Understanding the Green Paper SEND Review

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Most decisions on education and Special Educational Needs are made within parliament; make sure you have your say on it first.

In trying to navigate this SEND green paper, I had to do several re-writes to not only get it in a way that would be understandable to my readers, but also to make it understandable to myself and also as free from bias as possible. Let me begin by saying currently I am apolitical, not in the sense that I have no interest in politics, but in the sense that I do not support any of the current parities. My only agenda in writing is my optimism to see a better SEN system that works in realistic and practical terms. Within that agenda I want to see if what the government has recognised as the issues, what they propose to do about them and whether these changes would be practical in real terms.

The biggest issues facing the current SEN system according to the government are part of the following three key challenges:-

  • outcomes for children and young people with SEN or in alternative provision are poor
  • navigating the SEND system and alternative provision is not a positive experience for children, young people and their families
  • despite unprecedented investment, the system is not delivering value for money for children, young people and families

The government state that ‘A vicious cycle of late intervention, low confidence and inefficient resource allocation are behind these challenges. With that in mind, they have broken up the green paper into six main sections, which outline five big changes on things they wish to deliver. Stick with me as I try to break them down the best that I can.

“My biggest issue with this green paper is that it is inaccessible to the mass majority because of large and over complex terminology.”

~AdHD Girl

The first big change the government states needs to happen is A single national SEND and alternative provision system. This is what many of us in the education sector have been crying out for, for many years. It would effectively end the postcode lottery so that no one in one area has more access to support for SEN than in another. However, that’s a big change so let’s dig a little dealer and see how they propose to do this.

Firstly, they are going to set new standards and a framework for how children with SEN are identified, assessed, and supported at every stage. This would ideally be reflected within a SEN code of conduct, but I was a little concerned to see the words ‘review and update’ as opposed to introduce for this proposal. While some features of the current SEN code of conduct, work well, review and update, does not reflect the big need for change that is mentioned within the beginning of this green paper.

“The green paper offers a lot to be optimstic about including a potential end to the postcode lottery, more transparency and accountability, but does it go far enough?”

ADHD gIRL

Secondly, they will be looking at establishing more SEND partnerships which would work together within a local inclusion plan. Confused? In simple terms it means that though multi-agency working between SEN professionals is happening already, it’s not as good as it should be, and the government are going to give more guidance to local authorities in how this should work.

An interesting thing to come out of the ‘Single National SEND provision system’ is they are proposing to make all EHCPs digitised with needs to be regularly updated and where parents would have access. While this may help in terms of accountability and transparency, I’m worried about the extra pressure this would put on SENCOs in terms of a backlog.

Lastly, under the new SEN reforms it looks like parents and guardians of children with SEN, will get more of a say in what provision is provided for their child including types of schooling attending. It also is looking at making the complaints/ disputes system a lot more transparent. This is excellent news as for too long parents and guardians of children with SEN have had little say in major decisions like this that affect their children.

“Finally, it would seem the government has decided to become more hands in terms of accountability for children with Special Educational Needs.”

ADHD gIRL

Another big change in the green paper that the government recommends is ‘Excellent provision from early years to adulthood.’ While many would claim this to be correct, I would have to ask, isn’t that what we should have been aiming for all along? That’s what education is supposed to be about, but nevertheless I was interested to see the proposal listed in this section.

The first proposal is about how they will put 7 billion pounds into the school budget in the next three years. This will include 1 billion for children with SEN who have high complex needs. Any additional funding for education can only be a good thing, but it’s hard to argue with the government when they say they are not getting good value for money. While I’m not denying funding is a major issue, the way in which it is used is also of equal importance which is why I’m so concerned with the rise of academies (where schools are able to set their own budget and rules away from the local authorities).

The introduction of a new SENCo qualification was the proposal that really caught my attention under this big change. At first I wondered if they would address the pressure that SENCos face when the majority of them have to teach their own class part time, as well as dealing with the responsibilities and workload that comes with being a SENCo. They do recognise this issue and recommend that SENCos get given adequate time to complete their duties, but my concern remains of how they will ensure this happens.

“Only the delivery plans in full can tell us whether the governments proposals for change will work in practical terms.

adhd giRL

Something else the government states needs to happen under the change of ‘Excellent provision’ is that a deeper understanding is needed of how children with SEN and their parents need supporting by health professionals. This is a little vague in my mind and I want to see how they will do this if they have not already explored it as part of this green paper. A positive thing is that the early years is finally getting the attention and funding it deserves within this section, so we will see how that pans out.

The rest of this section is all about improving the budgets for respite and also improving the teacher training framework. All things are very ambitious, but as I have stated previously unless this is conducted in the right way i.e. money spent effectively, it will be nothing more than good intentions.

The next big change that the government have recommended in the green paper is ‘A reformed and integrated role for alternative provision.’ And I have to ask; is it their plan to confuse us with big, long words or what? Because in a nutshell this basically means better special schools with an emphasis on partnership working so they are not set apart from society like they currently are.

“I still don’t know why the government are pushing academies when they are trying to aim for one National SEN approach in meeting needs.”

ADHD GIRL

Under their first proposal it’s nice to see early intervention getting a nod, because it’s been proven that the earlier a child has their needs met, the more chance of them becoming well rounded happy adults who have access to good opportunities. The government also state they will give alternative provision schools the funding stability they need; is that supposed to be any different than what they have been expected to do all along?

One of the proposals in this section has me a little concerned with the mention of encouraging more plans for special schools to become part of strong multi-academy trusts. For years now the government have been pushing for academies because it gives a school more freedom to regulate their own budget and own rules instead of having to go through the LA. However, when we’re trying to have one national SEND system in place, I wonder if this is a good idea moving forward.

The next proposal which may seem confusing but is actually straight forward is that the government propose to ‘develop a bespoke performance framework for alternative provision’. Simplified, this means that they want children with SEN in special schools to either progress enough to re-enter mainstream schools (something which seems incredibly unlikely, unless they are solely focusing on behavioural issues) or to have better opportunities presented to them once they are sixteen. This is a really encouraging prospect as it would be great to see more people with SEN integrated as part of society through various opportunities which would benefit them and their community.

“The governments use of terminology in the green paper makes things sound a lot more complicated than they are. It needs to be presented with the mass majority of the public being able to access it and digest it.”

ADHD Girl

Translated, the next proposal which is ‘deliver greater oversight and transparency of pupil movements’ basically means the government are going to be keeping a closer eye on how pupils are moved from one school to another, or to specialist provision such as a special school. Again, isn’t this something which should have been closely monitored all along? Interestingly enough, the final proposal within this section is that they will ‘launch a call for evidence, before the summer, on the use of unregistered provision.’ Having read between the lines what this means is the government is not happy anyone providing private support without being regulated by themselves or the LA. My argument is that the current SEND system that is in place has forced parents to rely on these kind of provisions to support their child with SEN in the lack of anything else being available, so this would need carefully monitoring to ensure it is a success.

Now we move on to the next big section on changes that need to happen and this one is the one that had me the most intrigued to read because it’s all about system roles, accountabilities and funding reform. Those of you who have read my previous blog articles will be aware that I have highlighted accountability and funding as two of the biggest issues facing the current SEN system, so let’s take a look at these proposals.

The first proposal is that they will ‘deliver clarity in roles and responsibilities’ This is good, but again why are we just getting to the point this is being suggested. The problem for me is not that there is no clarity in terms of a role or responsibilities, but that they are very hard to carry out due to a number of factors such as workload, time restrictions and unrealistic expectations. Thankfully, the government do say that they want to equip people with the levers to fulfil their responsibility, so it’s just a matter of seeing if they will go further in recognising some of they key overall issues facing teachers and SENCos.

“I’m not sure clarity of responsbilities is the biggest issue in people being able to carry out their duties in education. It’s more due to workload and time restrictions combined with unrealistic expectations.”

ADHD gIRL

The second proposal is this section is one I am particularly ecstatic about, which is ‘equip the Department for Education’s (DfE) new Regions Group’. I’m excited about this because it essentially means the government is taking a more hands on approach to education and SEN. I’m hoping this will lead to more accountability from them and less blaming the LAs and schools for situations they cannot control due to funding and problems arising from the government’s own policies.

The next proposal; ‘provide statutory guidance to Integrated Care Boards’ once again means the government will offer more guidance of how care boards can work to delegate responsibilities for children and people with SEN. More importantly it focuses on how they should be discharged, which means no more will children with SEN be left without support and unchecked on the system.

‘Introducing ‘new inclusion dashboards for 0-25 provision’ means that the government are going to keep tabs on people with SEN at every stage from 0-25 to ensure their needs are being met. This offers more accountability and provides more opportunity for early intervention. Particularly for those who may not be accessing education outside of the compulsory age.

‘A new national framework of banding and price tariffs for funding’ sounds like it could be great, but without further information, we can’t possibly know if it will measure up in practical terms. I do hope they will look at the £6000 per pupil threshold that schools have to met before a child can get additional funding, as it currently remains very unrealistic for schools that are already on a tight budget.

“I’m not sure how many schools can be judged to be outstanding when their ability to support children with SEN is limited due to the current system in place.”

ADHD Girl

The last proposal in this section is also very exciting. The government are going to ‘work with Ofsted/Care Quality Commission (CQC) on their plan to deliver an updated Local Area SEND Inspection Framework.’ This more than anything needs to happen, because for far too long have I seen schools rated outstanding where their ability to support children with SEN falls far short of the mark. How can a school be outstanding while not needing the needs for SEN children and more importantly without being given the adequate resources to do so?

The final section in this big beast of a SEND review is all about delivering change for children and families. This is so important as so many parents and guardians have had limited control in how their child with SEN is assessed, monitored, and supported. Their ability to access support has been difficult especially throughout the pandemic lockdowns.

The first proposal is that they will take immediate steps to stabilise local SEND systems by investing more money into them. Sounds great, but we need a more detailed plan for how they are going to support them and how this will be monitored otherwise we are just throwing money away in the hopes that it will be caught and used wisely.

The second proposal ‘task the SEND and Alternative Provision Directorate within DfE’ is another big ownership of accountability coming from the government and will hopefully pave the way for further progress as they look to create the new national SEN standards that they have talked about throughout this green paper.

“The government’s hands on approach, means that if their new SEN changes don’t work, then ultimately it’s them who must take responsbility for it.”

ADHD gIRL

The final three proposals are basically about how they are going to deliver the changes they want to see within the area of SEND provision. This includes supporting the delivery of the changes with seventy million pounds, publishing the actual delivery plan (it will sure be an interesting read) and establishing a new national SEND delivery board who will be responsibility for ensuring the changes are carried out and monitored.

Well they you have it, my review of the whole green paper in 2500 words or less, which was considerably difficult considering the whole thing is 104 pages of waffle. I hope you have found it useful and informative. Hopefully if implemented properly it would give many children with ADHD the ability to attain a diagnosis and the support they need in education, but I not sure it goes far enough in recognising some of the issues. The saying one step at a time does spring to mind though and I await the delivery plans with anticipation. However, please don’t just take my word for it, if you’d like to read the green paper you can do so here:-

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1063620/SEND_review_right_support_right_place_right_time_accessible.pdf

If you’ve read the green paper or my blog and you want to say something about it then please consider completing the consultation survey. It’s basically feedback for the green paper and the more people that give their view, the more it will hopefully help the government to understand what works for the majority. The consultation survey is found here:-

https://consult.education.gov.uk/send-review-division/send-review-2022/consultation/subpage.2022-02-02.7538639008/

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