Williamson promises review of special needs education in England | Education

Williamson promises review of special needs education in England | Education

UK News

The government is to review the provision and funding of special needs education for children in England, after the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, admitted that many families faced struggles as a result of the government’s reforms.

The introduction of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) in 2014 was followed by a steep increase in the number of children and young people with special needs and disabilities (Send) in England, with local authorities and schools complaining of funding shortages, and families of long delays in receiving diagnoses and support.

“Our reforms in 2014 gave vital support to more children but we know there have been problems in delivering the changes that we all want to see. So it’s the right time to take stock of our system and make sure the excellence we want to see as a result of our changes is the norm for every child and their families,” Williamson said in announcing the review.

Last week the government said that special needs education in England would receive an extra £700m from next year, which Williamson said was “to make sure these children can access the education that is right for them”.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the review would look at how support had “evolved” since 2014, and tackle the lottery of provision that sees children in one area receiving less than children with the same needs in another area. It will also look at balancing provision across mainstream and specialist schools, and how support is linked across health, care and education services.

About 1.3 million school-age pupils in England are classed as having special educational needs – 15% of the pupil population, according to DfE figures – while the number with EHCPs has risen from 271,000 to more than 350,000 this year.

The review was welcomed by charities and interest groups, although some expressed scepticism over when the review would be completed given the turmoil of Westminster politics.

“After years of cuts, years of parents being pushed to breaking point, and years of underachievement because children have just not been given the support they need to thrive, this review and £700m investment couldn’t be more important,” said Ian Noon, the chief policy adviser at the National Deaf Children’s Society.

“The last major government review of special needs education five years ago saw huge upheaval to the system, but little improvement to how many children were supported.

“This [review] has the potential to be a gamechanger for children with special needs. But only if we see immediate action from government, not a review that goes on interminably.”

James Jamieson, the chair of the Local Government Association, said the review was good news for councils facing immense pressures in providing care and support for children and young people with special needs.

“We are keen that this review also considers inclusion because we want to see all schools become more inclusive, so that more children with high needs can be appropriately supported in mainstream schools,” Jamieson said.

“We want to work with government and families and children with Send on this review to get a clear picture of why demand and cost pressures are continuing to rise and what can be done to make the system work more effectively for everyone.”

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