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Dominic Luscombe

Reflections on the Education Committee’s SEND report: challenges faced by local areas can be overcome

This week a cross-party committee of MPs published a report on the state of provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Like a number of recent reports from other agencies (e.g. National Audit Office, Local Government Association), it describes a SEND system that is not working for children and families and is frequently a cause of ‘conflict and despair’. We fully recognise this analysis from our own experience of supporting eight local areas over the last year to improve support and outcomes for children with SEND.

The current state of the SEND system is unacceptable, and a bold response is needed from local areas and national government. In our view the sector needs to focus on shifting culture and behaviours, and on enabling system-wide accountability and collaboration – a position that is clearly supported and reinforced by this report.

Drawing on twenty years of experience of delivering impactful change in complex systems we are supporting local areas to develop new approaches to supporting children with SEND. This work is closely aligned with a number of recommendations in this report, and there are three areas in particular where huge strides are being made:

  1. Shifting culture and behaviour: The report authors state that ‘unless we see a culture change, within schools and local authorities and the Government, any additional money will be wasted’. We fully agree. Attempts to improve and reform SEND services so far have focused largely on process and structures. We are working with local areas to focus on behaviours and ways of working at the frontline, and are already seeing the impact of interventions which draw on behavioural science at a local level.
  2. Connecting needs, support and outcomes: The report says that there is ‘too much of a tension between the child’s needs and the provision available’. This is a recurring theme seen through our work and the basis for our Valuing SEND programme. This aims to connect needs, resources and outcomes by capturing and codifying the needs of children with SEND – and using this to support early intervention and strengths-based planning at a child and cohort level.
  3. Building system-wide accountability: This is another recurring theme; we commonly see siloed approaches and thinking which reflect professional and institutional boundaries. We are working with local areas to develop a genuinely inclusive ambition for SEND, which cuts across the system. This can bring children, families and different professionals together behind a shared vision and set of outcomes.

Our work is already demonstrating that local areas can be bolder in introducing new approaches to supporting children with SEND. To find out more, please contact us.

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