Many of the 1.3 million school-age children in England who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are not getting the support that they need. This is a failure that damages their education, well-being and future life chances. Half of the local authority areas inspected are not supporting children and young people with SEND as well as they should, and the action plans these areas have put in place are not addressing their weaknesses quickly enough. The Department for Education (the Department) has not done enough to understand the reasons for significant disparities in children’s identified needs and access to support—between girls and boys, different ethnic groups and different parts of the country. Education, health and care (EHC) plans have become a ‘golden ticket’ that parents fight for to secure access to adequate support for their children. Children with SEND but who do not have EHC plans risk missing out on the support they need, especially in mainstream schools that are under significant financial pressure. Parents still feel left out of decisions that affect their children, and they do not have full confidence in the system.
We remain to be convinced that the Department has sufficient grip on what needs to be done to tackle the growing pressures on the SEND system. In September 2019, the Department announced a major review of SEND provision, promising to improve services and address what it described as the ‘postcode lottery’ that children and families often face. The Department has given few details about the review and has not indicated when it will be completed. However, the weaknesses in support for children with SEND are already well known—what we expect from the Department now is concrete action to address these significant failings.
Published: 6 May 2020