The government has today published its long-awaited Review into the special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) support system. The Department for Education has outlined a series of plans to identify and meet the needs of children earlier.
The primary focus of the plans centres around early intervention with the government committing to train 5,000 more early-years teachers to be SEN co-ordinators (SENCOs). These are teachers who monitor and assess the progress of SEN children in schools. Also included in the plans is the launch of a national framework for local authorities which will lay out what support is expected for children with SEN, as well as the approval of up to 40 new special and alternative provision free schools. The Department for Education said that new funding of £70 million spread over three years would be used to back the proposals.
Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi said that the green paper “will give confidence to families across the country that from very early on in their child’s journey through education, whatever their level of need, their local school will be equipped to offer a tailored and high-quality level of support.”
The publishing of the green paper marks the beginning of a 13-week public consultation, with the government asking people to respond to the proposals of the Review.
Too Little, Too Late?
While there is little disagreement on the importance of early intervention for SEND students within education circles, there is less consensus on whether the Review does enough to fix what critics have labelled a ‘broken system’, in which parents find it near-impossible to get the proper support for their child.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders trade union expressed his frustration that the Review had been delayed as much as it had and that “full implementation of the Green Paper is some way off”. In the meantime, he said “many thousands of children and young people will continue to pass through a broken system, with schools left to pick up the pieces without sufficient resources.”
Broader expressions of support for a focus on early intervention also came from Labour’s shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson. However, she insisted that “warm words on early intervention are not good enough when affordable early childcare is unavailable to most parents”.
The government insists that it is committed to working with children, young people, parents, carers, advocates and local systems leaders in its public consultation over the coming 13 weeks. Given the criticisms levelled at the Review today, there is hope among those working in the sector that this will be an opportunity to sharpen the focus of the Review and turn these “warm words” on early intervention into more actionable proposals that will make a real difference to children and parents across the UK.
The SEND Review and the Dyslexia Commission
Over the coming months, Curia will be partnering with the British Dyslexia Association on the Dyslexia Commission. In the wake of the SEND Review, the new Schools Bill and reforms to the criminal justice system, will publish a cross-departmental plan to improve the lives of people with dyslexia in the UK.
The Commission will be chaired by Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, drawing on insights from school leaders, local government, prisons, parents, and carers to drive forward the agenda. If you have any questions about the Commission, don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.