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Summary of the SEND review: right support, right place, right time – GOV.UK

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Updated 27 May 2022

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The government is determined to level up opportunities for all children and young people – without exception. We are just as ambitious for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) as for every other child.
The SEND review sets out government’s proposals for a system that offers children and young people the opportunity to thrive, with access to the right support, in the right place, and at the right time, so they can fulfil their potential and lead happy, healthy and productive adult lives.
The reforms to the SEND system introduced in 2014 had the right aspirations and since then there has been much to celebrate. It is clear that the system is driven by a hardworking and dedicated workforce. However, despite examples of good practice, too often the experiences and outcomes of children and young people are poor. Parents and carers are frustrated at having to navigate an increasingly complex and adversarial system. Growing tension across the system is causing delays in accessing support and increasing financial challenges for local government.
The SEND review is a response to the widespread recognition that the system is failing to deliver for children, young people and their families.
Over the course of the review, we have listened to a wide range of people, most importantly children, young people and their families. As the review progressed it became clear that alternative provision is increasingly being used to supplement the SEND system. Therefore, we have looked at the specific challenges facing the alternative provision sector, and proposed potential solutions, as part of this review.
The review has identified 3 key challenges facing the SEND and alternative provision system.
For both families and providers, the review has identified there is significant inconsistency in how needs are met. Decisions are too often made based on where a child or young person lives or is educated, not on their needs.
This cycle starts in early years and mainstream schools, where despite best endeavours, settings are often ill-equipped to identify and support children and young people. Inconsistent practice makes this worse.
It is not clear to families what they should reasonably expect from their local mainstream settings, and they lose confidence that these settings can meet their child’s needs. As a result, education, health and care plans (EHCPs) and, in some cases, specialist provision, are seen as the only means of guaranteeing the right and appropriate support.
Increasing numbers of requests for EHCPs and specialist provision means that children and young people face significant delays in accessing support.
Some children and young people, including those with more complex needs, face long journeys to get to school or have to attend a placement outside of their local area, taking them away from their local community.
Financial resource and workforce capacity is pulled to the specialist end of the system so there is less available to deliver early intervention and effective, timely support in mainstream settings. As a result, the vicious cycle continues with outcomes and experiences for children and young people continuing to suffer and costs increasing.
The vast majority of children and young people should be able to access the support they need to thrive in their local mainstream setting, without bureaucratic processes, or the need for an EHCP or a placement in special or alternative provision. They should have their needs identified promptly, with appropriate support put in place at the earliest opportunity.
For some children and young people, specialist provision will be the most appropriate placement for them to be able to learn and succeed. They should be able to access this with minimal bureaucracy.
The green paper is consulting on ambitious proposals to deliver greater national consistency in the support that should be made available, how it should be accessed and how it should be funded. It sets out plans for an inclusive system, starting with improved mainstream provision that offers early and accurate identification of needs, high-quality teaching, and prompt access to targeted support.
An inclusive system will also ensure that children and young people have timely access to specialist services and support, including specialist placements where this is appropriate. This will be underpinned by strong co-production with families and accountability at every level, and improved data collection to give a timely picture of how the system is performing.
The review concludes that there is a need for much greater consistency in how needs are identified and supported, so decisions are made based on a child or young person’s needs in co-production with families, not where they live or the setting they attend.
We propose to:
The review has heard that we need a more inclusive education system to ensure that children and young people with SEND are set up to thrive.
We will:
At their best, alternative provision schools are experts in supporting children and young people whose behaviour or other needs can present a barrier to learning. But, too often the role of alternative provision is unclear, and it is used too late or in a way that is not best focused on children’s needs.
To address these barriers, we propose to:
The review has heard the need to align system incentives and accountabilities to reduce perverse behaviours that drive poor outcomes and high costs in the current system.
We propose to:
The publication of the green paper marks the start of a 13-week consultation process, closing on 22 July 2022. We encourage everyone to reflect on the proposals in the green paper and respond to our consultation. Alongside the written consultation will be a series of events to gather additional views and contribute to the overall consultation.
We know that there are immediate changes that can be made now to help stabilise the current system. We are taking immediate steps to stabilise local SEND systems through the safety valve and delivering better value programmes. The proposals set out in the green paper will align with wider reforms around levelling up, including policy set out in the recent schools white paper, as well as the forthcoming independent review of children’s social care and wider reforms to the delivery landscape across health and care.
Later this year, following the completion of the consultation, we will publish a national SEND delivery plan, setting out the government’s response to the consultation and how the proposals will be implemented. Together, we can ensure every child and young person with SEND and those in alternative provision can thrive and be well prepared for adult life.
To find out more about the SEND review visit
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