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Exploring UK’s 2024 SEND and AP Improvement Plan

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Just dived into the UK government’s latest release, the “Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan,” there is quite a bit to unpack here. the document sets out a roadmap by the Secretary of State for Education aiming to revolutionize the current state of SEND and AP education in England. Let’s break it down.

The document kicks off with a look back at the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper, highlighting the pressing issues within the current system. It’s no secret that families have been riding a roller coaster of challenges, from navigating the complex SEND system to facing frustrations head-on without much support. Add to that the financial sustainability circus, interestingly, the paper points out that a whopping 82% of kids in state-funded AP have identified SEN, spotlighting the urgent need for a system overhaul.

The government commissioned a 16-week consultation involving over 4,500 people and 6,000 online responses, gathering insights directly from the source: children, young people, and their families. However, when discussing this document with some parents, they had never heard of it. There are more than 600,000 EHCPs in circulation when you compare this pool of families who are most likely highly knowledgeable of the SEND landscape, to the 10,500 engaged in the compilation of this document it does feel like an opportunity lost. Or perhaps we give the government some slack and the response is what is expected for any time of public feedback process.

The executive summary outlines some ambitious goals to make the system more navigable for parents and carers and ensure every child gets the “Right Support, Right Place, Right Time.” The vision is clear – a new national system built on evidence-based National Standards focusing on early identification, intervention, and reducing the need for Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCPs). Plus, the announcement of new special free schools is a beacon of hope for many parents seeking appropriate educational settings for their children.

The government is allocating £2 billion injection earmarked for schools and a promise of £10.1 billion for high-needs funding, it’s a substantial step towards tackling the financial strains on local authorities and schools. A More Inclusive Society is one of the key themes here, the document lays down the groundwork for a future where identifying needs and accessing support isn’t a Herculean task but a streamlined, dignified process. However, the proof will be in the pudding, funding, inclusivity, and implementation.

Does it address the level of subjective opinion of the child’s needs?

One of the criticisms of the current EHCP process is the implementation of wide variations of subjective opinion in an evidence-based process and the ability, if carried out correctly, should work collaboratively to find the right balance of needs and provisions. The parent understandably would always be seeking the best for their child, and within reason that needs to be measured with expert opinion on the evidence. Some parents have the view that the current process is not driven by the child’s individual needs but by the availability of shared resources, and where those resources are non-existent, it then becomes a provision in name only.

“We managed to get a report written by the NHS from a specialist unit, that identified specific areas of our child’s needs in a report. When we submitted this as part of the EHCP process, all the council had to do in our view was build on what was highlighted in the NHS report, against those specific areas, and turn them into provisions. What the council did was commission from the ground up a corresponding set of reports. In effect it was the Council funded NHS vs the (at the time) CCG Locally funded NHS. 3 years later and allot of expense, we had a EHCP in its 3rd version that was not far off, you guessed it – the original NHS report – what was the point!

You could say, the NHS reports are not in the right format [for the EHCP process], so the council had no choice, but if a specilist advises, you have faults with the tyres and headlights, you don’t then commission a team to look at everything else other than the faults identified and then provide a plan that does not address either the tyres or the headlights.

I think, any process that allows a high level of subjective scrutiny of evidence, even when that evidence is from a solid source, should not be allowed, when there is interest in the pursuit of lower of costs”

Parents view on the money wasted on the EHCP process

The document paints a picture of a future where national standards set the stage for consistent, quality education and support across England. By reducing bureaucracy and enhancing the clarity and availability of support, the plan aims to ease the burden on families, making the journey less adversarial and more navigable.

In a nutshell, the “Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan” is proposing to set out as a beacon of hope for many. It’s an ambitious blueprint that, if executed well, could transform the landscape of SEND and AP education in England. But as always, the devil is in the details – and the implementation.

So, what are your thoughts on the government’s plan? Do you think it will make a difference, or are there hurdles you foresee? Let’s chat in the comments below!

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