The Education Committee has today published the report of its inquiry into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The report highlights that while the reforms contained in the 2014 Children and Families Act were the right ones, implementation was hampered by a lack of resources, poor administration, a lack of accountability, and a disjointed approach not only across central government but within the DfE, as well as on the ground.
The Committee recognises that in a fragmented system, co-ordination across local authorities, the health service and schools must be prioritised. The system is already under pressure, with a funding shortfall in children’s services and schools under strain. The Committee notes that early support in schools is vital, that local authorities need increased powers to build schools, and that support to children must be, and too often isn’t, high quality.
Any work by central government to resolve shortcomings in the system needs to address responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. Increasingly the indications are that the system has lost focus on the impact of a range of factors that are compromising the rights of disabled children to an education.
Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children (part of the National Children’s Bureau) said:
'Five years on from the 2014 Children and Families Act, the Committee’s inquiry reflects many of the challenges that we have encountered in our work with children, families and practitioners.
The report highlights that adequate funding is crucial, but also that significant improvements in the administration of, and accountability for, implementation will also be necessary to achieve sustained improvements in provision.
There is an important role for central government to play in modelling effective joint working, and sharing good practice nationally, especially in terms of including children’s views in planning. There is also real value in greater standardisation of processes and paperwork, both to reduce variation and to aid practitioners.
I particularly welcome the inquiry’s recommendation that the Designated Medical/Clinical Officer become a statutory role, given the positive impact we know this role can have in co-ordinating input.
We also know that impartial Information, Advice and Support Services in each area have been enormously valuable to children and families and this must be recognised when considering how best to support children, young people and their parents in the future.
I look forward to the government’s response to the inquiry, and hope that this important review will lead to long-term improvements at all levels in the support available to children and young people with SEND.’