Commenting on the publication of the Government’s plan for young people in England with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or in alternative provision (AP), Rosamund McNeil, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Whilst we welcome ambitions to transform the landscape of SEND, we remain unconvinced that the measures proposed will improve the standard of provision that is currently on offer. Throughout the consultation process, teacher unions, parents and expert associations raised concerns about the 'National Standards' which will replace the SEND Code of Practice, yet the Department for Education have pressed ahead with this ill-advised change.
“There is no evidence that National Standards for SEND will improve access to the specialist support services that schools tell us is the most challenging aspect of keeping students in mainstream provision. The proposals place the emphasis on already stretched schools doing more through the current available provision. Without funding and a more timely expansion of professional support, such as speech and language therapy and Camhs, schools will buckle and more SEND young people are likely to fall between the cracks of the system.
“Since 2015 the number of children and young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) has increased by 97%. The Department for Education has only increased funding by 65% and that is before seven years of inflation is taken into account. There is now a £3.3 billion gap between funding the DfE provides through the High Needs Block and the cost of restoring the value of an EHCP to its real terms value in 2015-16.
“We welcome additional special school places for those students who need them but remain concerned that with limited numbers of new areas accessing funding to build 33 new special schools, there continues to be a postcode lottery of provision which will not meet the current, let alone future, needs of SEND young people.”