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Justin Cooke - Policy Manager at Ambitious about Autism

Thursday 28 November 2019

Our five priorities for the next Government to tackle the SEND crisis

This is not just our verdict but that of the National Audit Office, the House of Commons Education Select Committee and the Local Government Ombudsman, to name but a few. 

The system’s failings have damning repercussions for children and young people, their families and the professionals trying to support them.  
Families face lengthy and costly legal battles to get their children the support they need in an underfunded and under resourced system. Children are missing large parts of their school life due to a lack of understanding and increasing off-rolling and school exclusions - both lawful and unlawful. 
All children and young people have a right to a full and meaningful education and autistic children are no different. The next Government must ensure that all schools comply with their legal duties to make reasonable adjustments for these pupils and find lasting solutions to the problems they face.  

It’s an opportunity to take leadership and transform the lives of the 130,000 autistic pupils currently in our education system. Here, we set out our key priorities for the next Government.  


Increase and track SEND funding 

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) funding has not kept pace with the needs of pupils and the shortfall has been growing. In its recent SEND report the House of Commons Education Committee predicted a deficit of more than £1 billion by 2021.  
But not only do we need real term increases to high needs funding, school budgets and specialist support services, we also need a system that tracks and audits this spending. 

Improve and audit SEN Support 

There are over one million children with identified Special Educational Needs in our education system and the majority of them receive SEN Support – for which their schools get extra funding. However, the way this funding is used by schools is not tracked or monitored.  
The next Government must fully audit and ringfence SEN funding and provide better advice to schools on how to help children receiving SEN Support. Through their local area SEND inspections Ofsted and CQC have found that pupils on SEN Support have poorer outcomes than those with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. If we get SEN support within schools right, we will need less costly interventions later in a child’s school life and reduce the need for EHC plans.  


Improve Education, Health and Care plans 

An Education Health and Care plan is for children and young people up to 25 who need more support than is provided through SEN Support. The next Government must ensure that all EHC plans meet their legal requirements with input from health and social care services, alongside education. We also want to see the introduction of a new national template for EHC plans to help parents better understand their child’s plan and what should be included in it.  

Training for all school staff  

It’s not just teachers who need better training in spotting and helping children with autism.  
With training in autism and learning disabilities now mandatory for NHS staff we need the same level of training within schools. Autism awareness training needs to be extended to all school staff – from support staff and teachers to governors.  

Reduce school exclusions and end unlawful exclusions and off-rolling  

The next Government must do more to ensure that schools are held accountable for all unlawful exclusions and off-rolling with extra powers given to Ofsted to investigate and fail schools who are found to have broken the law. They must also do more to reduce school exclusions, keep autistic children in schools, and not allow them to become victims of zero tolerance behaviour policies.