Statement on the SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan
Last week, the government published the SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan: Right Support, Right Place, Right Time setting out its plans to change the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision system in England.
Having carefully considered the proposals set out in the Plan, and consulted with SEND colleagues across the Trust, we welcome its intentions and support four specific proposals. Our position on these is set out below.
Overall, we believe the Plan to be a step in the right direction but, with full implementation not expected until 2025, this still leaves a challenging period of time for many children and families who need urgent support now.
Our position on four key proposals
The nationalising of funding expectations
We applaud the commitment to ensuring that there is consistency across all geographical areas. In the past SEND provision has been a ‘postcode lottery’. The funding formula should be transparently fair. Currently, the SEND notional budget is unhelpful and unclear
The standardisation and digitisation of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)
We support the plan to streamline EHCPs. All paperwork relating to SEND should be accessible to all stakeholders including young people and their families. Standardisation and streamlined paperwork should also include applications for assessment and Annual Reviews.
We endorse the proposal to require health care to play a greater role in the writing of EHCPs and their subsequent implementation. EHCPs currently, in practice, have little or no input or involvement from health. It is paramount, that health and social care expertise must be included to offer greater joined-up support for young people, however, the financial cost must not be met by education.
The involvement of Alternative Provision (AP) within a single system with mainstream and special schools
The government’s plan stipulates the ambition for all learners to be included not just physically, but also socially and emotionally. Simply being physically provided for by the education system does not constitute inclusion. Being educated separately from their peers is not inclusion. We must ensure that all young people in mainstream schools have equal access to the education provided, including non-structured social times. The plan requires a clear definition of what is meant by ‘inclusivity’.
The training of SENDCos, teachers, TAs, and increase in health care professionals and Educational Psychologists
While further training for SENDCos - especially at a leadership and strategic level - is required, quality first teaching needs to be the pillar of support for SEND. There needs to be a greater emphasis on training and developing class teachers understanding and teaching pedagogy of young people with SEND.
Research shows that currently young people with SEND have less time with their class teacher than those without SEND. Quality teaching is likely to be the single greatest factor on the outcomes of young people, this ensures significant investment in training, confidence and attitudes of teachers to teach children with SEND as central to these proposals.
The inclusion of further training for TAs and Learning Support Assistants must also be met with financial acknowledgement for staff. As the government plan suggests, if we want TAs to be well-trained, and to be able to develop specific expertise, for example in speech and language interventions, then their salary should reflect their increased skills.