Select Committee on Education and Skills Third Report

Conclusions and recommendations


Brief history of SEN

1.  The Warnock Report in 1978, followed by the 1981 Education Act, radically changed the conceptualisation of special educational needs. (Paragraph 9)

2.  During the 1980s and 1990s there was a considerable decline in the number of children in special schools and a gradual increase in the proportion of children both identified as having special educational needs (SEN) and given statements of SEN. (Paragraph 12)

3.  Since 1999-2000 the proportion of children in special schools (around 1%), the proportion of children with SEN (around 18%), and the proportion of children with statements of SEN (around 3%) has plateaued—all within a system still based on the original 1978 Warnock framework. (Paragraph 14)

4.  The Warnock SEN framework is struggling to remain fit for purpose, and where significant cracks are developing in the system—most starkly demonstrated by the failure of the system to cope with the rising number of children with autism and social, emotional or behavioural difficulties (SEBD)—this is causing high levels of frustration to parents, children, teachers and local authorities. (Paragraph 17)

5.  The Committee would invite the Minister to read the 230 written memoranda we have received during this inquiry and consider, in full, the conclusions and recommendations of this report. (Paragraph 23)

A major review of SEN?

6.  Despite the Audit Commission specifically calling for a review of the statementing process in 2002, four years on the Government still says it has no plans to review the statementing process. This is unacceptable. (Paragraph 27)

7.  Whilst the Government says is does not wish to undertake a major public review of its policy on SEN, it does seem to be re-considering its policy in private. (Paragraph 31)

8.  The Committee believes this is a critical time to be publishing the results of our inquiry. We would urge the Government to give most careful thought to our recommendations and consider a completely fresh look at SEN. We look forward to constructive and vital progress for children with SEN and disabilities. (Paragraph 32)

1. Why SEN matters

SEN and the link to socio-economic background

9.  Special educational needs exist across the whole spectrum of social classes and abilities. It is important to recognise that some conditions which give rise to SEN, in particular along the autism spectrum and specifically Asperger's Syndrome, can defy an easy correlation between those conditions and social deprivation—as well as the children often being above-average intelligence. It is important therefore that social deprivation is not seen as the only and automatic benchmark for addressing SEN issues. (Paragraph 36)

10.  There is, however, a strong correlation between social deprivation and SEN that deserves careful consideration by the Government. SEN policy should explicitly address these overlapping sets of needs where they occur. (Paragraph 37)

11.  At secondary school level, children with statements of SEN are nearly twice as likely to be eligible for free school meals as the average school population. (Paragraph 38)

12.  Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and social, emotional or behavioural difficulties (SEBD) provide an excellent example of where the old Warnock framework is out of date and where significant cracks exist in the system to the detriment of those who fall between them. Far more important, however, is the frustration and upset caused to parents and families by the failure of the system to meet the needs of these children. This needs most urgent resolution. (Paragraph 43)

SEN in the wider educational context

13.  SEN policy continues to operate a separate system for special educational needs (SEN) and, as a result, SEN continues to be sidelined away from the mainstream agenda in education. This must not continue. The Government needs to give greater priority to SEN and take full account of its need to have a central position in education. (Paragraph 48)

The cost of failing children with SEN

14.  The continuing correlation between children with SEN and exclusions, low attainment, not being in education, employment or training (NEET), and even youth crime, means that there are significant long term economic and social costs involved in failing children with SEN. The personal cost to families of children with SEN should also be considered. (Paragraph 49)

15.  There are considerable costs involved in failing to meet the needs of large numbers of children with SEN. Moreover, the Government has a responsibility to provide high-quality education for all children to enable them to reach their potential. (Paragraph 54)

2. Clarification of inclusion policy

Defining inclusion

16.  The Government's changing definition of inclusion is causing confusion. If it is going to continue to use this term in key policy documents such as the SEN Strategy, the Government should work harder to define exactly what it means by inclusion. This Committee supports the principle of educators pursuing an ethos that fully includes all children—including those with SEN and disabilities—in the setting or settings that best meets their needs and helps them achieve their potential, preferably a good school within their local community. (Paragraph 64)

Clarifying the Government's position on inclusion

17.  Based on statutory and non-statutory guidance, it is reasonable for those involved in SEN to assume that the Government holds a policy of inclusion from which it has given guidance to local authorities to reduce both the proportion of pupils in special schools and to reduce reliance on statements. (Paragraph 72)

18.  The Government has been firm and consistent in stating its position on inclusion for this inquiry both in written and oral evidence. It has stated that it does not hold a policy of inclusion that is resulting in the closure of special schools. This is not sufficient. At the very least there is considerable confusion over the Government's position on inclusion and they must take responsibility for this lack of clear strategic direction and for the consequences of this. (Paragraph 73)

19.  The Minister's words demonstrate a significant change in policy direction. (Paragraph 79)

20.  These answers present a confused message, but one that signals a move away from the Government's original position in 1997. (Paragraph 84)

A change in policy

21.  The most generous reading of the evidence is that the Government is moving forward towards seeking a "flexible continuum of provision" being available in all local authorities to meet the needs of all children, including those with SEN, but this is not the basis for the approach outlined in SENDA 2001, the SEN Code of Practice 2001, or the 2004 SEN Strategy. This should be put right. (Paragraph 85)

22.  What is urgently needed is for the Government to clarify its position on SEN—specifically on inclusion—and to provide national strategic direction for the future. The Government needs to provide a clear over-arching strategy for SEN and disability policy. It needs to provide a vision for the future that everyone involved in SEN can purposefully work towards. (Paragraph 86)

23.  Seeking change through evolution not revolution is one thing, but changing a key policy focus and hoping to tie it back in to a particular reading of the existing SEN Strategy is not acceptable. The Government should be up-front about its change of direction on SEN policy and the inclusion agenda, if this is indeed the case, and should reflect this in updated statutory and non-statutory guidance to the sector. (Paragraph 87)

3. SEN: Facts and Figures

24.  It is widely recognised that there is a strong correlation between exclusions and children with SEN—particularly those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and autistic behaviour. The Committee finds it unacceptable that such a well known problem continues to occur. The Government should enhance existing, and improve alternative, forms of provision, training and resources rather than using an increasingly punitive approach for these children and families involved. (Paragraph 95)

25.  Schools need better guidance and staff training in dealing with disruptive behaviour by children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, particularly Asperger's Syndrome, and social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties. Schools should give careful consideration to these children in their behaviour strategies and make appropriate adjustments in disciplinary responses especially when considering exclusion. This needs to be backed up by closer DfES guidance and local authority monitoring, details of which could be collated by either Ofsted or the Schools Commissioner, with a view to urgent and substantial reduction in the numbers of exclusions. (Paragraph 96)

Existing legislation

26.  There is an inbuilt conflict of interest in that it is the duty of the local authority both to assess the needs of the child and to arrange provision to meet those needs, and all within a limited resource. The link must be broken between assessment and funding of provision. (Paragraph 99)

27.  There is a great deal of work still to do to pull together the disability and SEN agendas and legislation. The Government should be prioritising this important work. (Paragraph 110)

28.  In light of evidence from witnesses that in many schools there is a significant lack of understanding of their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act and a failure to implement the Disability Equality Duty fully, we await improved and more specific guidance from the DfES which is due to be published shortly. Guidance should pay particular attention to ensuring that all teachers and staff have an appropriate awareness of their duties and that this is not left to a single disability officer within schools. (Paragraph 111)

Voices of young people, parents and teachers of children with SEN and disabilities

29.  We recommend that the Government continues to increase the role of children and young people in reviewing, planning and designing services. (Paragraph 117)

30.  We recommend that the Government urgently address the feeling of both parents and teachers that there is inadequate training and resourcing for dealing with SEN children in mainstream classrooms. We would give the highest priority to the need to radically improve SEN and disability training in initial teacher training, induction, and in the continuing professional development of all staff. (Paragraph 133)

4. Failings within the SEN system

Statementing process

31.  The 2004 Ofsted and 2002 Audit Commission reviews identified serious flaws in the SEN system with regard to standards and consistency of provision, the statementing process, fair access to schools, and outcomes for children with SEN and disabilities. This Committee finds it both surprising and highly concerning that these issues have still not been addressed. Evidence presented to this inquiry has further highlighted that there are significant failings in the system that need to be dealt with urgently. We now turn to these issues in the following recommendations. (Paragraph 141)

32.  This inquiry received large numbers of memoranda from parents whose lives had been taken over by the statementing process and had had to fight to achieve a better outcome for their child—and were still fighting. To say that there is some dissatisfaction with the current system, or to claim that there are "some" problems as the Minister did, fails to give proper regard to the level of unhappiness felt by some parents. (Paragraph 147)

Issuing of statements

33.  Whilst the DfES letter of guidance to Directors of Children's Services, 15 November 2005, was a helpful clarification of the Government's position on the illegality of blanket policies for issuing statements of SEN, it should not have been necessary, and does not make up for a lack of clear national strategy. (Paragraph 151)

34.  It is better to seek to reduce reliance on statements by improving the skills and capacity of schools to meet a diverse range of needs, but this must be set in a system with much greater clarification and much stronger guidance on minimum standards of provision. Without such a system in place, guidance on "reducing reliance" on statements has led to the inequity of provision and "postcode lottery" that exists. This cannot continue. The sector needs much clearer guidance through a national framework with local flexibility. The Government needs to give local authorities clear national guidance on when to issue statements of SEN. (Paragraph 153)

35.  We recommend that there should be an absolute deadline that a decision on whether to issue statement in respect of any child should be made within the required 26 weeks (six months) of a written request being made with no exceptions. (Paragraph 154)

Transfer of statements

36.  Whilst recognising that it would require significant changes to the existing system, we recommend that the DFES consider how to make statements of SEN transferable between local authorities so that they can follow the child. We believe this would reduce administrative costs, allowing more resources to be devoted to SEN provision, and, more importantly, would prioritise the needs of the child. (Paragraph 156)

Other possible models

37.  The landscape of local authorities and local heath organisations is continually changing which makes it difficult to make specific individual recommendations about the way they should work together. We consider, however, that assessment of SEN should not be made directly by the bodies that fund the provision, and any revision of the system overall should take this principle on board. (Paragraph 161)

38.  Scottish reform to the statementing process demonstrates one way in which the 1978 Warnock framework might be reformed. These proposals may not have all of the answers but they are witness to the fact that something needs to be done to improve the existing system. (Paragraph 162)

39.  The lack of a ready-made alternative is not a good enough reason to keep a failing system of statementing. If SEN was given sufficient priority this would not be allowed to continue. It is the responsibility of Government to devise better processes for SEN—not necessarily in one statement—and to implement them. This should involve the early identification and assessment of needs, efficient and equitable allocation of resources, and the appropriate placement of pupils based on their needs and taking account of parental preference. We request a specific response from the Government on this issue. (Paragraph 163)

Placement decisions

40.  Where good practice exists in local authorities the level of parental satisfaction improves greatly. A National Framework of guidance should be put in place based on best practice of local authorities. It should ensure that: multi-agency panels make decisions regarding placement and are accountable for their decisions; parents are kept well-informed at all stages of the process and involved in the decision-making process as much as possible; and there is a wide range of appropriate high-quality provision available to meet the needs of children. There also needs to be much greater consideration given to support for parents of children with SEN who themselves may have SEN issues and require assistance in coming to considered decisions and views about their children's futures. (Paragraph 170)

41.  For many children with SEN and disabilities, special schools are invaluable. The issue should not be their closure but how to progress to a system based on a broad range of high quality, well resourced, flexible provision to meet the needs of all children. More schools should be positively encouraged to form federations including both mainstream and special schools. (Paragraph 171)

Planning role of local authorities

42.  While some local authorities have made good progress in managing SEN in recent years, there remains much variation in performance and some poor practice. Clear statutory guidance is in place but local authorities are then told only that they must "have regard to" the SEN Code of Practice. Non-statutory guidance then further muddies the waters. Local authorities have a crucial role to play with SEN but the operation of good practice must become the norm. (Paragraph 177)

43.  Local authorities must be allowed to continue to plan provision at the local level to meet need but this should be within guidance of a clear National Framework linked to minimum standards to ensure consistency of outcomes for children with SEN. (Paragraph 178)

44.  All local authorities and schools should embrace the opportunity presented by the new Disability Equality Duty to ensure that they promote and provide a positive environment for children with SEN, both now and in the future. (Paragraph 179)

Admissions and parental choice

45.  The Government should give careful consideration to the impact that key drivers such as league tables are having on admissions—particularly to the most successful non-selective state schools. There is strong evidence that the existing presentation of performance data in league tables does not reflect well on many children with SEN and consequently acts as a disincentive for some schools to accept them. This cannot continue. (Paragraph 182)

46.  Children with SEN and disabilities should have fair access to all types of provision. The Government should do more to encourage the most successful non-selective state schools to take their fair share of children with SEN and disabilities. Admissions policies in this matter should be carefully monitored with a requirement to report back on progress to Parliament and to this Select Committee. Furthermore, the Government should ensure the protocol for hard to place children makes specific reference to children with SEN and disabilities. (Paragraph 183)

Choice for parents of children with SEN

47.  The existing DfES policy regarding the placement of children with SEN is good in theory, but in practice parental choice is not being upheld. Where a special school is sought by a parent this must be given proper consideration. Where a mainstream school is sought by a parent, a local authority must consider whether reasonable adjustments could be made to ensure that their admission could be made compatible with the efficient education of other children in the school. (Paragraph 192)

48.  We recommend that in the new Code of Practice on School Admissions, children with SEN and disabilities should be given explicit priority in over-subscription criteria. (Paragraph 193)

49.  As long as the choice of parents of children with SEN continues to be qualified by whether it is compatible with the efficient education of other children in the school, the final decision-making power regarding placement will remain out of the hands of parents and we do not suggest that this should be changed. This is appropriate where expert independent advice has been sought but should be the exception rather than the rule. There is a great deal more that could be done to increase involvement from parents: to seek their views and understand their choices more carefully, to work in partnership with them as much as possible, and to ensure they are fully informed at all stages of the process. Careful consideration should be given to parent-partnership schemes being funded independently of local authorities being trialled on a pilot basis. The system should not have to rely on an appeals process to achieve fair access for children with SEN. (Paragraph 194)

50.  The Government should work with local authorities and schools to raise the level of detailed understanding amongst parents of the implications of disability rights in education. (Paragraph 195)


51.  Evidence presented to us has been inconclusive, but if it is the case that some Academies are turning away children with SEN, this is of great concern. (Paragraph 200)

52.  To guard against the possibility that Academies could discriminate against children with SEN this Committee recommends that the Government take the relatively simple step of changing the funding agreement so as to put Academies on the same legal footing as all other schools with regard to children with SEN. (Paragraph 207)

53.  Local authorities should monitor admission of children with SEN to schools in their area, including academies and trust schools in England, and report publicly on this each year. (Paragraph 208)

Appeals process

54.  Parents must have the right to appeal against decisions made regarding the education of their children. All parents and legal guardians must have equal access to the appeals process. Evidence suggests this is not the case at present. The Government is responsible for ensuring steps are taken to guarantee equal access to an appeals process for all parents and guardians; in doing so it should give particular attention to the access of parents from low socio-economic backgrounds, parents with SEN themselves, and the fair representation of looked-after children. The Government should start to collect data on the background of parents at tribunal, and on expenditure in relation to outcome. (Paragraph 220)

55.  The standard approach should not be adversarial. We recognise, however, that all too often parents had little choice in taking an adversarial approach during the appeals process in order to obtain what is in the interests of their children. With a range of appropriate high quality SEN provision in place, a clearer understanding of roles and responsibilities and more transparent processes, the confidence of parents in the system should increase and the level of anxiety, frustration and litigation should reduce. (Paragraph 222)

56.  Conflict between parents and local authorities needs to be minimised through clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, transparent processes, and better management of expectations. (Paragraph 225)

57.  The Government should review whether SEN appeals should be part of a broader education appeal process as part of a strategy to reduce reliance on a separate system for SEN. (Paragraph 227)

Funding process

58.  This Committee welcomes the additional investment in SEN and special schools in the last three years but SEN remains under-funded, particularly in mainstream schools. We agree with the Minister that the Government can accomplish a huge amount when they put the resource behind it. The Committee recommends that this principle is applied to SEN. The Government should radically increase funding for SEN in order to achieve a range of appropriate, high-quality provision across every local authority with a fully equipped and resourced workforce. The Committee hopes that the Treasury review of funding for children with complex needs, which we welcome, will provide an opportunity to do just this. (Paragraph 232)

Delegated funding

59.  The Government should stop and think before further increasing the level of delegated funding to schools without other necessary conditions first being in place and without improved accountability for school spending. Delegated funding should enable more early intervention, in theory, but it needs to be implemented hand in hand with other key factors—a clearer national framework linked to minimum standards, a broad range of suitable provision, and a workforce that is fully equipped and resourced to identify and meet the needs of children with SEN. Without these other conditions in place further delegation of funding is a high-risk approach, particularly in light of evidence from Ofsted that some delegated funding to schools is not being spent on SEN. (Paragraph 236)

60.  We believe there would be much merit in reserving part of central government's funding to encourage flexible access and co-operation between special and mainstream schools, the Minister himself having said in evidence that it was "crucial to see that money intended for SEN is spent on SEN". (Paragraph 237)

Funding of specialist services and provision for low-incidence needs

61.  Local authorities should be required to maintain a proportion of SEN funding to resource specialist services and services to meet low-incidence needs. The Committee supports the recommendations made in the recent SEN Audit on low-incidence needs. (Paragraph 242)

62.  Non-maintained and independent special schools (NMISS) provide invaluable provision for many pupils—including some children with low-incidence special needs. The Committee notes with some concern the rapid increase in expenditure on NMISS places in recent years. NMISS places must remain an essential component of a broad range of flexible provision within all local authorities but we recommend that fees for NMISS places should be monitored by the DfES. (Paragraph 244)

Allocation of resources through the statementing process

63.  The fundamental problems in the statementing process that prevent funding from following the child should be resolved as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 249)

5. Future Strategy

64.  The Government needs to develop an approach to SEN that is based on pupil-centred provision. This would require: a national framework linked to minimum standards; local flexibility within a national framework; a pupil-centred approach with SEN at the heart of personalisation; equipping the workforce (a major priority is to properly train and resource all staff); early intervention; partnership working; and a radical review of statementing. (Paragraph 252)

A national framework with local flexibility

65.  The Government need to take a lead and develop an overarching strategy for SEN in order to set minimum standards for children with SEN—whilst maintaining local decision-making powers—to give a clear lead on policy direction for the sector to follow. (Paragraph 255)

66.  We back the SEN Audit's recommendation that "there is a currently a range of standards for provision and services (for example, within the SEN Code of Practice, Removing Barriers to Achievement, Ofsted, National Service Framework (Disabled Children), Every Child Matters and Quality Protects). The DfES should bring these together within a unitary framework that is accessible to all relevant providers." (Paragraph 258)

67.  The Minister assured us that "we (the Government) would look very carefully at anything you recommended to us in this area". This Committee adds its voice to the recommendation in the SEN Audit for the Government to introduce a "clearly articulated national framework, linked to quality standards". There is now wide consensus on the need for the Government to produce a national framework with local flexibility. (Paragraph 259)

A flexible continuum of provision

68.  We support the recommendation made by the National Autistic Society that "local authorities should ensure that every child with autism has local access to this diverse range of mainstream and specialist educational provision, and report publicly on the range of provision that is provided" and would extend the requirement to all children with SEN and disabilities. (Paragraph 262)

69.  We believe early diagnosis of children with autism and particularly Asperger's Syndrome is likely to be a preferential route, as witnesses have suggested, rather than statementing. We urge that local authorities be given a statutory responsibility to consult and work with autism groups, both locally and nationally to forward this objective. (Paragraph 263)

70.  We recommend that parents and children are given a clearly defined entitlement that is described in a (statutory) guidance framework that sets out the expectations that schools and other providers should meet in terms of a "provision map". One of the key benefits would be to ensure that every local authority maintains broad range of flexible provision—including special schools. (Paragraph 267)

71.  The Government should provide much clearer guidance on minimum standards and implement a statutory requirement for local authorities to maintain a broad ranging and flexible continuum of provision which should then be monitored on a regular basis. (Paragraph 268)

Local flexibility

72.  Any national framework must allow for local flexibility. Local authorities must continue to have the capacity to plan and re-organise provision to meet the needs identified locally—including support, services and provision for low-incidence needs. (Paragraph 269)

73.  The Government should do a great deal more to enable greater local flexibility at the school level. Funding arrangements for dual-placements and other sharing of facilities, specialist resources and expertise should not be a barrier. More needs to be done to enable children to attend both specialist and mainstream provision. To encourage and reward local authorities and schools to do so, Government should give more practical and financial incentives to co-operation, as the Minister indicated was their desire in evidence. (Paragraph 272)

Personalisation—SEN v. the standards agenda

74.  Regardless of the theory, in practice the evidence clearly demonstrates that SEN and the raising attainment agenda sit very uncomfortably together at present. Furthermore, it is clear from the Education and Inspection Bill that the standards agenda still remains the much greater priority for the Government. It is the standards agenda, not SEN, that is at the heart of the existing personalisation agenda. As a result, it is difficult to see how personalisation can be the key to the Government's strategy on SEN as the Minister claims. Again, we recommend that the Government clarifies its strategy for SEN and gives SEN sufficient priority so that it might indeed sit at the heart of personalised learning as promised in the SEN strategy. (Paragraph 282)

75.  In identifying the five Every Child Matters outcomes—being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution to society, and achieving economic well being—the Government is beginning to broaden out its focus away from just the standards agenda. We are still a long way, however, from SEN and the achievement of the five outcomes playing a central role in mainstream education policy. This Committee recommends that SEN is prioritised, recognised as being in the centre of mainstream education policy and radically improved. (Paragraph 287)

76.  We also believe that to fulfil the objectives of Every Child Matters it is important that social care and out-of-hours family support augments and is integrated within the educational provision during school hours and that at local level those objectives are delivered as seamlessly as possible. (Paragraph 288)

Equipping the workforce

77.  It is unrealistic to expect teachers and other members of the workforce to be able to meet the needs of children with SEN if they have not received appropriate training. Particular concerns have been raised with regard to both initial teacher training and continuing professional development for all staff. (Paragraph 294)

Initial Teacher Training

78.  One of the key issue is that the DfES have asked the Training and Development Agency (TDA) to develop optional modules within initial teacher training. Unless the intention is for these optional modules to be followed rapidly by assessment and then rolled out on a compulsory basis, this is unacceptable—particularly in light of the bold commitment to improve staff skills in the 2004 SEN Strategy. (Paragraph 299)

79.  Based on evidence that demonstrates the level of need, and demand from teachers for training on SEN, SEN training should become a core, compulsory part of initial teacher training for all teachers. The Government should re-start negotiations with TDA on these grounds and in conjunction with the three-fold strategy of SEN training as part of initial teacher training, induction and continued professional development that we have advocated. (Paragraph 301)

Continuous professional development

80.  Professional expectations through the General Teaching Requirements are no replacement for training and equipping teachers. Teachers cannot be expected to properly fulfil requirements such as differentiating the curriculum for all children, including those with SEN, without receiving the appropriate training to enable them to do so. In some cases, this may require a detailed knowledge of child development psychology to equip them to do so to the greatest effect. Good quality, appropriate continuing professional development should be made available for all teachers and schools should be resourced to fund them. Compulsory in-service training should include SEN if it is to be given sufficient priority in schools. (Paragraph 309)

A new strategy for workforce development

81.  We recommend that the Government prioritises the training of its workforce (teachers, TAs, and early-years professionals), across a broad range of provision, to equip them with the skills and support they need to effectively teach children with SEN. (Paragraph 316)

82.  More specifically, we recommend that the Government fully implements its own strategic approach to training outlined in the SEN Strategy: putting into practice the "triangle of training needs" in order to achieve the proposed three tiers of specialism in every school; making SEN training a core, compulsory part of initial training for all teachers; and ensuring appropriate priority and quality of continuing professional development to equip all of the workforce. There is a broad consensus of agreement on these proposals and yet little progress has been made since 2004. This is not acceptable. (Paragraph 317)

83.  The Government should make training and equipping its workforce a top priority and re-start its talks with the TDA on far more ambitious grounds. (Paragraph 318)

Special educational needs co-ordinators

84.  Special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) should in all cases be qualified teachers and in a senior management position in the school as recommended in the SEN Code of Practice. Firmer guidelines are required rather than the Government asking schools to "have regard to" the SEN Code of practice. The role and position of a SENCO must reflect the central priority that SEN should hold within schools. (Paragraph 322)

85.  Special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) should be given ongoing training opportunities to enable them to keep their knowledge up to date as well as sufficient non-teaching time to reflect the number of children with SEN in their school. These baseline standards for SENCOs to be given training both on and off the job should apply to all schools, including academies and trust schools. Schools should set out in their SEN policy action to ensure that all SENCOs are adequately monitored and supported in their vital roles. (Paragraph 323)

Specialist support services

86.  We recommend that SEN regional partnerships are given increased and guaranteed funding for their role in planning provision for low-incidence SEN. (Paragraph 325)

87.  Local authorities should take action towards achieving the standards set out in the National Service Framework for children, young people and maternity services in respect of disabled children and speech and language therapy. (Paragraph 326)

Educational psychologists

88.  The Government has recognised the particular, distinctive contribution of educational psychologists. They have a vital role to play in moving towards truly joined-up services for children. The Government should re-consider how the new training route for educational psychologists is funded to ensure that a sufficient number and calibre of professionals are being supported in their training. The Government urgently needs to take additional steps to ensure that the shortfall of educational psychologists is not exacerbated in the two year transition period up to 2008. (Paragraph 330)

Early intervention

89.  The Government should follow through the proposals of Every Child Matters to their logical conclusion and fully implement an assessment for learning for every child. The workforce must be equipped and resourced to achieve this. (Paragraph 336)

90.  To achieve real progress in terms of early intervention the Government needs to change the premise on which SEN is provided to one in which literally every child matters. This would mean a radically new approach to SEN provision where a system of assessment of learning and intervention takes place for every child on a spectrum of provision that can be geared up for children that require high levels of support. A swifter and more intelligent system of assessment is required. The Government should deliver on their promise to put SEN at the heart of the

91.  personalisation agenda. (Paragraph 336)

Key transition phases—including post-16

91.  In terms of both availability and quality, post-16 provision is currently failing to meet the needs of young people with SEN and disabilities. (Paragraph 344)

92.  Many children with SEN and disabilities are being let down in transition phases across the education system from early years to post-16 and into adulthood. There needs to be much greater collaboration between schools, special schools and children's service providers working with parents and children to reduce the negative impact of transition between key stages such as the transition between primary and secondary education. (Paragraph 348)

93.  For young people with a statement, transition planning for post-16 provision should start when the child reaches year 9 (aged 14 years) and should involve inputs from a range of agencies. Young people without a statement should also be offered guidance and support with post-16 transition. (Paragraph 349)

94.  There needs to be an urgent examination of how to boost practical links over SEN between schools and post-16 colleges, drawing on some of the successful examples such as the Darlington experience. The emphasis by Government in developing 14-19 vocational qualifications make this particularly urgent if children with SEN and disabilities are not to be discriminated against in this process. (Paragraph 350)

Partnership working and Every Child Matters

95.  Collaborative working is required across schools and across agencies to achieve the sharing of provision, facilities, expertise, and support for the benefit of children with SEN. Communities or clusters of schools should be working together where all children feel they belong. These should include special schools, which have a great deal to offer to such collaborations with regard to specialist facilities and expertise. (Paragraph 351)

Collaboration between mainstream and special schools

96.  The focus in the Education and Inspection Bill on creating autonomous, independent schools seems to contradict the aim of creating clusters and communities of schools. (Paragraph 357)

97.  The Government should resolve apparent contradictions in its strategy outlined in the Education and Inspection Bill between, on the one hand, giving greater autonomy to individual schools including a greater number of City Academies and, on the other hand, its SEN strategy that urges schools to be working in partnership to build collaboration to share resources and specialist knowledge. The Government should provide specific funding to local authorities to increase the extent to which they are able to facilitate and encourage collaborative arrangements where communities of schools work together, sharing facilities and professional expertise, to improve the outcomes for children with SEN. (Paragraph 360)

SEN and the Every Child Matters agenda

98.  The Every Child Matters agenda with its emphasis on five broad outcome measures (being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution to society, and achieving economic well being), inter-agency working, establishing lead professionals, and using the extended services agenda to bring sectors together has the capacity to achieve a great deal for children with SEN. The potential benefits of implementing this key Government agenda for children with SEN should be fully realised. (Paragraph 364)

99.  The Government should seek to resolve issues with regard to partnership working with health professionals. A national strategy should include minimum standards in terms of access to therapy provision and other health provision for those children that need it. The DfES should work with the Department for Health to achieve joint-service working and ensure that children's needs are being met. (Paragraph 368)

Effective partnership with parents and communities

100.  The Government need to re-think their approach to involving parents. The Government should set out clear expectations for parents in terms of minimum standards of provision and access to a broad and flexible range of appropriate provision. The Government should seek to actively involve parents as part of their early intervention strategy and keep them involved as much as possible at all stages. The Government should try to ensure that local councils and schools do their utmost to co-operate in this process. It is essential that mechanisms are in place to ensure that parents are well informed throughout the whole process. (Paragraph 373)

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