Under a government proposal designed to end the current postcode lottery, mainstream schools in England will need to “change their culture and practice” to include more children with special educational needs and disabilities.
In a green paper released on Tuesday, the government plans to amend the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SHEP) system, including proposals for early intervention to increase accountability and ensure that children’s needs are better met in local settings.
The paper will propose new national standards across education, health and care to better assist children with SAND, as well as a legal requirement for councils to publish inclusion plans to clarify responsibilities in various sectors.
Introducing an “inclusion dashboard” that includes proposals to help parents understand what is available in their area, as well as a simplified, digitized education, health and care plan for children most in need of reducing bureaucracy and helping parents. Choose from a list of appropriate placements.
The proposals include a plan for a new national framework for banding and tariffs for children, which will require various degrees of support to help keep the system on a financially sustainable footing.
Under the current regime, parents often have to fight long battles to secure proper provisions for their children, in a system that is largely bureaucratic and antagonistic. Some specialist arrangements are only available outside the area, costing thousands of pounds for the most needy children.
Prior to the release, Education Secretary Nadeem Jahawi said: “We want to end the postcode lottery of uncertainty and poor accountability that exists for many families, increase confidence in the system across the board and enhance local mainstream and specialist education. Give your parents a better choice. “
The plans are outlined in the government’s long-awaited Green Paper, which comes at the end of a cross-government review launched in 2019. The publication will be followed by a 13-week consultation. It will also include alternative arrangements for children unable to enter mainstream schools for a variety of reasons, including special educational needs in its approach to a single, national system.
Prior to the full release of the paper, some proposals had initial support from within the sector, although teacher unions insisted that schools were already included, but children were struggling to access support because of cuts. They called for more investment.
Dr. Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT Teachers Union, agrees that many students are not able to access the support they need and deserve it. “It’s not because of the failure of the school staff, who are working tirelessly to give their best for these students,” he said.
“The government needs to acknowledge that the shortfall in funding for specialist services and the long-awaited assessment of the actual reduction in school budgets have contributed to the decline in the level of support available to students.”
Jolanta Lassota, chief executive of the Autism Awareness Agency, said that while some proposals are welcome, others may sound alarm bells for parents. “The plan to strengthen accountability in the system and to provide more support to help young people bridge the gap between education and employment is a positive step towards improving outcomes for autistic students.”
“However, proposals to introduce a new structure for high-end support banding need to be closely scrutinized. Autistic teens and their needs do not easily fit into a neat box or band. “
Joe Hutchinson, a director at the Institute for Education Policy, said: Families across the country will rightly believe that when it comes to better delivery. “
The shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, added: “This paper has been delayed three times, it took about 1,000 days to compile, yet it still fails to translate into the support needed to change this image.”