GK associate, Monica Thompson, provides an insightful analysis of the UK government’s recently published SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan for the future of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in England. The plan proposes a range of policies aimed at fixing a broken system, including several key policies that promise to improve inclusivity among mainstream schools and introduce digital solutions for Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Despite criticism from experts and campaigners over delays and setbacks in the government’s review, Monica discusses how the proposed policies are a step in the right direction to address the urgent need for reform.
On March 2, 2023, the UK government finally published its Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan, aimed at fixing the SEND system in England. However, the UK government’s review of the SEND system has been beset by delays and setbacks, prompting criticism from experts and campaigners. This plan proposes a range of policies, including the creation of new national SEND standards and the introduction of digital EHCPs. However, the government’s timeline for rolling out these policies is expected to take several years.
The government will be piloting the new national SEND standards and funding tariffs, along with digital EHCPs and tailored school lists for parents, for two to three years under a £70 million “change programme,” with nine regional expert partnerships taking part in the trial. By the end of 2025, the Department for Education will decide whether to go ahead with the changes nationally, which means that a national rollout might not happen until 2026.
The government’s plan includes a range of proposals to improve inclusivity among mainstream schools, but concerns have been raised over the timeline of the changes. Last year’s SEND Green Paper plans to consult on giving councils powers to direct academy trusts to admit pupils as part of a drive toward a more inclusive system, does not appear in the government’s plan. Instead, the plan focuses on making the process of applying to the secretary of state for a direction to admit a pupil “as effective as possible”.
The upcoming Academies Regulation and Commissioning Review will set out plans to incentivise improvement for all children in all parts of the country, including support for children and young people with SEND who attend mainstream settings.
It is widely acknowledged that the SEND system in England is in need of reform, and while the government’s new national standards promise to improve inclusivity among mainstream schools, many believe that the proposed changes are not happening soon enough.
The following key policies are highlighted in the review:
In conclusion, the UK government’s new SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan proposes several policies that aim to reform a challenged system. While the timeline for rolling out these policies may be slow, it is hoped that the trialling of the changes will avoid repeating mistakes made in the past. The upcoming Academies Regulation and Commissioning Review also provides an opportunity to improve support for children and young people with SEND across the country.