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Written Off?
Thursday 02 March 2023

SEND improvement plan another missed opportunity

The government has today published its long-awaited SEND and AP Improvement plan.  

Responding to the plan, Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said:  

Autistic children and young people are being written off before they’ve even left school. They are more at risk of exclusion, less likely to reach their potential and often deeply unhappy in education.  
The government’s SEND review was a key opportunity to reform the broken system and tackle head on the problems that are holding back autistic pupils. Yet many feared some of the proposals could make things worse – over 7,000 people have signed our petition calling for the protection of SEND funding and families’ legal rights to support.  
Having seen today’s improvement plan, families may be reassured that their vital rights to assessment and support are safe, for now. However, it is clear the government has no intention of scrapping proposals that deeply worry many parents – such as tailored lists, national funding bands and mandatory mediation. We will need to keep a close eye on the trials of these policies to ensure they do not lead to an undermining of families’ rights. 

The government understands what is needed to create an effective SEND system – a strong and robust workforce, strengthened accountabilities and sustainable and fair funding. Frustratingly, we see very little in this plan that will achieve this. We welcome plans for autism specific guidance, and the small steps to improve the SEND workforce. Beyond that, this is another missed opportunity that does not tackle the issues families are experiencing right now.  
Children only get one childhood’, as the government itself says – yet through delayed action and proposals that fall short of tackling the key issues, this plan has the potential to write off another generation of autistic pupils. 
We know the solutions that will allow autistic young people to thrive in education. We need to plug the gaps in the SEND workforce, so all autistic pupils are supported, and we need Ofsted to hold schools to account by making SEND support a higher priority during inspections. We need to make education policy work for all pupils – not just those who can reach narrow attainment targets. 
We urge families to sign our petition and help send a message to government that autistic children and young people desperately need more support than this plan offers.


We want action 

Ambitious Youth Network member, 16-year-old Lily Ashby, said: 

No child should have to suffer because of provision that should be there but isn’t. This is why the SEND system needs immediate funding now. We don’t want empty promises, we want action. If not, I can promise you that I will not be the last child who has been written off.

Ambitious Youth Network member, 20-year-old Harvey Range, added:  

I've spent too long being quiet about my experience of being autistic in a mainstream school. Now I have fully accepted my autism, I've been able to properly reflect on what could have been different in my school life had my autism been understood. Autistic students are treated unfairly in mainstream schools. They are written off, with many unable to attend school even when they want to, due to a lack of support and understanding from both teachers and peers. I would like the government to make it a legal requirement for all school staff to undertake autism awareness training before being employed. This is a crucial step in making sure autistic students get the best chances of excelling in education.