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NGA responds to the publication of the SEND improvement plan


NGA's response to plans to change the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision (AP) system in England.

Governing boards have statutory responsibilities for pupils with SEND and must use their best endeavours to ensure that pupils with SEND are supported in their education. However, for many boards, their best efforts are not always sufficient to improve provision and outcomes in a system that is under resourced and where the quality of support is variable.

On 2 March, The government published its long awaited Improvement Plan for SEND and Alternative Provision following a public consultation on proposals in the SEND ReviewRight Support, Right Place, Right Time, published in 2022. NGA took part in the consultation and supported the proposals, which focus on creating a more inclusive system by improving outcomes, navigation and use of resources. 

The plan confirms the intention to provide consistency of approach across the SEND system by introducing new evidence-based national standards and digitised Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans. These are important steps, but implementation will not be until 2025 at the earliest. It is of concern that, in the meantime, families will continue to experience unacceptable delays and challenges in getting the support they need.

Special Educational needs coordinators (SENCO) have an invaluable role in schools. They work closely with governing boards to embed a leadership culture that promotes collective responsibility for SEND and coproduction: allowing the family to be part of the process. 

We support the intention to increase the profile, status and impact of the SENCO and welcome the introduction of a leadership level National Professional Qualification (NPQ), which will be mandatory for those who do not already hold the National Award for SEN Co-ordination (NASENCO). 

Our members frequently cite their concern over the lack of suitable provision for pupils with SEND when half of state funded special schools in England are oversubscribed. We, therefore, welcome the commitment to providing more specialist provision and targeting the areas in most need whilst acknowledging that it does not alleviate the current pressures on mainstream schools struggling to meet the needs of pupils with a special school named in their EHC.

Overall, the positive intentions and commitment to change conveyed through the plan are overshadowed by issues of funding and resource, which are well documented. Governing Boards are struggling to balance their school and trust budget amidst rising costs when real terms per-pupil funding has only recently been restored to what it was in 2010.

Meanwhile, despite the extra £400m high needs funding announced in the Autumn Statement, councils still face huge deficits and lack long term certainty over their funding to support children with SEND. If these issues are not addressed, then it is questionable whether plans to change the system will deliver the level of support our most vulnerable children need and deserve across the country. 

Steve Edmonds, director of advice and guidance at NGA commented:  "NGA welcomes the publication of the SEND improvement plan.  We have previously stated our support for those proposals in the green paper, which were focused on improving outcomes, making it easier to navigate the system and more effective use of resources. However, we also share the concerns of our members, the wider sector and above all parents, over the lengthy implementation period when the system is under great pressure and so many pupils and families experience delays and challenges in getting the support they