Information on support for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities: keeping up with the changes

It’s just over one year since the implementation of the Children and Families Act which introduced large scale change to the ways children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities are identified and supported.

We’re still finding out what the changes have meant for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, but information is starting to come in – mainly through a range surveys and reports, looking at the impact of the changes for both families and practitioners and identifying change to practice..

Some parents/carers and families have reported positive impacts,: they feel more included in the process, and able to express their views about their child’s SEN support. However, there are still concerns that children and young people are being meaning fully involved in the process. The final evaluation report from the SEN pathfinder authorities found there still to be a significant number of families struggling with the system. Another report has looked at funding arrangements and practices for SEN in different local areas and identified, amongst other things, varying degrees of confidence in how the funding arrangements are working.

We have heard recently from the Driver Youth Trust who launched a report last week ‘Joining the Dots: have recent reforms worked for those with SEND?’. This found that current SEN provision is ‘fragmented’ leading to difficulties in sharing information and knowledge, and that students, parents, schools and sector organisations are finding it difficult to navigate the new system. This report also highlights the need for support of children with SEN to be the priority of everyone in the setting, not just specialist staff.

However, whilst there is more and more information about the impact of the changes, there is still a somewhat confusing picture. What the information and feedback says so far is that this is a process of long term reform; although the changes came into place a year ago, it will be several years before they are completed. Already we have seen amendments to the original plans, with news that the Government will extend the maximum timescale for transferring individual statements to education, health and care plans from 16 to 20 weeks.

Information around the systems in place can be confusing for everyone, in particular parents and carers who may be entering the world of SEN support for the first time. That’s why websites like Talking Point are so valuable. Talking Point contains information on how children with SEN are supported at school, a really helpful glossary explaining many of the terms that parents may come across, and a range of different questions and answers to help with understanding special educational needs. This type of information will be invaluable to parents struggling to make sense of the world of SEN.