The Public Accounts Committee has published a report which concludes that many of the 1.3 million school-age children in England with SEND are not getting the support that they need. The report finds “this is a failure that damages their education, well-being and future life chances” and that “half of the local authority areas inspected are not supporting children and young people with SEND as well as they should”. The report further criticises the Department for Education, arguing that it has “not done enough to understand the disparities in children’s identified needs and access to support”. On EHC plans, the report argues that these have become a “golden ticket” which parents have to fight for but still feel that they are left out of decisions which affect their children. There is particular concern for children with SEND who do not have EHC plans and therefore are not receiving the support they need, particularly in mainstream schools that are under significant financial pressure. The Committee are concerned that the Department for Education is not tackling the growing pressures on the SEND system and despite the announcement in September 2019 that there would be a major review of SEND provision, the Department has given few details about the review and when it will be completed.
he Committee put forward a number of recommendations, including that the Department for Education should complete and publish its SEND review, as a matter of urgency. Furthermore, the Department should use the data it already collects to gain a better understanding of why there is such variation between different demographic groups of children in identifying SEND. On exclusions, the Committee is concerned that too many pupils with SEND are excluded from school and that the Department needs to set out steps to reduce this number. The report also finds that there are not enough state special schools in some parts of the country which results in local authorities covering higher costs of places in independent special schools and spending large amounts on SEND transport. In this regard, the Committee recommends that the Department carry out a systemic analysis of current and future demand for school places suitable for children with complex needs and develop a costed plan to meet these needs.
Commenting on the report, Committee Chair Meg Hillier MP said: “Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities deserve the same quality of education and to get the same value from our education system as their peers. Disturbing disparities in identifying pupils with SEND, and in provision for them, point to underlying problems that can only be addressed through proper data collection and information. These children, already facing extra hurdles and challenges in this life, must not find themselves discriminated against several times over.”
The full report can be found here.