Making sense of the SEND review

The day is finally here! Three years have passed since the special educational needs and disability (SEND) review was promised in 2019.

A lot has happened in three years, including the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. This has inevitably delayed the publication of the review, but if anything, the pandemic makes it even more important.

Why do we need a review?

Sense has been calling for a review for a long time, our main concerns are that:

  • The current system is not working for those with complex needs for children with complex disabilities and their families. It’s complicated and families often get stuck between education, health and social care
  • Too many children and young people are facing delays into getting support.
  • Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) are not considering all aspects of children’s needs
  • Too many young people are being left without support during transition into adulthood.
A woman is giving a young boy the thumbs up - she's smiling and he's looking at her hands

What is the SEND review looking at?

The review is evaluating reforms including the SEND code of practice, which sets out legal duties for education providers, local authorities and health bodies to provide for young people with SEND. It will also look at EHCPs, which set out the needs of young people with SEND which authorities must meet.

The SEND review sets out three key areas where change needs to happen. Posing three challenges it must tackle.

  1. Outcomes for children and young people with SEND or in alternative provision are poor.
  2. Navigating the SEND system and alternative provision is not a positive experience for children, young people and their families.
  3. Despite unprecedented investment, the system is not delivering value for money for children, young people and families.

Does it address concerns?

Sense is cautiously optimistic about the review; we want to see how these proposals will be taken forward and improved further.  

  • Simplifying the system: The review sets out how it will simplify the system and its processes, whilst increasing accountability and joined-up working. We welcome this aim but are concerned that the unique needs of children could be lost through this simplification of the system. EHCP’s should not be one size fits all, it is important every child gets tailored support through their EHCP, both educationally and holistically.
  • Making EHCP process easier: EHCPs are to be digitised and a national template is to be created. This will help to address the very complicated and long EHCP process. Again, this is a welcome step but we need to ensure that plans are able to fully reflect the needs of children
  • Support for parents: There is also going to be more support for parents and carers to make informed choices when choosing placements for their child. Whilst this may appear positive, we need to be sure that services and placements are built around the needs of children, rather than trying to fit them into services that already exist
  • Improving transition to adulthood: The review intends to make it easier to share relevant data between schools and further education settings about a child or young person’s needs and ensure the right support is in place from Day 1.

Where we go from here

Today’s publication is just the start, as it launches a 13-week consultation into the proposals.  What we’ve read so far is positive, and we hope it provides the foundation of meaningful change for children with complex disabilities and their families.  As ever, the success of this will be in how the changes are co-produced and implemented.

Now it’s over to us!  At Sense, we will be reviewing the detail of the consultation further and engaging with the children, families and professionals who we support to help shape our response to the review.

Fundamentally One size does not fit all. The SEND review must ensure children’s individual needs aren’t lost among a standardised system. All children need to be included, and all outcomes need to be considered. These changes really can’t wait any longer.