Before Christmas, we wrote to the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan to outline our concerns about the direction of the SEND Review and its subsequent consultation, especially in light of last year’s ministerial chaos that left the Department for Education’s SEND department rudderless for weeks.
Our concerns included the fact that aspects within the SEND Review that it was consulting on have already begun to be rolled out, making the consultation on these a pointless waste of time. To date, 491 individuals and organisations have signed the letter and we’ve left the form open.
We are pleased to report that we have received a response from Claire Coutinho, the new SEND minister, who took up the post just a few months ago and we thank her for finding time to reply. Ms Coutinho’s website says she wants a “superb education for everyone” and she is certainly an intelligent, competent woman—we met her during a sector ministerial meeting last week. But we all know how long it can take to gain a deep enough understanding of the many different aspects of SEND, let alone be able to make sensible and child-focused decisions that won’t be marred by the laws of unintended consequences (We are also meeting Ms Coutinho separately later this month).
Lost in translation
We already know that the SEND Review Green Paper proposals were devised by Department for Education officials, in collaboration with LA loyalists like Tony McArdle, whose outdated views we were treated to very recently. There were two parents on the SEND Review Steering Group from the NNPCF (which is funded by the DfE), but it’s clear from the often-baffling content of the Green Paper that it wasn’t the plight of disabled children that had the most influence. Perhaps the DfE parental translator software broke down after hearing so many sad stories and they decided they preferred it that way, so didn’t get it fixed. I mean, heard a few hundred stories of someone’s disabled kid with no education and heard ‘em all, amiright? It seems like the DfE decided that they could only please one ‘side’, and preferred the voices of those who broke the system to those who suffer within it.
This is a tragedy, especially as their existing “safety valve” programme is already set to make SEND support harder to get, while schools and LAs are telling parents that the ‘law has changed” (it hasn’t), meaning their child can’t have statutory assessments or an EHCP anymore (they can). If you’ve been told this or any other unlawful information about SEND, please tell us so we can compile a dossier.
The response from the SEND Minister
I’m not going to comment on the letter. We’ve been given permission by the Minister to publish it so I will just post it below as text, as shareable images and also as an accessible PDF. Let us know what you think.
“Thank you for your letter of 9 January, addressed to the Secretary of State, about the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) review consultation. I am replying as the minister responsible for this policy area.
May I begin by thanking you for the continued engagement of Special Needs Jungle and all those who have signed the letter, and I share your passion to make the SEND and alternative provision (AP) system work better for children and families.
I have witnessed first-hand the challenges families have navigating a complex system to secure support for their child. Addressing this is a priority for me in my role as Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, as I am determined to improve the SEND system. As the former Minister for Disabled People, I bring experience to the role and I have met with children, and young people with SEND on 18 January.
We have always recognised that the views of children, young people, parents, and carers, from a wide range of perspectives, are critical to understanding how we make improvements to the SEND and AP system. Throughout the development of the Green Paper, and during the subsequent consultation, we engaged extensively with a wide range of children, young people, and parents, including those that are seldom heard.
In addition to having an online consultation period of 16 weeks, departmental officials attended 175 events and heard from over 4,500 people, including children, young people, and their families. I want us to go further on delivering our commitment to the principle that all children, young people, and their families will and should be involved in the process around the support they receive and in the development of the policy which drives those processes.
I know meaningful and significant change is necessary to deliver a system that allows every child and young person to reach their potential, which includes progressing into higher education where that is the right next step. I do not underestimate the importance of getting this right.
I want to assure you that we are committed to publishing the SEND and AP improvement plan alongside the independent analysis of the consultation feedback so that the department can clearly set out next steps for much needed reform to support children and young people and their families.
I look forward to meeting with you on 7 February at the Department for Education / Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) roundtable to discuss the collective views of the voluntary and community sector with Minister Caulfield from DHSC.
Thank you for writing on this important matter. I hope you will find this reply useful.
What are your thoughts?
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