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The government's green paper - special educational needs and disabilities

View profile for Eleanor Adshead
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Asbestos risk to children and staff in more than 5,000 English primary schools

On 29 March 2022, the government launched a long anticipated special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) green paper, recommending a national improved SEND system for children and families.

The green paper, which was initially launched in 2019, sets out plans to ‘level up’ opportunities for children and young people with special educational needs, striving for a system which offers children the opportunity to thrive, with access to the ‘right support, in the right place, at the right time’.

The paper says that the proposals would see new standards of quality of support offered to children across education and health and social care and that these plans were backed by £70 million in new funding.

The paper admits that in 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 68% of parents of children with SEND reported that their child’s needs were not being met. It states that in 2019, only 41% of schoolteachers reported that appropriate training was in place for supporting children with SEND and that in 2018/19 68% of children with SEND across early years settings did not achieve the expected level of development, compared to 24% of those with no identified SEND.

Over the course of the government’s review, it said that it consulted with a wide range of people across the SEND system, such as children, young people, early years providers, schools, colleges, and local authorities.

What are the recommendations?

One main focus of the paper is to simplify Education, Health and Care Plans by making them more flexible and removing the ‘postcode lottery’ which often leaves many children with SEND, suffering worse outcomes than those without. It is hoped that these simplified plans will allow parents to make more informed decisions regarding school placements and their children’s educational needs.

The paper also suggests a ‘new national framework’ for councils with regards to banding tariffs, to offer clarity to parents and educators on the level of support expected, as well as improved workforce training throughout schools and early years settings; specifically, across early years, this will require an increase in the number of staff employed with the accredited level 3 qualification, despite the minimum requirement being level 2.

The paper has proposed an ‘overall change’ in the culture and practice in mainstream education with regards to children with SEND, with hopes to provide tools to schools and early years providers to be more inclusive and to become better at identifying children’s needs through earlier intervention. For example, the government has said that it will require councils to introduce local inclusion plans, bringing together early years, schools and post-16 education with health and care services, giving those involved in a child’s development, clarity on who is responsible for this and when.  

Many have welcomed the report, such as Unison’s Head of Education, Mr. Mike Short and Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza.

Although the government appears to have positive aspirations, a green paper is a consultation document, prompting discussions on the introduction of new laws or policy meaning that, it may be a while until the proposed changes are put into place. However, it could be said that the paper is a step in the right direction, to ensure that children with SEND are not being put to a detriment and are receiving the same opportunities as those without.

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