I CAN Response to Publication of Special Educational Needs Clauses in the Children and Families Bill

I CAN, the children’s communication charity, welcomes the publication of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) clauses of the Children and Families Bill today (Monday 3rd September).

We are particularly pleased to see the continued commitment to greater collaboration between services across education, health and social care with the introduction of integrated Education, Health and Care Plans for children and young people right from birth to aged 25.

Effective support for children with all special educational needs and in particular, speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) needs professionals across education and health to work together, as well as input from parents and young people themselves.

We welcome the recognition of the importance of joint commissioning of services for children and young people with SLCN included in this Bill. While this approach is proven to result in better services and outcomes for children, the 2012 report of the outgoing Communication Champion for Children, Jean Gross CBE, found that joint commissioning was not happening in 70% of local areas. We hope that this Bill will help to ensure the joint planning and commissioning of services for disabled children and those with special educational needs.

I CAN runs two non-maintained specialist schools for children with severe speech, language and communication needs and we know from the parents of our pupils how hard it is to access information about what help is available. It is very welcome to see that the Bill includes a requirement of Local Authorities to consult non-maintained specialist schools when keeping their local service offer under review.

Because communication difficulties are largely hidden, we know that the needs of children with SLCN are often overlooked or mis-labelled as something else. The Minister has also previously recognised in press reports that there is an under-identification for children with SLCN. We need to ensure that professionals are equipped with the knowledge and skills to identify and support children who are struggling.

The Department for Education and ministers have themselves recognised that there is an under-identification for children with SLCN. We need to ensure that professionals are equipped with the knowledge and skills to identify and support children.

Virginia Beardshaw, I CAN Chief Executive, said:

“Speech, language and communication skills are the basis for other key life skills: learning, literacy, positive relationships and regulation of behaviour and emotions. As many as 10% of children in the UK – over 1 million – have speech, language and communication needs, that require specialist help. This represents approximately three children in every classroom. Speech, language and communication is the most common type of need in primary-aged children with statements of special educational need. Evidence also demonstrates that almost 50% of children from disadvantaged communities are starting school with delayed language skills. However, in our experience, SLCN often goes undetected in children and young people.

“It is important for all children with SEN, including those with SLCN, that their needs are identified and supported in a timely and effective manner. Without support, many children with SEN and SLCN start school behind their peers and as they get older the attainment gap increases. There is a strong economic case for identifying children with communication difficulties as early as possible to enable them to receive the support they need to progress and in some cases to catch up. It is vital too, to ensure children can receive the education they need to develop the skills and qualifications needed to become the workforce of tomorrow”