Contact’s 3 Asks to improve England’s SEN system

Contact’s 3 SEN (special educational needs) Asks will help the new government address the biggest shortcomings and challenges within the current system.

The current SEN system

Inadequate funding of schools and services has forced schools to reduce what they can offer in the way of the special educational provision called SEN Support.

Many more parents and schools have had to apply for education, health and care (EHC) plans for children to receive the support they’ re entitled to.

SEN law is routinely ignored and not complied with. This leaves children without the special educational provision they need. Many parents are having to appeal to the SEND Tribunal simply to ensure that their disabled child’s needs are met.

There is a desperate shortage of specialist support because of a reduction in the capacity of the workforce. This has left disabled children and those with SEN without access to expert input and curial services.

The current system is broken, and we need urgent action.

The 3 Asks

1. Strengthen the Children and Families Act 2014 to place SEN Support on a statutory footing

The Children and Families Act is clear and safeguards disabled children’s rights in education. The existing content of the law must remain untouched. However, Contact is calling for two important additions.

Placing SEN support on a statutory footing

The Children and Families Act 2014 places minimal and vague duties on schools to support those pupils who have SEN, but do not an EHC plan.

The SEN and Disability Code of Practice 2015 explains how schools should support children with SEN.

But the code says only that schools must “have regard to” this duty. This leaves room for discretion.

By establishing robust legal duties on schools to provide certain special educational provision, in combination with investment in schools, more children would have their needs met without the need for an EHC plan.

Health, social care and education authorities must be jointly responsible for special educational provision, both in terms of EHC plans and SEN Support

The Children and Families Act places the legal duty to provide special educational support on education settings and authorities.

Placing joint legal duties on health, social care and education authorities to provide support will ensure that disabled children receive a complete package to meet their needs.

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, the government must:

3. Significant investment in the specialist workforce

By specialist workforce, we mean any professional or expert who is involved in providing support for Disabled Children.

The government must

We support calls for long-term funding and reform of social care

We support asks from the Special Educational Consortium (SEC) and the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) for a long-term funding strategy for disabled children’s education, health and social care services and reform of disabled children’s social care law.

The new government must act to ensure it meets the needs of disabled children and young people.