New SEND plan fails on ‘fundamental’ issues, say council leaders

By William Eichler | 02 March 2023

The Government’s new plan to help support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) fails to address the ‘fundamental issues’ faced by local authorities, according to council leaders.

Published today, the new SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan promises to deliver thousands of additional specialist school places and 33 new special free schools.

The plan also details the Government’s intention to invest in training for staff, including 5,000 early years’ special educational needs coordinators and 400 educational psychologists.

Some £4.8m will be spent to extend the AP Specialist Taskforces, which offer intensive support to young people in alternative provision, and £70m will be made available to test and refine the improvement plans.

Children’s minister Claire Coutinho said: ‘The improvement plan we are publishing today sets out systemic reforms to standards, teacher training and access to specialists, as well as thousands of new places at specialist schools so that every child gets the help they need.’

But president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, Steve Crocker, said the plan ‘must go much further and faster in a number of areas’.

He continued: ‘The additional funding being made available to support the proposals is welcome, but, with high needs budget deficits rising, there is still not enough money in the system to meet the level of need being seen.’

Chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, Louise Gittins, added the plan did ‘not go far enough in addressing the fundamental cost and demand issues that result in councils struggling to meet the needs of children with SEND’.

She continued: ‘We are also concerned over the lack of any plan to give councils additional powers to lead SEND systems effectively.

'We do not believe the Government has the capacity to hold councils, schools and other partners to account for their work supporting children with SEND.’

The County Councils’ Network urged the Government to expand its safety valve programme to all local authorities.

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