Robert Halfon MP comments on postcode lottery of special educational needs provision
19 March 2021
The Chair of the Education Committee comments on a report from the Education Policy Institute on identifying pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Chair of the Education Committee Robert Halfon MP said:
“This report shows that too many young people with SEND are being let down, nearly 18 months after my Committee highlighted flaws in the system that leave so many children facing a postcode lottery of provision. If we are committed to addressing social injustice in education, we cannot allow the support a child receives to be left to chance and dependent on where they live or which school they attend. Every child whatever their circumstances deserves a level playing field. Their future life chances depend on it.
Our report described a process characterised by a treacle of bureaucracy, closed off to families who lack either the time or resources to navigate their way through the maze. Sadly, the Education Policy Institute has found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are facing additional barriers to get the help they need.
Since our report the Government has said they will publish their review into SEND. This can’t come soon enough. We urgently need a radical change to the inspection framework and more support for parents to fight for the rights of their child, to ensure some of the most disadvantaged children in society are no longer let down and left at the mercy of a system that is skewed against them.”
The Education Committee’s 2019 report in the last Parliament concluded that a generation of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities is failing to receive the support it deserves, with poorly implemented legislation leaving families facing a nightmare of bureaucracy, buck-passing and confusion.
The Committee called for an end to the postcode lottery, help for parents to wade through the awful treacle of bureaucracy and a tougher inspection regime to ensure the best possible SEND provision for their children. The report made the following key recommendations:
- A neutral role, allocated to every parent or carer with a child when a request is made for a needs assessment. The post holder would arrange meetings, co-ordinate paperwork and be a source of impartial advice to parents.
- 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
The report followed an 18-month inquiry into the reforms in the Children and Families Act 2014 which aimed to place 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 published the Government response in July.
In 2019 the Department for Education announced its SEND review, with the report expected this year. The Committee will carefully consider that report when it is published, and in the meantime will continue to make the case for much-needed reform to the SEND system.