SEN system gone wrong?

31st March 2021

A new study from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), published last month, highlights significant inconsistencies in how children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in England are identified and supported. The report can be read in full here.

Is this a system gone wrong?

With one in four children considered to have SEND this should not be the case if the relevant legislation and guidance is implemented across all schools and Local Authorities. But sadly, the findings of the new study reflect what we frequently see and it’s a pattern that fails to improve!

The report’s key findings are: 

  • The identification of SEND varies widely across England, which can often depend on the school the child attends. 
  • Pupils attending Academies are less likely to have their SEND identified, a worrying factor given the number of Academies now up and running! It would come as no surprise to us that these schools may be overlooking the identification and the needs of pupils with SEND. 
  • Schools and local authorities do not identify needs in the same way; with schools focussing on the more academic skills rather than the broader areas of SEND, including personal, social and emotional development. 
  • The Local Authority in which the child lives can influence the identification and provision of SEND through its local policies (which do not have the force of law). It is not uncommon for us to see children within the most disadvantaged local authorities less likely to have their needs identified and parents must battle that much harder. It truly is a postcode lottery when it comes to SEND. 
  • The most vulnerable children are less likely to access SEND support. The system is not accessible to their parents, carers or their circumstances. Too many of these children fall under the radar. It is not uncommon for us to see the most vulnerable children, such as those who have been adopted or those at risk of neglect, out of education for several years.

Whilst this is not breaking news at Education Advocacy, the report makes recommendations for “careful reforms to improve consistency, accessibility, accountability and resource allocation”. Whilst we would not disagree with the sentiment, it remains the case that reforms were made in 2014 and it is now a matter of schools and local authorities being held accountable?

It’s only with accountability that change truly happens and becomes the ‘norm’. Schools and local authorities must be held accountable through the Courts and Tribunals process as well as the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. Parents must know that schools and LAs can be held accountable and how to hold them as being accountable.

if you find yourself in this system or have a child with, SEND and didn’t even know about the system, our key pieces of advice are:

  • Be prepared to battle over the long haul.  This is not going to be a quick fix! 
  • Keep notes
  • Keep all emails
  • Hold people accountable
  • Be polite
  • Know your rights – look at the SOSSEN or IPSEA websites

If you do find yourself in that situation then give us a ring on 0330 333 4130 for a free 30-minute discussion on your situation and how we might help.  If we cannot help then we will point you in the right direction where you can get help.