Will the Green Paper proposals mend our broken SEND system?

SSAT’s Pauline Holbrook, Head of SEND, comments on the government’s Green Paper on SEND ‘Right support, right place, right time’

SSAT welcomes the publication of the government’s Green Paper on SEND ‘Right support, right place, right time’ as we have always been advocates of the rights of all students to a personalised education which prepares them for the next stage of life’s journey. Not so many years ago we moved from the responsibility for students with special educational needs in mainstream schools being solely the role of the SENCO to being the responsibility of all teachers.

This is when we heard the mantra “every teacher a teacher of SEND”. The green paper sets out an ambitious wholescale systemic change that will require widespread structural changes to be made in order to improve outcomes for learners with SEND. The detailed plans which will follow on from the current consultation will be key to meeting the three key challenges identified by the government:

  • 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 scale of these challenges should not be underestimated, but the opportunity to make a ‘once in a generation’ improvement in SEND services is welcome and one that schools recognise is needed in order that we do not fail to meet the unique needs of each and every learner. However, I am concerned about how long these changes may take to come about and as a result how many learners may fall along the wayside because their needs are not being met in the existing very fragile system.

Within our current system there is too much inconsistency in identification, provision, and funding. It is very much a postcode lottery which does not serve the interests of these students or their families. However, there is much excellent practice within our schools despite the immense challenges they face. We need to ensure that this practice is shared and becomes the norm in all schools.

Increasing the knowledge and confidence of teachers, teaching assistants, learning mentors etc is vital in ensuring schools are able to identify and meet the needs of learners as early as possible. To achieve this, greater emphasis needs to be placed on SEND knowledge and pedagogy within ITT, the ECF and continuing professional development at all levels. We must harness the skills, creativity and experience of teachers and leaders in all phases and sectors in meeting the needs of learners with SEND. Embracing the ethos of “every teacher a teacher of SEND” and “every leader a leader of SEND” will I believe create a culture of inclusion where differences are not only met but welcomed and celebrated.

SSAT shares the government’s vision for a stronger national system to support children with SEND and their families. We want to see improved outcomes for learners with SEND, and we want to see more learners with SEND gaining employment and being able to live independently. However, where this is not possible improvements are needed to ensure all services work with learners and their families to ensure that as they move into adulthood their needs are identified, met, and reviewed and that all the hard work of education, other professionals and agencies continue throughout their lifetime.

This cannot be achieved by schools alone we need services/personnel/sectors to deliver, work in partnership and be accountable so we can truly personalise our offer to each learner regardless of whether they have an EHCP or not.

Join our policy update to hear more and share your thoughts on the Green Paper.

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