The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Gareth D Morewood

National SEND inquiry: it's time to have your say

A new inquiry promises to review the SEND reforms. We can't afford to waste this opportunity to make our voices heard.

The implementation period of the SEND reforms has officially ended, leaving at best a mixed picture with regard to outcomes for young people and families; at worst, a total disaster, with individuals having to fight against a truly broken system.

However, this week has seen a significant announcement.

‘In 2014, the government introduced significant changes to the SEND system, with the intention of offering simpler and more consistent support for children and young people with SEND.

‘The government claimed that these changes would improve the family’s choice in decisions and focus on better outcomes that are supported by education, health and social care through EHCPs.

‘The Commons Education Select Committee has announced a new inquiry that will review these reforms, how they have been implemented, and what impact they are having in meeting the challenges faced by children and young people with SEND.’

Whatever our personal stories, the only way to effect significant wider change is to make sure that our voices are heard and for revised legislation and increased funding to allow for a system that can actually meet current need. This is the way to have an impact; by providing evidence as part of this inquiry and to help inform and support a revision of the current system.

The committee is seeking evidence to inform discussions around the following key areas:

  • the assessment of and support for children and young people with SEND
  • the transition from statements of special educational needs and learning disability assessments to education, health and care plans
  • the level and distribution of funding for SEND provision
  • the roles of and co-operation between education, health and social care sectors
  • provision for 19-25-year olds including support for independent living; transition to adult services; and access to education, apprenticeships and work.

Although we may assume that the committee is already aware of the challenges we currently face, this inquiry is a valuable opportunity to be clear about our own experiences. The committee will not investigate individual, personal cases, but anonymous submissions can be made. However, the headings above should help frame any submissions in order to ensure views can be processed effectively.

I've worked with Claire Ryan to create guidance on submitting evidence to the inquiry, including a free submission form template for you to adapt. 

Five things to consider

Personal budgets

Remember them? I was heartened by the idea that personal budgets could be a revolutionary element of the reforms. Indeed, I was fortunate to be part of an advisory group working with the charity KIDS in the project, Making it Personal 3, highlighting specific case studies and outlining the possibilities for freeing up provision. For some excellent examples, please take time to read the project report.

Unfortunately, this all seems to have been forgotten. It’s important that we return to the laws around personal budgets and put them back on the agenda.

Co-production

Co-production is an important element of good SEND practice – it was before the 2014 reforms and continues to be so, perhaps more important now than ever. Discrepancy in the support parent/carer groups and Independent Supporters have given has fragmented the system even further.

A much clearer and more consistent approach to supporting families will ultimately lead to better outcomes for young people.

Outcomes

Understanding what outcomes are seems to have been a significant stalling process as part of the reforms. In order to put pupils' needs and aspirations at the centre of SEND provision, it is vital that we understand 'outcomes', and the steps we can take to meet them. Even after the implementation period, I think there are significant issues in understanding what this actually means, especially across health and social care services. 

The recently announced extended trial for the tribunal to rule of health and care outcomes is a welcome change; for true accountability, there has to be a process to effect change.

Mythbusting

Dispelling myths and knowing the law for me is a core element of the reforms that many school colleagues have been unable to navigate due to inaccurate information from local authorities and other groups. At the end of the day the law trumps all and the charity IPSEA have done some fantastic work supporting increased understanding throughout the reforms, but more is needed.

Professional development

SENCO training and supervision is another element of good provision that requires further thought. From the many conversations with SENCO colleagues across England, virtually and at numerous events and meetings, I firmly believe that the current NASENCO Award has not adequately prepared colleagues for the issues and challenges post-2014. One clear example of this is knowledge of the law and myth-busting misinformation (see above).

This isn’t just SENCOs – I think there is a training and professional development problem for other roles too, and although schools and local authorities have spent a lot of money to support the implementation of the reforms, the disappointing return on their investment speaks volumes.

Don’t do nothing!

It's no coincidence that the inquiry is being undertaken now, after the period of reforms implementation has come to an end. Indeed, there should be no Statements of SEN, only EHCPs, but the reality is very different!

I think it is very important that as much evidence is gathered as possible. It is clear that many young people and families have to not only battle against the system, but also fight against SEND cuts. If we share our experiences and highlight areas that are working well, maybe, just maybe things can improve in the future.

'The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.'

Albert Einstein

Whatever your personal experience, however exhausting your battles have been, make time to provide a written submission of evidence by Thursday 14 June. Doing nothing will see no change or improvement to the current system. Doing something just might.

Further reading

More information on the inquiry

Link to submit evidence

'National SEND Inquiry: House of Commons Education Committee calls for evidence' (Special Needs Jungle)

More from Optimus

SEND reforms implementation: for better or worse?

Mythbusting SEND: why the law still trumps all

What makes a good investment in SEND?

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