“There should be someone there to ensure that this child and children like this get what they deserve and what is needed for them to have the best future, and are not tossed aside and forgotten about in the system.” [Jordan]
2.The Government proposed significant reforms to the special educational needs and disability system in 2011, in the Green Paper Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability. These proposals and reforms became Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014, which introduced the potentially most significant reforms to the SEND system since Baroness Warnock’s Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People, published in 1978. A number of reports have considered aspects of the education of children with special educational needs since then, including the 2006 report by the Education and Skills Committee, and the 2009 Lamb Inquiry, which looked at parental confidence in the SEND system.
3.The Coalition Government set out a number of actions and proposals for improving support and educational provision for children and young people with SEND and their families, including:
4.The proposed reforms were ambitious and transformative. In the foreword to the Green Paper, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, the then Secretary of State for Education, and Sarah Teather MP, the then Minister of State for Children and Families, wrote:
It is about their aspirations and their hopes. Their desire to become, like every child and young person, independent and successful in their chosen future, and, to the greatest extent possible, the author of their own life story. It is about their families—who have consistently called for better support for their children and themselves.
Families of the most disabled children who are providing 24-hour care from birth, or the families of children struggling at school and who don’t know where to turn for help.
It is also about their teachers, their college lecturers, and the many skilled staff from the health and social care professions who do their best, day in and day out, to provide the right support and encourage the highest aspirations.
5.The Government’s proposals were trialled extensively. In October 2011, the Government created 20 trials with 31 ‘pathfinder’ local authorities. These trials looked at different aspects of the reforms and were externally evaluated by a consortium led by SQW, a consultancy organisation, and a final report was published in 2015. ‘Pathfinder Champions’ were appointed in April 2013 to help non-pathfinder areas to prepare for the SEND reforms. The legislation began its journey through Parliament in 2013, with a previous Education Committee undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny of Part 3 of the Bill. Some members of that Committee were also members of the Public Bill Committee.
6.We launched our inquiry on 18 April 2018. We set out with the express intention of conducting post-legislative scrutiny of Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014, set in the context of the Act’s implementation and the human experience of the reforms. We understood that this human experience would encompass many different parties and organisations, and we were keen to hear as many different perspectives as possible. We received over 700 submissions of written evidence, many of which were personal testimonies from parents and carers telling us how the reforms had personally affected their children and their families. We took a great deal of care over the handling of this evidence and where sensitive or personal details were included, we made careful decisions over anonymisation, redaction and in some cases, keeping submissions confidential. A summary of some of the confidential responses that we received is appended to this report.
7.We held twelve oral evidence sessions, hearing from parents, children and young people, representatives from charitable organisations, schools, colleges, local authorities and the health sector and the Minister of State for Care, the Minister of State for School Standards and the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families. We thank everyone who made a submission to our inquiry and those who gave oral evidence for their time and contributions. We also thank the professionals and organisations who supported those witnesses who had personal experience of the system to come and talk to us.
8.Funding was a substantial issue that ran through the written and oral evidence. We held a concurrent inquiry into school and college funding, including a joint evidence session which covered funding issues relating to special educational needs and disabilities. Our report A ten-year plan for school and college funding was published in July 2019 and covers issues relating to how funding is allocated to schools, including the high needs block which is the part of the Dedicated Schools Grant that funds high level support for children with SEND, including special school places and provision in Education Health and Care Plans. We examined early intervention and use of the notional budget, which is the funding that all schools get given to meet low level special educational needs. We also urged the Government to increase its overall funding to schools and colleges. Specifically, we called for the Government to:
9.On 30 August 2019, the Department for Education announced an increase in funding of £14 billion for schools between now and 2022/23. This included only just over £700 million for children with SEND in 2020–21. The Department also announced an extra £500 million of funding for further education. However, it is disappointing that schools must wait until the next financial year for this much-needed funding for SEND, and we need to see more detail about how this money will be distributed and whether it will be ringfenced. We are pleased that the Government is addressing the funding needs, and this is a big step in the right direction, but we are not convinced about the extent to which this announcement alone will tackle the funding challenges for support for children and young people with SEND. While an increase in funding is essential, this must go hand in hand with cultural and systemic changes on the ground. On 4 September 2019, the Chancellor announced an additional £1 billion for children’s and adult social care, and a consultation on the Adult Social Care precept. This is to be welcomed but, like the funding for schools, we would expect this to be a first step for the Treasury’s spending plans.
10.This inquiry was a very significant undertaking. We knew that it would take time, and that we would not be able to cover every issue that came up in our oral and written evidence. We made a specific decision not to look at the particular types of needs facing groups of children and young people. Our focus has been on how the system works and how it needs to be changed so that it works for all children. This report sets out some of the many challenges that we heard about, and some of our key concerns. It tries to set out the experiences of all parties involved from their perspective. We look at the implementation process of the legislation and how some of the decisions made at the time had an impact on the current situation. We then set out the experiences of different parties, looking at the challenges they face and the impact that it had. Finally, we set out our conclusions and recommendations, in a section where we try to draw the experiences together and set out the need for change.
11.The language around Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and the SEND system is complicated. We often read or were told about parents requesting an EHCP instead of a Needs Assessment. We think that this is indicative of wider problems which are explored in more detail in Part 2. Throughout our report, we refer to parents requesting a needs assessment where they may have told us that they requested an Education Health and Care Plan. We also use special educational needs and disability (SEND) as a term to refer to any child or young person who may have a special educational need or disability that means that they are in some way affected by the reforms. Unless there is a specific reason not to, we use the term throughout the report.
12.In 2018 there were a number of announcements about provision for special educational needs and disabilities. In July 2018, a consortium formed of UCL’s Institute for Education’s Centre for Inclusive Education and the National Association for Special Educational Needs was announced to spread best practice for pupils with SEND across England, including a review of mandatory qualifications and to develop regional SEND focused training hubs. In November 2018 the Department published successful applications from trusts to local authorities to run special free schools, and this was followed in March 2019 by the announcement of a further 37 successful local authority bids for special schools and it is currently advertising for groups to run them. In December 2018, the Department announced an additional £350 million for high needs funding. This funding included money to increase the number of educational psychologists who are trained from 106 to 206 each year. This was followed in March 2019 by an announcement of a further £31.6 million to support this increase, contributing to the operating costs of training providers and will contribute to the cost of trainees’ tuition, including a first-year bursary grant.
13.The SEND Code of Practice is statutory guidance, setting out how organisations, including local authorities, schools and the health sector should, and in some cases must, support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities. In 2019, the Department for Education committed to reviewing the Code of Practice following Edward Timpson’s review of school exclusions. It also launched a call for evidence in May 2019 on the financial arrangements for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and those who attend alternative provision. Developments have also included a significant number of parents taking their local authorities to judicial review, including, in June 2019 the families of three children taking the Treasury and Department for Education to the High Court regarding funding for SEND provision. In October, the claim was dismissed, with the court finding that there had been no unlawful discrimination. However, we note that this was a ruling on whether there had been discrimination or irrationality grounds, rather than a wider comment on the current support available for young people with SEND.
14.In September 2019, the National Audit Office (NAO) published its report Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England. It assessed how well pupils with SEND are supported, looking at the SEND system and its outcomes, funding, spending and financial sustainability and the quality of support and experiences of pupils and their families. It found that the Department does not know the impact of the support that is given to children with SEND, and that while the Department has increased school funding, it has not kept up with the increase in pupil numbers. The NAO’s report also stated that the Department did not fully assess the potential financial consequences of the 2014 reforms. It is a helpful and complementary piece of work to this report. The following month, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman published Not going to plan? Education, Health and Care plans two years on, which found a number of problems including severe delays when issuing a plan and communication and preparation for meetings. This too is a useful piece of work which draws attention to problems that we address in our report. We also note the publication of Ofsted’s exploratory study Exploring moving to home education in secondary schools, published in October, which identified that children who move into home education often have complex needs. This is in line with much of the evidence that we heard. This is further fuel to the fire of ever-growing evidence that tells the Government that it must act.
1 Department for Education, Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability, , March 2011
2 Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People, Cmnd. , (Session 1977–78)
4 , (December 2009)
5 Organisations within the health, education and social care sectors
6 Department for Education, ‘’, accessed 29 August 2019
7 Department for Education, Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability, , March 2011, p2
8 Department for Education ‘’, accessed 29 August 2019
9 Department for Education, The Special Educational Needs and Disability Pathfinder Programme Evaluation Final Impact Research Report, (July 2015)
10 Department for Education ‘’, accessed 29 August 2019
11 Education Committee, Sixth Report of Session 2012–13, Pre-legislative scrutiny: Special Educational Needs, HC 631–I
14 Department for Education, ‘’ accessed 3 September 2019
16 University College London, ‘’, accessed 29 August 2019
17 Department for Education, ‘’, accessed 29 August 2019
18 Department for Education, ‘’, accessed 29 August 2019; Department for Education ‘’ accessed 29 August
19 “‘” Schools Week, 20 March 2019
20 Under section 77 of the 2014 Act, the Secretary of State is under a duty to issue a code of practice, and the bodies listed in that section are required to “have regard to” the code in exercising their functions.
21 [Nadhim Zahawi]
22 Department for Education, , accessed 29 August
23 Irwin Mitchell, ‘’ accessed 30 August 2019
24 National Audit Office, Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England, Session 2017–19, HC 2636, 11 September 2019
25 National Audit Office, Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England, Session 2017–19, HC 2636, 11 September 2019, para 8
26 National Audit Office, Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England, Session 2017–19, HC 2636, 11 September 2019, paras 10 and 12
27 National Audit Office, Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England, Session 2017–19, HC 2636, 11 September 2019, para 15
28 Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Not going to plan? - Education, Health and Care plans two years on, (October 2019)
29 Ofsted, Exploring moving to home education in secondary schools, (October 2019)
Published: 23 October 2019