In the UK there have been massive changes announced in the Special Educational Needs (SEN) area. The UK system parallels many aspects of the NZ system in deaf education. Some of the key changes include giving parents control of the funding for their children and bringing together all service providers into a single assessment mechanism.

These changes are precisely what we are advocating for in the NZ context. 

This is the announcement.


Updated: 28 September 2012

Government proposes reforms to SEN system

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather today unveiled proposals which would mean the biggest programme of reform in the education and health support for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities in 30 years.

The Government wants to fundamentally reform the SEN system to address problems including:

  • parents having to battle to get the support their child needs
  • SEN statements not joining up education, health and care support
  • children falling between the gaps in services or having to undergo multiple assessments.
  • multiple layers of paperwork and bureaucracy adding delays to getting support, therapy and vital equipment
  • a confusing and adversarial assessment process, with parents’ confidence in the system undermined by the perceived conflict of interest where the local authority must provide SEN support as well as assess children’s needs
  • Ofsted and others suggest that too many children are being over-identified as SEN, which prevents them from achieving their potential because teachers have lower expectations of them.

The Government proposes to:

  • include parents in the assessment process and introduce a legal right, by 2014, to give them control of funding for the support their child needs
  • replace statements with a single assessment process and a combined education, health and care plan so that health and social services is included in the package of support, along with education
  • ensure assessment and plans run from birth to 25 years old
  • replace the existing complicated School Action and School Action Plus system with a simpler new school-based category to help teachers focus on raising attainment
  • overhaul teacher training and professional development to better help pupils with special educational needs and to raise their attainment
  • inject greater independence from local authorities in assessments by looking at how voluntary groups might coordinate the package of support
  • give parents a greater choice of school and give parents and community groups the power to set up special free schools.

Currently children who have severe, profound or multiple health and learning needs or disabilities receive a statement of support from their local authority. However, it often isn’t clear – to parents, and to local services – who is responsible for delivering on the statement. For example, services such as speech and language therapy may appear in the statement but are funded and commissioned by local health services.

So the Government will tackle this problem – which has never been addressed before – by introducing one single assessment process and education, health and care plan to give children all the help they need. It will mean education, health and social services must work together to give families one single package of support, tailored to their individual needs.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:

We have heard time and time again that parents are frustrated with endless delays to getting the help their child needs, and by being caught in the middle when local services don’t work together.

Parents and voluntary organisations have given us overwhelming examples where they have felt let down by local services. At the moment there is an appalling situation where public money is being wasted as children are growing out of equipment, like wheelchairs, before they even arrive. The new single assessment process and plan will tackle this issue and mean that parents don’t feel they have to push to get the services they are entitled to.

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:

It is vital that children, whatever their needs, get the best possible start in life. The proposed new single assessment and plan should make it easier for parents to get the support they need for their children.

Our new plans for the NHS will make sure that children and young people with special educational needs and disability get the support they need. We are introducing health and wellbeing boards which bring together the NHS, social care, public health and children’s services. The strong focus in the green paper on personal budgets and on opening up the range of health service providers will also help to drive change and lead to better services.

We want children’s needs met much more effectively so they get better health outcomes and more personalised and local service.

Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes said:

This Government wants to do more to help people overcome barriers that hold them back. The green paper we are publishing today proposes to create a radically different system to support better outcomes for people with special educational needs and disabilities. The further education and skills system has a crucial part to play as young adults with special educational needs progress from school into adult life.

Currently more than one in five children (21 per cent) in this country are identified as having SEN but only 2.7 per cent have statements.

To help children that have a learning need, but not necessarily a special educational need, we will:

  • Extend the Achievement for All programme so personalised support is mainstream in all schools. This programme has seen an increase in results and a decrease in pupils on the SEN register. We are inviting bids for an independent organisation to extend the programme across the country.
  • Facilitate the transition to the open market of Every Child a Reader, Every Child a Talker and Ever Child Counts programmes to help those children struggling with early communication, reading and mathematics.
  • Introduce phonics-based training to support children who need additional help in reading.
  • Work with SEN specialists as we develop the Reading Progress Check for six year olds to help identify children who require additional support.
  • Introduce a new performance table indicator to give parents clear information on the progress of the lowest attaining pupils.
  • Direct funding to the most deprived pupils – a third of whom are currently identified as having SEN – through the Pupil Premium.

Lorraine Petersen OBE, Chief Executive of the National Association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN), said:

NASEN welcomes the green paper. There has long been a need for a more coherent joined-up approach to the assessment of children and young people identified as having SEN. The proposals for an Education, Health and Care Plan to replace the statement will ensure that all those providing services are involved from birth to 25 and commit to providing services in the plan.

We are also pleased to see a clear emphasis on training and development for staff in schools – building on the schools white paper. We need our teachers to be well trained and confident to identify needs and barriers to learning and provide the right support early on.

NASEN is delighted the green paper recognises the important role of the SEN coordinator and is pleased that support for training new SENCOs is continuing.

Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family, said:

We welcome the Government’s aspirations to improve the lives of families with disabled children as set out in Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability.

Many of the principles outlined in the consultation paper are to be commended. We need to examine the proposals in more detail to assess the degree to which they will meet the real needs of disabled children and their families. However the consultation provides a very useful starting point for debate.

Notes to editors

1. The SEN and disabilities Green Paper is published today and is available to download from the Department’s publications website.

2. The consultation is available on the Department’s consultations website where you can respond online or download a response form.

3. A child is defined as having SEN if they have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of their age which calls for additional or different educational provision to be made for them.

4. School Action and School Action Plus categories were introduced in 2003. The level of SEN statements is determined by the local authority; SEN identification at School Action and School Action plus is determined at school level.

  • School Action – 11.4% of the school population: at School Action a child might receive some one-to-one support, different learning materials or special equipment. There might be some occasional support from the local authority support services and staff might undergo some training in order to introduce different/better interventions for children.
  • School Action Plus – 6.2% of the school population: at School Action Plus the child is likely to receive support from services external to the school on a more regular basis with the support services acting as advisers to the school. The support services/educational psychology service can give advice on a range of different teaching approaches, appropriate equipment and teaching materials.
  • Statement – 2.7% of the school population: this is where the child has severe and complex needs requiring support beyond what the school can provide and the local authority arranges appropriate provision.

5. In recent years the proportion of children with SEN but without statements has nearly doubled – from 10 per cent of all pupils in 1995 to 18.2 per cent or 1.5 million children in 2010. The proportions of children identified as SEN at School Action and School Action plus vary widely between local authorities and schools across the country. It is a much larger variation than among the statemented group. At school action it ranges from 7.2 per cent to 21.0 per cent, and at School Action Plus it ranges from 2.8 per cent to 11.8 per cent. Across individual schools, the proportions of children and young people identified as having SEN varies from over 70 per cent in some schools to below 5 per cent in others.

6. The Department will work with the educational psychologists profession and local commissioners to review the future training arrangements for educational psychologists. While the review is being carried out, the Department is making provision for the current training arrangements to continue in order to secure a continuing flow of entrants to the profession. The final year of the current arrangements will be for those whose courses commence in September 2012.

Contact details

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Telephone: 0370 000 2288

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Telephone: 020 7783 8300

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