Three ways the next government can improve England’s education system

2 mins read

Tuesday 25 June 2024

Tags: General Election 2024, sen support, EHC plans

Latest figures from the Department for Education show there are more than 1.6 million pupils in England with special educational needs (SEN), an increase of 101,000 since 2023.

The number includes both pupils who have Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans and those who receive SEN support.

The headlines for SEN Support

  • 1,238,851 children receive SEN support (13.6% of all pupils). This is a 4.7% increase from 2023.
  • There has been a 7.1% increase in the number of children on SEN support who have no type of assessment (an indicator of waiting times for diagnosis).

The headlines for EHC plans

  • 575,963 pupils having a EHC plan (an increase of 11.4% on last year).
  • 138,242 initial requests for an EHC needs assessment in 2023. An increase of almost 21% when compared to 2022. Of the 138,242 requests for assessment, 24% were refused, an increase of 22.1% from 2022.
  • In 2023, 84,428 new EHC plans where issued. This is up 27% on the previous year.

What do these figures tell us?

These numbers confirm what we already from enquiries to our helpline. The SEN system is not working as it should.

This is because schools are not able to provide the SEN support they should due to funding pressures and a shortage of specialists like speech and language therapists and educational psychologists.

Together with widespread non-compliance with SEN law, this leaves children without the special educational provision they need and are entitled to. This often leaves an EHC plan as the only option. Securing an EHC plan too often is adversarial and lengthy, forcing parents to appeal to the tribunal.

Contact’s three asks

This why Contact has published three asks that will tackle the biggest issues within the education system in England for pupils with SEN.

We are calling on the next government to:

  1. Strengthen the Children and Families Act 2014 to place SEN Support on a statutory footing. The law must also make Health and Social Care jointly responsible for SEND provision alongside Education.
  2. Establish a robust system of accountability so that education, health and social care authorities and education settings comply with their legal obligations under the Children and Families Act 2014.
  3. Significantly invest in the specialist workforce.

Find out more about our three asks for the SEN system.  And please email your local candidates about these and our other successful step for the next government.