News | Published October 23 2019

Commons Education Committee unveils poor SEND practices in new report

The Commons Education Committee has hit out at special educational needs and disabilities provision for children and young people in a new report, calling it a “major social injustice”.

The committee claims that any parents pursuing SEND support for their children are met with buck passing and unlawful practices, leaving parents having to fight for the rights of their children at school in tribunals with local authorities.

It furthermore accused the government of putting councils in the firing line by slashing their budgets.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said that budgets have reached “breaking point” amid “severe cuts to local authority health and social-care provision”, which has left both schools and councils “struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils”.

The government has commissioned a thorough review into the system, adding that more funds are being allocated to councils for such resources.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “No child should be held back from reaching their potential, including those with special educational needs.

"That's why we recently announced a £780 million increase to local authorities' high-needs funding, boosting the budget by 12 per cent and bringing the total spent on supporting those with the most complex needs to over £7 billion for 2020-21.

"This report recognises the improvements made to the system over five years ago were the right ones and put families and children at the heart of the process.

"But through our review of these reforms, we are focused on making sure they work for every child, in every part of the country."

The committee’s report, compiled of interviews and evidence collated over an 18-month timeframe, concluded that a child’s access to support should not boil down to the “education” or “social capital” of their parents, nor the “support of people with whom they happen to come into contact”, as it does now.

The report reads: “Children and parents are not ‘in the know’ and for some, the law may not even appear to exist.

“For some, Parliament might as well not have bothered to legislate.”

The report went on to criticise the government’s lack of oversight over how the ailing system, first implemented in 2014, was working.

It reads: "The [education] department did not need to preside serenely over chaos for five years to see that things were not going as planned.”

National Deaf Children's Society director Steve Haines called it “the most damning select committee report” he had ever read, adding that it shows a “broken” education system for children with disabilities.

The committee has proposed a number of solutions for the system, including the implementation of an assessment process to determine an individual child’s educational, health and care [EHC] needs.

It also recommends closer collaboration between the NHS in the local area and the council to help affected individuals, while making schools responsible for providing lower level support.

It also suggests that a child’s individual EHC plan should make provisions to help prepare them for adulthood.

Furthermore, the MPs on the committee believe that Ofsted should take more of an active role in monitoring SEND support and have a direct line to report to the DfE if they feel local authorities are coming up short.

Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Committee, said that many parents go through “titanic” struggles to merely “ensure their child gets access to the right support” and that they should not be forced to "struggle" in such a way any longer.

Halfon added: "Families are often forced to wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, in a system which breeds conflict and despair as parents try to navigate a postcode lottery of provision.

"Children and parents should not have to struggle in this way. They should be supported.”

Haines echoed these sentiments, saying that: “Parents are forced to become protesters, lawyers and bureaucrats to stand any sort of chance of getting the support their child is legally entitled to.”

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
October 23 2019

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