The English government has decided to undertake a review of both provision and funding for special needs education following concerns expressed by families and school authorities about the difficulties they have experienced under the current system of governance, as well as the challenges posed by reforms introduced by the government in 2014. These reforms included the introduction of education, health and care plans. The purpose of these was to improve support for children and young people with special needs and disabilities (Send) and to provide much-needed support to families. However, since their inception, there have been numerous complaints from schools and local authorities, ranging from funding shortages to the time taken to provide diagnoses and support.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stated that the new review is necessary to ensure that all students have access to quality education and support, and investigate how the system can be improved to make this happen. The review aims to address systemic problems such as disparities in support and provision across various regions and school types. Furthermore, it aims to examine how educational, care and health services can work together in a more cohesive manner. According to DfE statistics, there are 1.3 million school age students with special educational needs, making up 15% of the pupil population, with the number of EHCPs rising from 271,000 to over 350,000.
Charities and interest groups have praised the review, but many remain sceptical about when it will be completed, given the current political climate. The National Deaf Children’s Society views the review as a “gamechanger", however, they have asked for immediate action instead of a lengthy review. Local Government Association Chairman James Jamieson has called for greater focus on school inclusion, in which all schools should be more inclusive towards children with high needs to be appropriately supported in mainstream schools.