Changes to the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Send) system have led to confusion and variable quality of help, a report by the Driver Youth Trust has found.
The Trust looked at a number of changes that have been made since 2010, which they say have caused problems for children with Send and their families. Three major factors were highlighted.
In 2010 the Academies Act allowed many schools to function as Academies, outside of the control of local authorities. In 2012 another change to the law was made with the intention of ending inequalities in school funding. Lastly, a new code of practice for special educational needs (SEN) pupils came into force in 2014.
Some of the specific changes made include giving parents and children more say in the decisions that will affect them, making provision for young people up to the age of 25 (previously it was 19), and categorising pupils’ needs in a more nuanced way. However, the Trust points to a number of unintended consequences of these apparently beneficial changes.
One is that the system has become more fragmented, so that the different aspects are confusing for parents and children to negotiate. Moreover, with more provision taking place in the classroom – rather than by specialist providers – teachers require more training and greater knowledge of those in their care.
The reforms have been geared towards giving pupils greater autonomy, notes the report. “Yet an autonomous environment is also a risky one. In relation to Send, we find that while some schools have thrived, others are struggling to provide high-quality teaching and additional support for their learners.”
The Department for Education maintains that many families find the new system more straightforward. “We know that when parents and young people are properly involved with the development of that support, their experiences improve.”
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