A generation of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is failing to receive the support it deserves, with poorly implemented legislation leaving families facing a nightmare of bureaucracy, buck-passing and confusion.
Today’s report from Parliament’s influential Education Select Committee follows an 18-month inquiry into Government reforms aimed at placing children and young people at the heart of the SEND system. The Committee heard from more than 70 witnesses and received more than 700 submissions of written evidence.
The Committee concludes that while the reforms to the support for children and young people contained in the Children and Families Act 2014 were the right ones, poor implementation has put local authorities under pressure, left schools struggling to cope and, ultimately, thrown families into crisis.
The Committee heard overwhelming evidence that the reforms were letting down young people who need additional support with their education. It heard from young people that poor support can result in them being isolated in school, unable to access the curriculum and find it hard to make friends. As adults, the training and employment opportunities were found to be poor, deriving from a fundamental lack of ambition for young people with SEND across the country.
“The Education Select Committee, at my instigation and following casework I received from local families, conducted a thorough investigation into the state of SEND services in England and highlighted some major failings for children, young people and parents.
“Our 18-month long inquiry, which included testimony and evidence from Bury parents, found that the system is failing children and young people day after day, with parents facing an uphill battle just to secure the basic support their children need.
“We’re calling for more rigorous inspections of local authority SEND provision, a greater emphasis on SEND in school inspections, a right of appeal to the DfE for parents when authorities fail in their duties and more training and employment opportunities for young people with SEND post-16.
“I hope the Government will pay close attention and enact these changes to ensure that the SEND system works for those who need it.”
The report recommends a series of measures to strengthen inspections, support parents going through the Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) process and ensure those responsible for SEND provision are held accountable when things go wrong.
The Committee makes the following key recommendations:
- A more rigorous inspection framework for local authorities, with clear consequences for failure. There should be a greater focus on SEND in school inspections.
- A direct line for parents and schools to appeal directly to the Department for Education where local authorities appear not to be complying with the law.
- Powers for the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to investigate complaints about schools.
- The development of more employment and training opportunities for post-16 young people
Watch coverage of the report on Granada Reports with James and Bury mum Sally Bennett