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

Contact’s 3 SEN Asks are designed to help the new government address the biggest shortcomings and challenges within the current system.

The current SEN system

The current system is broken, and urgent action is needed.

The 3 Asks

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.

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.

Contact is calling for SEN Support to be placed on a statutory footing.

Currently the Children and Families Act 2014 places minimal and vague duties on schools to support those pupils who have SEN who do not EHCP.

The details that explain how schools are expected to support children who have SEN are within The SEN and Disability Code of Practice 2015 which schools only have a duty to have regard to, leaving 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 be able to have their needs met without the need for an EHCP.

Contact is calling for additional legislation to make Health, Social Care and Education jointly responsible for special educational provision both in terms of EHCPs and SEN Support.

Currently the Children and Families Act places the legal duty to provide special educational provision on Education rather than jointly on Education, Health and Social Care.

These joint legal duties on Health, Social Care and Education 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.

Contact is calling for the new government to create of a system of accountability that makes non-compliance with SEN law unacceptable.

The government must:

  • Appoint a Minister for Disabled children who is responsible for ensuring that non-compliance with the law on supporting children and young people with SEND is unacceptable for Education, Health and Social Care authorities.
  • Ensure that all Ofsted, CQC and SEND area inspection reports take into account legal compliance with SEND Law. Organisations must not be allowed to pass any inspection if they are in breach of the law.
  • Make training in SEN law compulsory for all Ofsted, CQC, and SEND area inspectors.
  • Hold Public accountability hearings for elected councillors following local area SEND inspections for SEND failings.
  • Ensure all inspection reports are widely shared and highlighted.
  • Establish a national board of representatives from Health, Social Care and Education to hold each other to account for complying with their SEN duties. This board must be overseen by an independent panel.

3. Significant investment is needed in the specialist workforce

Contact is calling for the new government to 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

  • Secure the long-term future of the specialist workforce by workforce planning so that children and young people now, and in the future, can access the support they need to thrive.
  • Make certain that all schools must be able to call in a range of specialists including Speech and Language Therapists (SALTs), Occupational Therapists (OT), Educational Psychologist (EPs), Physiotherapists and mental health workers when necessary for assessments and input for children with SEN both with and without EHCPs.
  • Ensure that the specialist workforce help to train and upskill school staff so that they can support pupils. This in-school support should not be a substitute for future input by specialists.
  • Invest in strengthening the numbers of Specialist Teachers and Learning Assistants in all schools.

Contact supports asks from the Special Educational Consortium (SEC) and the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) which call 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 next government must act to ensure the needs of disabled children and young people are met.