Response to the SEND Green Paper
The Department for Education recently released their green paper on SEND and alternative provision (AP), outlining the need for more consistency and oversight in order to ensure that all pupils have access to an inclusive and accessible education.
The last major reforms to SEND approaches were in 2014, when the Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCPs) were introduced to replace the Statement of special educational needs that had been in place prior. The system was designed as a 0-25, child-centred approach, and in the years since its implementation, 90% of special schools have been graded good or outstanding by Ofsted.
During this time, however, there has also been criticism of the reforms; primarily, that the system around EHCPs is too bureaucratic, leaving many children and young people without the necessary support whilst they wait for the required assessments. It is these issues, alongside other challenges that SEND provision in England currently faces, that have been addressed, including the generally poor outcomes for children and young people with SEN, and concerns around the system’s value for money.
The green paper sets out a number of new approaches and revisions to the current SEND system, designed to make SEND support consistent and more accessible for providers, parents/carers, and young people. This overview provides a brief glance at these proposals and the potential impact they will have on SEND provision in England.
New National Standards
The proposed new standards outline revisions to key areas of SEND provision with the focus being particularly emphasised on delivering a consistent and standardised approach.
This includes proposing a more consistent process for assessing and identifying SEN, a full range of support and placements for different needs, a standardised process for accessing and reviewing support, increased communication with children, young people, parents, and carers, and a set of standards for supporting transitions into post-16 provision and/or employment.
Once the green paper has been consulted on, it is likely that the SEND Code of Practice will be reviewed and updated to reflect these new standards.
Potentially one of the most significant changes announced in the green paper was the new standardised approach to EHCP’s, which includes creating a digital template for the plans. The aim of this new, digitised EHCP is that it will improve consistency, reduce bureaucracy, improve data collection, and make plans easier to access for those who are involved with delivering support to young people with SEN.
The new system will also give parents and/or carers a tailored list of settings to help them make decisions for their child's provision, allowing parents more insight and autonomy when it comes to making these choices.
This proposal has the potential to make the SEND system significantly more accessible if done right and will likely have the biggest impact on the day-to-day delivery of SEND support in schools and AP settings.
As set out in the white paper, the government is moving toward all schools being part of, or in the process of joining, a multi-academy trust by 2030. For AP providers and special schools, they will be able to choose whether to join a trust of specialist schools or form a ‘mixed’ trust with mainstream schools.
There are pros to both options; on the one hand, joining a trust made up entirely of specialist schools means there will be better scope for sharing resources and informing best practice, however for trusts that are primarily made up of mainstream schools, the inclusion of a specialist school would potentially mean better provision for the 82% of SEN pupils who in 2020/21 attended a mainstream school.
The government has also proposed new ‘regions groups’ to oversee trusts and Local Authorities, as well as a new ‘national SEND delivery board’ made up of Government departments, parents, and representatives of local government, education, health, and care. These groups would be responsible for setting national SEND standards, ensuring that these standards are being met, as well as taking into account specific local factors and the effect that these might have on SEND provision within a specific region.
Whilst the paper specifies that these ‘regions groups’ will bring together functions currently divided between the DfE and the Education and Skills Funding Agency, it is unclear whether these groups will be aligned with the Regional School Commissioners (RSC) areas, or how integrated the RSC and ‘regions groups’ will be.
Local SEND partnerships
Another approach that the government has proposed to implement these new standards is establishing local SEND partnerships that would bring together Local Authorities, Education providers, Health and care providers, and other relevant partners.
These partnerships would assess local provision and produce a ‘strategic inclusion plan’ for the local area, presumably working alongside the ‘regions groups’ to take into account local factors and their impact on SEND provision.
One of the biggest elements in the government’s proposals regarding SEND provision was the role of alternative provision (AP), with the green paper outlining expectations for AP to be an integral part of SEND systems moving forward.
AP providers will be expected to provide targeted support in mainstream schools, time-limited placements in AP, and transitional placements for pupils moving to new schools or post-16 provision.
In order to support this, and ensure that AP providers are doing what is best for each individual pupil, the government is proposing to change how AP settings will be funded, shifting from per-pupil funding to multi-year budgets. Currently, the way that AP providers are funded is unpredictable, often relying on long term placements that are not always in the best interests of pupils. The green paper proposes that local partnerships should agree on a minimum three-year budget to allow AP providers more stability, enabling them to hire more high-quality staff and focus on support specifically based on the child’s needs.
They are also proposing to introduce a statutory framework for pupil movement, which will review pupil movement around the school system and hopefully prevent unlawful practices like off-rolling.
Addressing concerns about current SEND funding not offering value for money, the government is proposing a new framework of ‘banding’ and ‘price tariffs’ to ensure that funding is being spent more effectively according to type of provision, and need.
They will also arrange new agreements between the Department for Education and Local Authorities, stipulating how funding should be spent to ensure the new national standards are met
As part of the government’s plan to improve the early identification of children with SEN, training will be provided for 5000 new SENCOs in early years settings.
Additionally, the government announced in the White Paper several new National Professional Qualifications (NPQ), including a SENCO NPQ, which will replace the NASENCo and focus on improving SENCO leadership skills.
In order to monitor the success of these measures, the green paper proposes new ‘inclusion dashboards’ to capture local and national data regarding outcomes, experiences, identification of need, and value for money.
School performance tables will also be updated with ‘contextual’ data, in addition to results data, in order to better recognise what schools are doing to improve SEND provision. The green paper also proposes new performance tables for AP settings based on outreach support, attendance, reintegration into mainstream schools, attainment (with a focus on English and Maths), and post-16 transitions.
This is just an overview of the measures proposed by the green paper, which goes into further detail on the implementation and intentions of these proposals. Consultation runs until July 1st and further guidance will likely be released in the coming months. At the very least, the green paper offers a promising insight into the developments being made towards a more accessible and consistent approach to national SEND provision.