Shadow Minister for Children and Families, Sharon Hodgson, has launched a review into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision in the Children and Families Act, following analysis that revealed that children with SEND are falling through the net.
New official figures published in response to a Parliamentary Question revealed that 78% of children in alternative provision have a statement of special educational needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
New figures also show that more than 33,000 children with SEND are on fixed-term exclusions from schools. In addition, pupils with SEND are nine times more likely to be excluded than their peers, and account for 70% of all permanent exclusions.
This also links with research by charities, such as the National Autistic Society, which found that half of parents of children on the autism spectrum are “dissatisfied” and about half still struggle to access the ‘Local Offer’ – despite this being a statutory requirement of local authorities to provide these families with information about local services they can access.
The review will consider:
• The impact of “every school an academy”, which remains the Government’s goal, on SEND admissions and provision
• The drafting of EHCPs
• The transition from Statements to EHCPs
• The variability in the ‘Local Offer’
• The SEN Code of Practice
• Provision of SEND in Initial Teacher Training
• Accessing specialist services within the school setting.
The review will have two roundtable sessions in May, and a call for written evidence running until the summer. A report published in the autumn will feed into the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum; a key component of policy development towards the Party’s manifesto for 2020.
“The government promised that reforms set out in the Children and Families Act during the last Parliament would transform the experience of children with SEND and their families,” said Hodgson. “Yet two years later, we are seeing significant numbers of these children excluded from school and many of their parents experiencing significant difficulties in accessing support.
“With their recent Schools White Paper failing to announce any new meaningful reforms to SEND provision, Tory Ministers seem content with the status quo. This simply isn’t good enough: far more needs to be done to improve the attainment, outcomes and experiences of children with SEND, so that we can ensure all children and young people have a fair chance of making a fulfilling transition to adulthood.
“That is why today Labour is launching a review into the current provision for children and young people with SEND, to identify why so many children with SEND are being excluded from school and what the next steps should be for SEND provision and services in England.”