The Children’s Commissioner has called for a radical rehaul of the SEND system and swift implementation of the SEND Improvement Plan as new data shows that nearly 1.2 million children in England have special educational needs support without an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
The overall number of pupils in England with special educational needs (SEN) has also risen to 17.3%, up from 16.6% last year.
The number of initial requests for an EHCP are up 23% since 2021 to 114,000. The total number of children with an EHCP has also risen, up 9.5% to 517,000.
Dame Rachel de Souza said: “I am really concerned by this data, which clearly shows that demand for EHCPs has never been higher. We need to radically rehaul our approach to SEND, to create a system which is ambitious for every child.”
Need to prevent more families from reaching breaking point
The Children’s Commissioner’s Office published a report last year that found children and their families have to chase an EHCP to get the support they need to thrive in school. With waiting times for EHCPs growing every year, it’s becoming ever harder for children to get the help they deserve.
It recommended that mainstream schools be given the resources to support children with SEND, and if alternative provision is required then this should be available from day one.
However, research shows that some teachers feel underqualified to teach SEN pupils and school SEN co-ordinators are struggling with the levels of paperwork expected of them. Equally, the High Needs Budgets of local authorities keep going further into deficit, leading many of them to refuse initial requests for assessment for an EHCP.
Analysis from the Children’s Commissioner’s Office has also found that children with an EHCP are absent for an additional four days per term, relative to children with no identified SEN.
Dame Rachel de Souza added: “It is welcome that the government has now published its SEND Improvement Plan, particularly its focus on early help for families and making EHCPs more useful for young people. It is now fundamental that these reforms are implemented quickly, to prevent any more families from reaching breaking point.
“I’ve seen some fantastic examples, across schools, care, colleges, and health, so now the challenge is to make sure that every service and all support for every child and every family, is as brilliant as the best, wherever they are in the country.”