Mainstream schools in England will be required to “change their culture and practices” to become more inclusive of children with special educational needs and disabilities, as part of government proposals to end the current postcode lottery.
The government will outline plans to overhaul the Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) system in a green paper published on Tuesday, including proposals to strengthen accountability and boost early intervention to ensure children’s needs are met better satisfied in local contexts.
The document will also propose the introduction of new national standards in education, health and care to better support children with Send, as well as a legal requirement for councils to publish inclusion plans to clarify accountability. in the different sectors.
The introduction of an “inclusion dashboard” to help parents understand what is available in their area is also part of the proposals, along with a simplified and digitized education, health and care plan. for children who need it most to reduce bureaucracy and help parents. choose from a list of suitable locations.
The proposals also include plans for a new national banding framework and tariffs for children requiring varying degrees of support to help put the system on a financially viable footing.
Under the current regime, parents often have to engage in protracted battles to try to get the right disposition for their child, in a highly bureaucratic and adversarial system. Some specialist services are only available outside the area, resulting in costs amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds for the most needy children.
Ahead of publication, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “We want to end the postcode lottery of uncertainty and bad accountability that exists for too many families, build trust in the system for all levels and increase traditional and specialized local education to give parents a better choice.
The plans are outlined in the government’s long-awaited green paper, which comes at the end of an intergovernmental review launched in 2019. The publication will be followed by a 13-week consultation. It will also integrate an alternative offer for children who cannot access regular school for various reasons, including special educational needs, in its vision of a single national system.
Before the full details of the article were published, some of the proposals had early support within the sector, although teachers’ unions pointed out that schools were already inclusive, but children had to struggling to access support due to cuts. They called for additional investments.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the teachers’ union NASUWT, agreed that many students are unable to access the support they need and are entitled to. “It is not due to failures on the part of school staff, who work tirelessly to do their best for these students,” he said.
“The government must recognize that cuts in funding for specialist services and reductions in real terms to school budgets have contributed to long waiting lists for assessment and reduced levels of support available to pupils. “
Jolanta Lasota, executive director of Ambitious about Autism, said while some of the proposals were welcome, others could raise alarm bells for parents. “Plans to strengthen accountability in the system and provide more support to help young people bridge the gap between education and employment are a positive step in improving outcomes for students with autism.
“However, proposals to introduce a new framework for allocating the greatest support needs will need careful consideration. Young people with autism and their needs do not fit easily into a neat box or group.”
Jo Hutchinson, director of the Education Policy Institute, said: “The devil will be in the details and, above all, in the implementation. Families across the country will rightly only believe in a better Send supply when it arrives.
Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson added: ‘This document has been delayed three times, it has taken nearly 1,000 days to write, yet it still fails to deliver the transformation of the support needed to change that image.”