The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds has announced new measures to support children with complex needs and disabilities. Councils will receive an additional £250 million over the next two years, on top of the high needs budget already allocated to provide support to children and young people with complex SEND. £100 million will also be provided to create specialist places in mainstream schools, colleges and special schools, through capital funding.
More special free schools will also be approved by the department, with the Education Secretary confirming that he will approve all high quality bids in the current round of applications. This should create more places for children and young people with SEND, and give parents more choice.
The Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:
“Being a parent, we all want the very best for our children. We want them to attend a school that supports them to thrive, go on to higher or further education or training, find a job that’s right for them, and to live happy and fulfilled lives.
“For children with special educational needs this is no different. It is important that they have the right support in place at school – whether that is in a mainstream setting, with additional support, or in a special school.
“We recognise that the high needs budget faces significant pressures and this additional investment will help local councils to manage those pressures, whilst being able to invest to provide more support.”
Local authority education services will also be encouraged to work more closely with health and social care to commission local services through a new Leadership Board for SEND. CDC Director Dame Christine Lenehan’s 2018 report “Good Intentions, Good Enough” recommended that a Leadership Board for SEND be established to improve the commissioning and delivery of services to improve outcomes. This new expert board will include representatives of local health, social care, and education services, and will work closely with charities, school and families. You can read more about this board here.
Christine Lenehan stated:
"We are delighted that the Government has announced an early Christmas present for children with SEND. This is a start, but only a start, in tackling the significant challenges faced by local areas and, importantly, children and families. We are pleased to see progress on the Leadership Board and look forward to it making a positive contribution to ensuring all local areas have access to the best of practice.”
The Government has also confirmed an expansion of the funding to train more educational psychologists, who are responsible for assessing children’s needs and providing tailored support as part of the Education, Health and Care needs assessment process. From September 2020 there will be a further three training rounds and an increase in the number of trainees from 160 to at least 206, to help keep up with demand for this specialist advice.
The Department for Education has also announced a long term research and analysis programme, ‘SEN Futures’, to assess impact of current SEN provision on children and young people’s outcomes, and the value for money of SEN provision in England.