Six things you need to know about the SEND consultation 2022

At first blush it might not seem like the Green Paper on the Future of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and Alternative Provision system in England has much to do with higher education.  After all, the consultation is focused on introducing new standards in the quality of support given to children across education, health and care.

 The Green Paper is a result of the 2019 SEND Review commissioned to improve an “inconsistent, process heavy and increasingly adversarial system”. Currently it can be very difficult to access the right support in a complex system and it is not always clear what support should be provided or who should pay for it.

While higher education is certainly not the focus of the Green Paper, the sector is referred to highlighting the role of higher education in society.  This feeds into the widening participation and access agenda and the renewed focus in relation to the strategic partnering of schools.  Changes to the SEND system will be relevant to higher education institutions grappling with these issues both at policy level and on the ground particularly in relation to admissions and arrangements supporting students during their studies.

Highlighted below are some of the key proposals:

  1. A single national SEND and Alternative Provision system setting out nationally consistent standards for how needs are met at every stage of a child’s journey across education, health and care.
  2. A new legal requirement for councils to introduce “local inclusion plans” that brings together early years, schools and post-16 education with health and care services, giving system partners more certainty on who is responsible and when.
  3. Adjustment passports will be piloted to ensure that young people are prepared for work or higher education. The passport will set out the support the young person requires to succeed in higher education or in the workplace.  Interestingly, the Department for Work and Pensions is currently running a similar pilot scheme at the University of Wolverhampton and Manchester Metropolitan University to facilitate students with disabilities to transition from higher education into the workplace.
  4. Better use of data in the SEND system including seeking to capture outcomes and attainment such as the percentage of young people with SEND in higher education. While the consultation does not say how this will be achieved there is clearly overlap with the information required by the OfS, particularly in relation to the monitoring of access and participation.
  5. Updating the school “Performance Tables” to support parents, young people and wider stakeholders to consider contextual information and make it easier to recognise schools that are doing well for children with SEND.
  6. Set guidelines for who pays for support and how local authorities set funding levels. Nothing specific is set out in relation to higher education. How will funding for the transition to higher education work? Will there be additional funding for universities to support SEND and disabled students? Presumably, this will fall under the current options on offer to support disabled students at university, particularly as students are usually adults.  Currently, there are various avenues where disabled students can seek financial support to assist them in their studies including the usual student loans, bursaries, scholarships and awards and hardship funds that universities offer. Disabled students may also be eligible for state benefits (in particular, the Disabled Students’ Allowance) and there are also charitable trusts that offer funding specifically for disabled students in higher education.

The consultation closes on 1 July 2022. If you are interested in responding you can do so here.

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