Commenting on preview summaries of the SEND Green Paper which is to be published today (Tuesday), Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

"We are relieved that Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) education are seen as a priority for the Education Secretary, and we agree a new approach is needed. The rising cost of educational support for students with SEND has been clear for a number of years.

"The much-delayed Green Paper offers some positive proposals that demonstrate that the government has been listening to the profession to some degree.  A standard Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) may reduce workload for the school staff responsible for carrying out these important assessments.

"National standards for SEND have the potential to act as a catalyst to better support, but they must come with sufficient funding.  Collaboration across agencies, and the personnel and financial resource this requires, is vital if the new National Standards are to work on the ground. Good outcomes for children with SEND are particularly dependent on retaining experienced teachers and experienced support staff. This Green Paper must ensure that school budgets enable leaders to deploy enough staff across the timetable. ‘Catch up’ for children with SEND will need more than the National Tutoring Programme, so staffing levels and expertise in the school will be the ‘make or break’ factor.

"NEU analysis indicates that the High Needs Block should be £2.5bn a year higher, assuming the 2021/22 number of EHCPs were funded at the 2015/16 rate.  Parents want to see the right support for their son or daughter when it’s required and too often schools can’t meet parental expectations because of funding constraints. Schools cannot increase parental levels of confidence whilst juggling real terms cuts and losing essential skilled staff. Staff retention is the elephant in the room in this Green Paper.

"A new national framework for councils for banding and tariffs of High Needs must be set at the level to match actual need to avoid levelling down and to address gaps in provision. Starting from the premise of capping funding will not increase staff or parental confidence in the SEND system or grow collaborative practice.  Aligning funding bands and tariffs with the National Standards will set a ceiling on funding for more specialist provision and may leave schools with responsibility but insufficient funding for young people who need more specialised support.

"The timing of this is delicate and complex. We think that the Government should not plan to reduce places in specialist settings until it has shown it can successfully provide the tools, staffing and flexibility in mainstream settings.

"Some of the expertise from which we can and should learn is to be found within the excellent teaching in Alternative Provision. The NEU endorses the aim to fund AP differently, with less reliance on place funding and greater opportunities to attract and retain experienced staff and plan for the longer term.

"We support the planned call for evidence on unregistered provision and improved oversight of pupil transitions. Better collection of data on the disproportionate exclusions of specific groups of young people is required.

"With the SEND Green Paper following in quick succession on the Schools White Paper, there is a clear desire by the Education Secretary to make announcements about how schools can respond to the pandemic. But leaders, SENCOs and school staff are looking for actual support and proper recovery funding to help them remove barriers to learning and well-being, rather than new academic targets and more pressure from Ofsted. The funding challenge remains."

ENDS 

2022-053-NEU 

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