Looking forward for SEND: The Review, the challenges, the culture change

This morning Minister Ford gave a speech at the TES SEN virtual show, a catch up on all of the key issues in SEND and some key direction on the SEND review. It was really welcome to hear her enthusiasm, commitment and passion to improving the lives of children with SEND and their families and recognising the challenges that the pandemic has created. All of our evidence shows us that the impact of the pandemic is to exaggerate. Where we have had good services working together we have seen really good innovative practice: schools working closely with health and care to deliver practical and emotional support as well as delivering education; services coproducing solutions with parents and making sure they were keeping in touch; short breaks being done creatively and ensuring young people’s voices were heard. Where relationships are poor, or non existent, the opposite was true: a lack of coordination; a lack of support; a lack of humanity. In essence, this is a key part of the background to the SEND review.

What will change it, what can we do?

Look at the levers and drivers of the system - If we can get to a point, she suggested, which is that no school can be an outstanding school (and colleges, and early years settings) without being inclusive of pupils with SEND, that will be a real step forward. By inclusive, we mean really inclusive, valuing the contribution that children with SEND make equally with that of their peers, promoting, encouraging and inspiring, and having these achievements recognised by families and by inspection and financial systems.

One of the key goals of the review is to enable children and families to live an ordinary life, what does it mean? To me its about being able to be fully accepted for who you are in your education and wider community, playing where other children play, accessing leisure services, having aspirations which are supported, and not having to fight for the basic rights of childhood and citizenship. The Minister emphasised the aim of preparing for adulthood from the earliest years. It’s about the real importance of setting aspirations, goals and choices early on rather than pigeon holing them, for some of our children it’s the poverty of aspiration that is so damaging. However, that means that all of the systems, at all of the levels, need to embrace this. They need to look at the Tomorrow's Leaders programme and understand what success is.

The Review also recognises that we need to get the system right at three levels:

  • A really clear universal information and support offer which starts with early help and intervention, both at age and stage, and makes sure that where reasonable adjustments need to be made, they can be made without a bureaucracy that often defeats the purpose.
  • For children who need targeted support, we make it happen, we ensure that those children with, for example, speech and language needs, dyslexia, autism, have their needs recognised early, that the system intervenes at the level that makes a difference and that intervention remains in place for as long as the child needs it. This isn’t just about education but about health and care, the family support that makes life happen, the health intervention that promotes the best outcome .
  • For children with specialist and complex needs the system has to remain focused on delivering the best possible support for the best possible outcomes for the child and family. Coordinating the different professionals that families will need, supporting children to thrive in their local school, in their local community and transition into a positive adulthood.

It’s a big ask, but its an important one.

The review will need everyone to input to achieve a collective vision. There will, of course, be arguments about money, about parity, about hierarchies of need and importance, but key to it all will be a common need to embrace a cultural change. Ask yourself one question...

Will the lives and outcomes of children with SEND be positively impacted by my contribution?

We will make sure that we make all stakeholders aware of the opportunities to be part of the SEND review consultation.

For further receent updates on guidance for the sector you can read our recent news story here.