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(UK) Ministers "abandon" promise to fix special ed; $1.6B "high needs" deficit

Nov 25, 2022, Schools Week: Ministers abandon pledge to decide SEND reforms this year https://schoolsweek.co.uk/ministers-abandon-pledge-to-decide-send-reforms-this-year/
Ministers appear to have abandoned their pledge to decide on sweeping reforms to the broken special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system by the end of the year.
The much-delayed SEND and alternative provision (AP) green paper included a commitment to identify children’s needs more quickly and introduce new national standards for provision.
When it was announced in March, ministers said they would publish a “national SEND delivery plan” on how proposed changes would be implemented “later this year”.

It would also set out the government’s response to the three-month consultation, which closed in July.

Since then, the Department for Education has had five ministerial teams amid the Conservative party leadership chaos.

Any timelines from minister statements have now been ditched.

Helen Hayes, Labour’s shadow children’s minister, accused the Conservatives of “sitting on the sidelines” of the SEND system, adding “months of chaos” within the party “must not be allowed to hamper reforms so evidently needed”….

“The secretary of state must commit to no further delays in bringing forward plans which respond to the consultation feedback from parents and professionals working to support children with SEND.”

In September, then-children’s minister Kelly Tolhurst pledged government would “set out its plan for delivering improvements to the SEND and AP system later this year”.

But her wording changed several days later, committing only to publish “an implementation strategy in due course”.

DFE ‘REVIEWING FEEDBACK’

Last week, current children’s minister Claire Coutinho dropped any timeline from her response.

Instead, she said DfE was “currently reviewing the feedback received during the consultation period” to “inform the next stage of delivering improvements”….

Launched in 2019, the review was delayed three times before its publication alongside the schools white paper in March.

The consultation period was then extended by three weeks because of a delay in publishing accessible versions of documents.

This week, 34 lawyers called for ministers to abandon the green paper proposals and instead introduce greater accountability on local authorities “failing to fulfil the legal duties” of children.

Schools Week has revealed how special schools are being forced to cram vulnerable pupils into converted therapy spaces and staffrooms amid a places crisis.

Councils are sending more youngsters to costly independent schools, pushing their high-needs funding black hole to £1.3 billion [$1.6B]

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More than two thirds of councils inspected by Ofsted last year had “significant weaknesses” in how they supported SEND pupils.

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