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### Analyzing the Flaws in SEND Reforms and Crafting Effective Solutions

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A decade ago, significant educational reforms for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) received approval under the Children and Families Act, heralded as the most substantial in a generation.

Termed a pivotal moment to enhance SEND education, the reforms aimed to prioritize children and parents within the system, according to former children’s minister Edward Timpson.

However, the current scenario depicts a system in turmoil. Local councils face financial instability, parents are compelled to litigate for pledged assistance, and vulnerable children endure prolonged waits for aid.

Schools Week engaged with over a dozen experts, including key stakeholders, to dissect the failures and explore potential solutions…

Enhanced Commitments Amid Fiscal Constraints

The alterations substituted statements of SEND with Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCPs), emphasizing personal objectives and outlining support provisions more explicitly. EHCPs were also extended to encompass individuals aged 16 to 25.

The surge in EHCPs can be attributed to heightened awareness of SEND, escalating complexities in needs, and an austerity-driven decline in mainstream schools’ capacity to cater to special needs adequately.

The government’s 2022 SEND green paper acknowledged the inadequacy of early years and mainstream schools in identifying and addressing students’ requirements.

Dwindling Confidence and Escalating Challenges

Brian Lamb, a pivotal figure in the 2014 reforms, noted a disproportionate emphasis on perfecting EHCPs at the expense of enhancing standard provisions. The escalating EHCP numbers compared to overall SEND identifications indicate a growing reliance on plans to ensure support provision.

The implementation of EHCPs mandated councils to issue plans within 20 weeks and conduct annual reviews. However, councils, strained by austerity measures, struggle to comply, with plan issuances falling below legal standards.

Financial Strain and Service Deficits

Austerity measures have strained wider support services, resulting in heightened thresholds and diminished early interventions. The widening gap in council spending on early versus late interventions underscores the financial strain, with deficits in high-needs budgets reaching alarming levels.

Councils, grappling with deficits, resort to redirecting funds to plug gaps rather than channeling resources to schools as intended. Moreover, mainstream schools, grappling with funding constraints, are ill-equipped to address the mounting challenges posed by increasing special needs.

Remedial Measures and Ongoing Challenges

The government’s proposed reforms aim to foster inclusivity in mainstream schools, albeit with limited additional funding. Efforts are underway to enhance teacher training on SEND, signaling a step towards rectifying the systemic flaws.

However, the protracted pace of change, coupled with ministerial turnovers, underscores the arduous path ahead. The SEND system’s overhaul necessitates a concerted effort and a fundamental shift in attitudes and practices to ensure optimal support for all children.