The Government's draft legislation on reform of provision
for children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
was intended to deliver "the biggest reforms for 30 years"
for children and young people with SEN. Expectations amongst interested
parties were raised extremely high as a result of the ambitions
expressed in the 2011 Green Paper on SEN, and the risk of failing
these expectations is very real ifas the Minister conceded
the Government does not "get the legislation right".
Our report concludes that the general thrust of the
draft clauses is sound, but the legislation lacks detail, without
which a thorough evaluation of the likely success of the Government's
proposals is impossible. The Government intends to provide this
detail in regulations and a revised SEN Code of Practice. It is
essential that these documents address the concerns raised in
the detailed written submissions to our inquiry and that the revised
Code of Practice remains a statutory document, subject to consultation
and laid before Parliament.
The SEN Pathfinders are at an early stage. We welcome
the Minister's decision to extend the Pathfinders for a further
18 months to inform regulations and the Code of Practice. We do
not recommend any delay in introducing the Bill.
In the light of the Government's proposals for an
SEN framework that supports young people from birth to 25 years
of age, we are particularly concerned at the Pathfinders' lack
of engagement with post-16 education providers. We recommend that
this shortcoming is addressed in the extended Pathfinders.
We believe that the Government is relying too heavily
on the duty of joint commissioning between local authorities,
Health and social care in order for the reforms to work. The active
involvement of the NHS in commissioning, delivery and redress
is critical to the success of the legislation. Despite the acknowledged
difficulties, the Government must ensure that the NHS is obliged
to participate fully. We make various recommendations on this
point, including that regulations should commit Health to adhere
to timetables for assessments of SEN. We also call for the Government
to clarify in the legislation how responsibility for the provision
of services which can be defined either as supporting health or
special educational needssuch as speech and language therapywill
We welcome the principle of integrated Education
Health and Care assessments, but believe that they will require
much more rigorous testing and shaping through the Pathfinders
in order to advise regulation in this area. We conclude that the
Government should focus on how to achieve good quality assessments
and that regulations should stipulate how this should be achieved.
We also recommend that all current protections afforded by a
Statement of SEN be maintained in the new legislation.
The Government's proposals for compulsory mediation
met with strong resistance from our witnesses. However, we also
noted much support for the concept of early and meaningful engagement
and discussion with parents and so we recommend that mediation
should not be compulsory, but that consideration of mediation
We believe that the scope of entitlement to integrated
Education Health and Care provision and assessments should be
extended to disabled children, with or without SEN, and also to
young people undertaking apprenticeships. Whilst we maintain that
Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) should retain a focus
on the achievement of educational outcomes, we make recommendations
as to how this aspect of the legislation could be made more accommodating
to the needs of young people with SEN who move in and out of education,
and to young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs).
We welcome the extension of the list of schools for
which parents can express a preference in an EHCP to include academies
and free schools. However, we recommend that independent special
schools and colleges should also be included on this list.
Good quality Local Offers are pivotal to the success
of the Government's proposals, particularly for those children
with SEN but without an EHCP. The involvement of parents and young
people in the development of Local Offers is critical, and we
recommend that the role of parents and young people be reinforced
in primary legislation. We also make recommendations for minimum
standards and a national framework for Local Offers, along with
improved accountability measures.