SENDInTheSpecialists: The campaign to boost investment in the SEND specialist workforce grows, and how you can get involved

with Peter Just, Royal College of Speech and Labguage Therapists

Last November we joined with a coalition of more than a hundred other SEND-related organisations to back a #SENDintheSpecialists campaign to boost the number of SEND specialists such as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, outreach, teachers of the deaf, and so on. These are the highly trained practitioners who can mean the difference between a child being able to stay in mainstream, access the curriculum and thrive. They are also the experts who support children in specialist settings and who share their expertise with teachers who have no other training in these skills but who still need to have a good level of understandin g to support their pupils.

Since then the campaign has moved on and Peter Just of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, who are leading the campaign, is here on SNJ with an update…

#SENDInTheSpecialists – continuing to make the case for the specialist workforce by Peter Just RCSLT

“For mainstream educational settings to be truly inclusive, teachers must have access to a broad range of specialist education, health and care professionals to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people, including those with SEND. Specialist settings must also be able to recruit the expert staff they need to meet the needs of their pupils.”

Open letter

As many of you will recall, back in November a coalition of over 110 organisations representing parents and carers, charities, and professionals came together to call on the Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, to invest in the specialist workforce for children and young people.

We were pleased to see the calls from the #SENDInTheSpecialists coalition covered in Special Needs Jungle and a number of other publications.

It was great to see so many members of the coalition taking to social media in November expressing their support for the need to #SENDInTheSpecialists. There were also social media moments in December, around a letter parliamentarians sent the Government – more on that below – and at the beginning of February to mark three months since the coalition was formed. 

Parliamentarians support the need to #SENDInTheSpecialists

We have also been heartened by the parliamentary support we have received since November. Just before being elected Chair of the Education Select Committee, Robin Walker MP, highlighted the letter in a Westminster Hall debate.

Then in December, Geraint Davies MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Speech and Language Difficulties, brought together parliamentarians from 16 APPGs in a letter to the Secretaries of State for Education and Health and Social Care backing the coalition’s calls. The APPGs cover: Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Childcare and Early Education, Children who Need Palliative Care, Disability, Dyslexia and Other Specific Learning Difficulties, Eye health and Visual Impairment, Muscular Dystrophy, Oracy, Penal Affairs, Prevention of Childhood Trauma, Psychology, Social Mobility, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, Speech and Language Difficulties, and Stroke.

Geraint Davies has also tabled a series of written questions, including on:

Liberal Democrat MP, Munira Wilson has tabled relevant written questions too:

If you are in touch with any MPs, we would encourage you to ask them to table written questions about the particular specialist workforce you are interested in, including in their constituency.

#SENDInTheSpecialists coalition continues to grow

During this time, our coalition has grown in size, now with a membership of 125 organisations. Newer members include the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, Intermediaries for Justice, the Dyspraxia Foundation, Praxis Care, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Different Strokes, the Prison Reform Trust, Become, Together for Short Lives, and SignHealth.

Ministers respond to the APPGs and the #SENDInTheSpecialists coalition

Towards the end of January, Claire Coutinho, Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, replied to the APPGs. Although her response did not include anything new, she did state that “I recognise that access to and investing in the specialist workforce for children and young people is important.” She also offered to meet Geraint to discuss the issues in more detail.

In early February, Minister Coutinho also responded to the coalition itself. Again, while her response offered nothing new, the Minister did extend an invitation to meet. So, we are now arranging that and look forward to discussing the specialist workforce with her.

Next steps for #SENDInTheSpecialists…

While all this is going on, the coalition is also preparing for the Government’s publication of its SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan.

  • We are working on a joint statement in response to the plan.
  • We are planning e-action for people to contact their MPs once the Government’s announcement is made.
  • We are exploring other parliamentary opportunities to raise the profile of the issues in the weeks and months to come.
  • We are also identifying other ways we might make the case to as a wide a group of influencers and decision-makers as possible – for example, potentially making a submission to the Labour Policy Forum and the Times Health Commission.

…and how you can help

We can’t do all this alone and would love your help. Simple things you could do include:

  • Sharing the letter with individual influencers and decision-makers you know. The letter is accessible from this webpage:
  • Taking part in the e-action once it is live – check @RCSLTpolicy for updates
  • Highlighting your support on social media by using the #SENDInTheSpecialists hashtag
  • Encouraging charities and organisations representing the specialist workforce you’re involved in to become members of the coalition, if they’re not already

We’re sure you’ll have ideas too of how you can support us. Please let us know! We’d love to hear from you!

Finally, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, where I work, would like to say a huge thank you.

  • To Special Needs Jungle for giving us this opportunity to update you.
  • To the #SENDInTheSpecialists coalition for their amazing support.
  • To the coalition’s other lead organisations – the National Deaf Children’s Society, Speech and Language UK, Guide Dogs and Voice 21 – for all their incredible input.

Let’s hope that this time – finally – together we can ensure that children and young people, and their families, can access the specialist workforce they rely on so they can live the lives they want to live and achieve their potential both at school and in life.

Peter Just, Head of External Affairs and Influencing, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists


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