined by the government have not been finalised yet. Only time will tell what the updates mean for children, young people, and their families. In theory, a system that focuses on early intervention and support for families sounds great. For years families have said that the current SEND system is broken. The government has also said that the current provisions are failing the most vulnerable. There are often big delays in getting the right support and access to the right services.

However, the process won’t be a quick fix as everything will be trialled under the Change Programme first. In the meantime, schools and budgets will still be stretched while it takes time to build the new facilities and train staff up to standard. This will leave many families afraid that their children will be left behind. Without immediate plans, it could be 2025 before any real change is implemented.

Get in touch

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about the SEND changes. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.


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