On the 22nd October 2019 , the Government’s Education Select Committee published their damning report on Special Educational Needs/Disability (SEND) provision in State Schools.
Shockingly it reveals that “Parents and carers have to wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, full of conflict, missed appointments and despair. Many local authorities are compounding this with unlawful practice.”
The report cites some useful figures to put this into context:
- An estimated 1,318,300 pupils are reported to have a recognised SEND, which is 14.9% of all pupils, yet only 271,200 had an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Additionally, there were 1500 children with SEND with no EHCP who do not have a school. Some children wait up to 2 years for a school place.
- The advent of the EHCP was supposed to solve much of this in replacing the Statement of Special Needs. However, whereas a Statement was reckoned to take 10 – 15 hours to assess, an EHCP can take 30 to 40 hours and schools, and local authorities are woefully under resourced with educational psychologists overwhelmed with demand for assessments.
- In 2018 the average Attainment 8 (the measure of a student’s grade across 8 subjects) score for state school pupils was 46.5, whereas SEND pupils scored 27.2, (efforts have been made to excuse this as a result of the changes made to this cohorts KS2 scores in 2014 but in real terms the impact was negligible).
- Schools often reported that none of the Government’s extra funding found its way into school SEND budgets. Indeed, some state schools were found to be diverting the SEND budget to bail out their overall school deficits!
So, what can anxious parents do?
There are quite a large number of private Specialist SEN schools, schools with specialist provision as well as mainstream private schools with excellent additional learning support. Whilst it seems that it is firstly a matter of affording the fees, there are other options.
Remember Local Authorities are obliged to support the recommendations in the EHCP if no alternatives can be found; a process which would be a lot simpler if it were not for the widespread policy of not allowing local authorities to include private schools in their local offers, despite the fact that their local state schools cannot cope. A last resort for many parents is to take the local authority to a tribunal and it is comforting to know that 90% of tribunals are won by parents. The problem is lengthy, potentially costly in the first instance, not to mention extremely stressful and added to which your child could be losing 2 years of education when they could be in a brilliant school for their needs.