Children and Families Act 2014: A failure of implementation Contents

Appendix 4: Chair’s correspondence on SEND

Letter from the Chair Baroness Tyler of Enfield to The Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, Secretary of State, DfE, 19 July 2022

I am writing to you as. Chair of the Select Committee on the Children and Families Act 2014. As you will know, the Act covers a wide range of issues. Part 3—on special educational needs and disabilities—has already received post-legislative scrutiny from the Education Select Committee in 2019. However, we did not want to neglect this important area. We therefore held an evidence session on SEND with three leading experts in the field, took written evidence, put out an online survey for parents, and visited a school and SEND community centre in Barnet. This letter is a summary of the most pressing issues which have come to light through our work and represents our response to the Green Paper.

We welcome the review and consultation as an opportunity to improve the situation of children and young people with SEND. It is dear from the evidence we have received that the system is failing many of our children and young people across England and Wales.

However, we are disappointed that the review, first announced in 2019, has taken so long to come to fruition. With no clear timeline set for the next steps following the consultation, we are concerned that the reforms to the system will continue to be drawn out indefinitely. We call on the Government to make clear how it will make use of the responses it receives to the consultation, and set out a timeline for when children, young people and their parents and carers can expect to see meaningful change in the system. Every year that passes without a well-functioning SEND system is another year of a child’s education that is failing.

Our witnesses agreed that the 2014 reforms were, fundamentally, the right ones. However, it was clear that little thought was given to the implementation of the 2014 reforms, particularly how their success would be measured. As a result, entirely unsuitable metrics such as the number of conversions of statements to EHCPs became primary markers of success, rather than the educational outcomes of children and young people.

The Green Paper makes limited reference to implementation, which is as crucial as the substance of the promised reforms. At the same time as it sets out its plans for reform, we call on the Government to outline an implementation plan and define metrics for success so that these can be tracked and monitored.

There is an excessive focus in the Green Paper oil EHCPs, and not enough consideration given to supporting pupils with SEND but without an EHCP. There are many pupils receiving SEN support without an EHCP, yet this Green Paper has little to offer them. We are concerned that greater financial sustainability of the SEND system will not be achieved unless more consideration is given to early intervention and better mainstream provision for those students who need SEN support without an EHCP.

The financial strain on the system is clear. Our evidence shows that the current mechanisms of allocating funding do not match pupil need in all cases. Linking pupil funding to proxy metrics such as deprivation means that schools with high numbers of pupils with SEND can find themselves under serious financial strain. On our visit to a ‘magnet’ school in Barnet, with an excellent reputation for SEND provision, we saw clearly how these schools in low deprivation areas are trying to do their best by pupils but are constrained by the funding allocation formulas.

Funding allocation needs serious consideration to reflect the concerns that have been expressed to us. Our witnesses also called for better tracking of spending to ensure the Government achieves value for money. We note that some proposals in the Green Paper, including those around banding and tariffs, are aimed at making the system more financially sustainable. We cautiously welcome these proposals, provided they can be achieved without rationing support for pupils.

Joined up working between education, health and social care remains unrealised. We were told by students that, too often, health and social care are absent partners. They also told us that their parents had to struggle against a tide of bureaucracy. On our visit to Barnet, we met one parent of a young baby who was co-ordinating support from 36 separate staff across health and social care. Long waits for diagnoses of mental health conditions can delay a child’s ability to secure additional educational support.

Education, health and social care represent three crucial pillars of a child’s wellbeing, and all should function to a high-standard and work collaboratively. The proposals for a set of national standards could make welcome improvements, but they should strike a balance between driving national change and remaining flexible enough to enable local innovation.

We also call on the Government to bring forward proposals to ensure all agencies abide by these standards. Our evidence has shown an absence of accountability across the system, forcing parents to dedicate their time to advocating for their children. Currently, accountability in the system is achieved primarily tribunals but this is an expensive process which places the burden on parents to fight for their child’s rights. The Government’s proposals to reform the tribunal system are too focused on remedying poor provision and unlawful behaviour, rather than preventing it occurring in the first place.

Balancing differing views about a child’s best interest is difficult, particularly where there is disagreement between parents and schools as to whether a school would be the right fit. We have been told by schools that the pararriountcy of parental preference can result in them taking children whom they know they cannot properly support. When these placements inevitably break down it is disruptive to all involved.

Although parents are trying to secure the best possible education for their child, schools have a wealth of professional experience which informs their judgement and deserves respect. More should be done to re.:balance the views of parents and schools when determining where a child will be placed, recognising that both parents and schools have valuable insight on how a child can best be educated.

The goal of a well-functioning SEND system should be to provide a high-quality education to children and young people, enabling them to fulfil their potential. These reforms should reflect the inclusive society we wish to be. lnclusivity .benefits all pupils, promoting tolerance and an appreciation for diversity.

We look forward to your response to the consultation and to discussing issues raised by the rest of the Act, at the ministerial evidence session on Monday 12 September.

Response to the Chair Baroness Tyler of Enfield from Will Quince MP Minister of State for School Standards, 30 August 2022

Thank you for your letter dated 22 July. I welcome the continued engagement of the Select Committee on the Children and Families Act 2014 as we deliver reforms to the SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) system.

The SEND and AP green paper sets out an ambitious vision to tackle the challenges facing the current system: improving poor outcomes, improving experiences, and addressing the adversarial nature of the system, and delivering long term sustainability. The proposals have been informed by the hundreds of stakeholders, including children, young people and their families, that we listened to through the course of the SEND Review.

During the subsequent consultation, in addition to the responses we received through the e-consultation, we have attended 175 consultation events, reaching thousands of people. We are using this feedback, and continued engagement with the system, to inform the next stage of delivering improvements for children, young people, and their families. This includes exploring ways in which we can deliver better value for money, encourage better joined up working across education, health and care partners, and deliver on our vision for a more inclusive system.

We will publish an improvement plan which will outline our approach to building capacity to achieve the behaviours and culture required for the successful implementation of these policy reforms. We will write to you upon publication of this response.

The improvement plan will explain how we will evaluate progress against our stated goals to improve outcomes, build parental confidence and deliver financial sustainability to the system, and the metrics we will use to monitor success.

Thank you for your ongoing support and critical challenge.

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