SEND National Crisis March across the country

SEND National Crisis March across the country

Anna Kennedy, OBE who is a campaigner for autism will speak at the SEND crisis national March, where she will be one of the representatives for London.

Anna Kennedy’s experience of speaking with parents on a daily basis through social media and through her autism charity AnnaKennedyOnline has led her to join and speak at the march.

This march is aimed at:

  • Parents and carers who are struggling and are frustrated with the SEND system currently in place.
  • Parents who do not believe that this current system is providing fair and equal accessibility for their children, as was promised.
  • Parents from across the country who feel that the current legislative framework surrounding SEND, is not fit for purpose and appears to be designed in such a way to avoid putting in place the required provisions to support their children receive an education to meet their needs.

Anna Kennedy is inviting you to share and sign Nadia Turks’s petition which will be handed into 10 Downing Street on 30th May.


This nationwide protest is being organised SEND Crisis to take place on 30th May. This march aims to highlight a range of SEND issues.

Poppy Rose and Sharon Pratt are at the helm of coordinating the event. They will be joining Anna Kennedy on her weekly live ‘All things Autism’ Women’s Radio Show on May 7th at 1pm

There are also planned marches across the UK on 30th May to raise awareness of failings to those with SEND, their families and education providers who are expected to provide an appropriate education on continuous budget cuts.

Everyone is invited – parents, carers , young people , school staff, among others – to support the march in London.

You are also invited to follow the SEND National Crisis Facebook Page.

There will also be guest speakers in London at 1pm outside of Parliament Square :

  • Siena Castellon
  • Alfie Scanlon
  • Emma Parker
  • Max Green
  • Kevin Courtney
  • Dean Beadle
  • Dr Carrie Grant
  • Dr Anna Kennedy, OBE
  • Tania Tirraoro


Siena Castellon one of Anna Kennedy’ s young charity Ambassadors shares:

‘We live in a society that neglects its children with SEND. Instead of supporting and nurturing SEND students so that they can fulfil their potential, our politicians have eviscerated their support services and created a climate that encourages and rewards schools that deny SEND students a place at their school and that exclude SEND students.

Click here to read the article by Nadia and Poppy last week who are organising parent-power marches to protest the lack of funding for SEND. It won’t be just parents taking to the streets. Young disabled people like myself are the ones suffering and we demand to be heard too!

Anna and Siena both share: ‘Together we can make our voices heard. Together we can all make a difference! ‘

SEND National Crisis: Marching for our disabled children’s future – Special Needs Jungle

SEND National Crisis: Marching for our disabled children’s future – Special Needs Jungle

We’ve written many posts here on SNJ about the funding crisis. Renata and I also joined the NEU organised event at the back end of last year. And as the days tick down toward the Government’s long awaited spending review, it’s more important than ever to show how you feel.

Today on SNJ we’re hearing from the two SEND parents who are masterminding coordinated marches and rallies across the country on May 30th this year. From the start a year ago, increasing numbers have joined the #SENDNationalCrisis Facebook group, and offshoot groups for local marches, as the plans have developed. There’s also a public page here

The reforms were designed to end the adversarial system that all-too-often sees parents at loggerheads with local authorities over SEND provision. But the new 0-25 system that covered education, health and social care provision was never likely to come cheap. And doing it in a holistic way that included culture change was always going to be more than the cost of changing the nuts and bolts.

But the government’s abject failure to foresee the true cost of implementation, coupled with its leadership deciding that austerity was best visited on the vulnerable, have heaped chaos, pain and misery on the very families they purported to help. This morally bankrupt, seemingly psychopathic, Brexit-obsessed Government (if you can still call it a Government) is daily harming the life chances of a generation of children to whom it promised a brighter future. Our disabled children have become collateral damage to a broken ideology.

We met Poppy Rose, one of the leaders of the SEND Crisis group at that same NEU event. She’s here today with her co-organiser, Nadia Turki, to jointly tell you all about the marches and why they’re taking action on 30th May.

Join the SEND Crisis marches to fight for our disabled children

Nadi Turki: It’s 2019 and in a time of austerity, people have come together to fight for what’s right and for the greater good. In 2019 we can develop gene-targeted therapies to alter outcomes of congenital diseases and even manipulate the human mind. Yet, today we have thousands of parents and carers in this beautiful, bright country, fighting for a fair education for disabled children and young people. Why? Because their / our children do not fit the normal criteria for accessing education. 

Some of the greatest minds in human history have been in some way different. Einstein – Asperger’s, Stephen Hawking –  Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Andrea Bocelli – Congenital Glaucoma, John Nash – Acute Paranoid Schizophrenia. The list really is endless. So why is there an open discrimination towards disabled learners? Why are they disregarded in terms of their abilities? Don’t get me wrong, this is not the trend throughout the country. I have spent time with so many professionals that fight for the rights of these groups and support our fight for equality. However, there continues to be a lapse of support and assessment for this group resulting in tens of thousands of children and young people being left without an appropriate education. In some cases, left without any form of education or even worse; left within an education establishment that is unable to cater for their needs. The latter resulting in some very damaging mental health,  trust and confidence issues.

I am one of the parents that believes that this current system isn’t providing fair and equal accessibility for all. I believe, or should I say ‘evidence shows’, that the current legislative framework surrounding SEND, has more holes that a fish net and is allowing local policies to avoid and tactically refuse the correct or required provisions for children across the country. 

My name is Nadia Turki and I have three children. My eldest child was born with bi-lateral Peters Anomaly and was blind from birth. He does have a very limited level of light dark perception and has a number of other related congenital conditions such as hypo-posterior pituitary and hypermobility.

From day one, we have been lucky enough to have an amazing team of medical professions managing my son’s constant medical intervention, however his education and social development have been a different matter altogether. My son has amazing support in school and has always built very strong relationships with his teachers and VI support.

The struggle for inclusive education has been relative to our desire to have a balance of social development. We desired a local Secondary school to enable him to establish local friends and were told that this would not happen as a different Secondary school had already been set up with a provision to accommodate visually impaired students. This was an ongoing battle that we unfortunately lost, and although my son is happy at school, he lacks any level of social life that doesn’t rely on his parents’ input and transport etc. 

So this was why I started to look at the current SEND structure and legislation. I quickly realised that it is flawed and that thousands of children and young people were not being provided with correct or adequate education provisions… HEY PRESTO, @SENDNationalCrisis was born!

Poppy Rose:

I am a single parent to two boys aged 19 and 14. My youngest son had early diagnoses of  Dyspraxia, Hypermobility, Severe Sensory Processing Disorder, Global Developmental Delay, and Sleep Difficulties. He received further diagnoses of ASD and Severe Anxiety aged 12.  My son attended a mainstream primary school where his needs were managed. Early intervention and adequate support enabled him to achieve Level 5 SATS results. Although he was progressing academically, there were concerns that the transition to secondary would be difficult for him and he would struggle with the environment and general pace of mainstream secondary education without an EHCP.

My son started a mainstream secondary placement and the difficulties became apparent very quickly.  Aged 12, his anxiety became so severe that he was suicidal. He was so socially anxious that he was deemed too unwell and signed off from school medically by CAMHS, who actually stated that lack of support at school was the reason for my son’s ill health.  I made a parental request for an EHCP and so the battle began!

I spent hours reading the SEND Code of Practice and the Children and Families Act. Social media parent groups were my absolute lifeline. I began chatting with Nadia through one of these groups and although the distance between is hundreds of miles, we became good friends and SendNationalCrisis was formed.

A flawed system starved of funding

In just a few weeks, the group had gained thousands of members showing the true extent of a clearly flawed system. We have seen severe cuts; the largest in generations to education, health and social care budgets. Highly vulnerable children are being denied crucial services and provision. 

We find ourselves in a process that is mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially draining. We are seeing loss of employment, remortgaging of homes, families and relationships destroyed, severe mental health crises, suicide even. All to ensure our children have their needs met and the support they are not only entitled to, but that they actually need.

The current SEND Code of Practice is nothing but an empty promise, whilst there is no accountability for the direct failings and discrimination we face trying to access our children’s  fundamental right to education.

We believe the current SEND Reforms 2014, are not effective and should be evaluated with parent/carer consultation. I once heard, ‘You can fiddle with the engine, shout at the mechanics, pour money down the drain, service after service, but if the machine’s broken, it’s broken!’ We don’t need more tinkering with the old system, we need a new system! Until there is a culture change, all the money in the world won’t change a thing!

There are planned marches rallies and family events across the UK on the 30th May to raise awareness of failings to those with SEND, their families, and education settings who are expected to provide an adequate education on continuous budget cuts.

We would like to invite parents, carers, young people, families, school staff and anyone else who supports this to take part in their local event.

We want to emphasise that the campaign has only gained its momentum and impact thanks to the relentless work and support of our volunteers and coordinators. All of which are directly affected by the failures of the system and have a vested interest in improving the system and reducing isolation and discrimination. Nadia & Poppy

Our Facebook page and group contain all the information about your local march  Group: SEND National Crisis March

You can also find SENDNationalCrisis’s website here and Twitter here. Next week, Siena Castellon is back to tell you why she’s joining the march too

Source: SEND National Crisis: Marching for our disabled children’s future – Special Needs Jungle

An inspector calls. Again. But are they improving SEND provision?

An inspector calls. Again. But are they improving SEND provision?

Just under three years ago, inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission began checking up on England’s SEND services. 

The original plan was a one-shot gig – inspect SEND services in each of England’s 152 ‘local areas’ (that’s the local authority, plus the NHS commissioning groups that work within it), check to make sure the 2014 SEND reforms were being implemented effectively, and wrap the job up in 2021.

Plans don’t often survive reality unscathed, and that’s what’s happened here. The powers that be who commissioned and designed these inspections didn’t anticipate the scale of underperformance in local area SEND services. 

Where are we now?

We’re now just over halfway through the inspections – check out the infographics for more detail, and to see what’s happened in your local area and region. But here’s how things stand in mid-March 2019:

Find the interactive version of the map here

  • 82 of the 152 local areas have been inspected, and have received an ‘outcome letter’ detailing their performance in implementing the SEND reforms. Five more are awaiting the result of their inspection.
  • Local area SEND inspections aren’t like school inspections: there’s no grade from outstanding to inadequate. But in 40 of the 82 local areas – nearly half of them –  inspectors found performance poor enough that they invoked their most serious sanction: instructing the local area to submit a written statement of action (WSOA), a plan showing how council and NHS leaders are going to improve the service.
  • Inspection outcomes are getting worse over time: in 2016’s inspections, 25% of local areas were told to write a written statement of action. In 2017, 51% of local areas had to submit one. And in 2018, nearly 60% of local areas inspected had to put a WSOA together. There’s not a clear reason why, but it’s highly likely that inspection standards have risen since the first visits in 2016. 

There’s also a disparity in outcomes by region: London and the East Midlands have performed relatively well in these inspections, but outcomes in Yorkshire and the North East have been much poorer. Again, it’s not exactly clear why, but it’s notable that many inspections in the North have been led by Ofsted’s most experienced & capable SEND specialists.

Written Statements of Action

So what happens when a local area is told to submit a written statement of action? We’ve covered this in a previous SNJ article, but here’s how it works: 

In their outcome letter, the inspectors will have identified several areas where they feel serious improvement is needed. For each of these areas, the local area writes a draft plan outlining:

  • what the intended outcome will be;
  • what needs to improve to achieve the outcome, and by when;
  • who in the local area is responsible for ensuring that improvement happens, and;
  • the indicators or steps that will tell the local area that it is actually improving.

All fine: but someone has to make sure that the local area is delivering on the plan, and the original arrangements for that were pretty hazy. The architects probably anticipated that this would be an occasional outcome – not something that would end up being needed for half of England’s local areas.

So the task of making sure the local area was getting its house in order was largely left to a roving band of DfE & NHS consultants – in some cases, the same consultants who had reported no serious problems with the local area prior to the inspection. 

There were clear problems emerging with this gossamer-thin monitoring process. So in July 2018, the Department for Education announced two things

  • Firstly, that they’d get Ofsted and CQC to monitor the local areas that had to submit a written statement of action, check on their progress, and advise the DfE on next steps. 
  • Secondly, DfE would ask Ofsted & CQC to design a second cycle of local area SEND inspections, to start once the first cycle of inspections had finished in 2021.

The Re-Visit Process

Ofsted & CQC set about designing a monitoring process in the autumn of 2018, and what emerged was a system of ‘re-visits’. You can find the full re-visit framework here, but here’s how it works:

  • If the local area was told to submit a written statement of action, Ofsted & CQC inspectors will re-visit it roughly 21 months after the date on the original inspection outcome letter.
  • The re-visit isn’t a full re-inspection – it focuses on the areas of serious weakness identified in the first inspection. If fresh horrors emerge during the re-visit, they’ll be noted down for investigation the next time a full inspection happens.
  • The re-visit is carried out by one of Ofsted’s Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) and a CQC inspector – if possible, these will be the same people who carried out the original inspections.
  • Local areas get 10 working days’ notice of the re-visit – a week longer than they got for the inspections. That’s less time for local area turd-polishing than you might think – during this time, the local area has to keep the inspection team fed with data showing what they’ve done to improve since the inspection.
  • The re-visit itself is 2-4 days long, depending on how much the local area was originally told it needed to do to make its services fit for purpose. Most of that time is spent gathering evidence to check that the local area has actually taken effective action to remedy the serious weakness identified in the original inspection.
  • During the re-visit, inspectors meet with children and young people, as well as parents and carers. They might venture out on visits, or they might not – it depends on the original areas of serious weakness.
  • Once the 2-4 days are over, inspectors start firming up their judgements. For each of the areas of serious weakness, they’ll make a call on whether the local area has done enough to address them. The inspectors then draft a summary re-visit letter, put it through quality control, and it then gets published on the Ofsted website roughly 6-7 weeks after the re-visit.
  • The re-visit letter says upfront whether the local area has done enough to address each area of serious weakness. If new concerns get thrown up as a result of the re-visit, they’ll get mentioned in the letter too. 

So how do parents fit into this? If you’re a parent or carer, there are several ways you can get involved: a meeting organised with the parent carer forum (PCF), an open meeting, and an online survey that opens a week before the re-visit. This looks similar to the process used for the full-fat inspections – it’s somewhat creaky, and parents need to be alert to get involved

Also, bear in mind that inspectors will be mostly focusing on the weaknesses that they identified first time round. If you’ve got fresh evidence showing other parts of the local area’s SEND service running smoothly or diabolically, then inspectors will take it on board – but they’re unlikely to take immediate action on it.

Re-Visits: The Story So Far

It’s still early days for these re-visits – as far as we can tell, there have been four to date (Rochdale, Hartlepool, Suffolk and Dorset) and two more are happening this week (Sandwell and Surrey). 

Rochdale was the first local area re-visited. Inspectors gave the local area a generally clean bill of health, reporting that Rochdale had made sufficient progress across their four areas of serious weakness; they recommended that Rochdale no longer needed regular monitoring visits to keep them on track. 

Things aren’t so rosy-looking in SuffolkInspectors re-visited in January, examining four specific areas of serious weakness. They found that Suffolk had made sufficient progress on one of the four areas, but reported that Suffolk hadn’t made sufficient progress across three of them: too many EHCPs were still weak, the local offer and CAMHS mental health service were still in disarray, and efforts to improve joint working were still underdeveloped.

From the report, it looks like evidence from Suffolk parents was taken seriously: over 700 parents and carers provided evidence via an online survey and through SPCN, Suffolk’s formidable parent carer forum.

Last week, Ofsted & CQC reported on their January re-visit to Hartlepool, with a similar story – some progress made, but the quality of Hartlepool EHCPs remained too variable, and joint commissioning of education and health remained too weak. 

What happens next?

So what happens if a local area ‘fails’ one of these re-visits? We don’t know – but the little we do know makes us uneasy.

At this point, there’s no road-map. The only thing that’s clear is that the accountability ball gets passed back to central government. The Department for Education and NHS England decide what happens next. The inspectors trudge off stage-left, only to reappear if Whitehall summons them back again.

In theory, the Department for Education could use Ministerial powers of intervention to impose a new setup via statutory direction. They could issue a non-statutory improvement notice, beefing up the DfE’s existing monitoring and oversight arrangements. Or, of course, they could do nothing of consequence. 

And at this point, there’s a real risk that the accountability process will move behind closed doors in Whitehall, with parents and local front-line professionals shut out

Suffolk local area SEND leaders have already been summoned to a meeting with DfE and NHS England personnel to discuss next steps. Suffolk parents asked to attend this meeting. They’ve been shut out – they’re not even allowed to attend the meeting as observers, let alone as full participants.

The determination of Whitehall civil servants to shut parents out of this critical process tells you a great deal about their real commitment to co-production. Co-production is something other people should do, must do. Ministers, civil servants, and consultants give fine speeches about it. But it’s not for them. It’s for the little people.

Somewhere, hidden in the wings of this two-year bureaucratic clown show, there are children and young people with SEND who need proper provision, and they need it now. And they need the full participation of parents and carers in the process of making things better.

Does any of this make a difference?

We call this site Special Needs Jungle for a reason, and this is a part of the SEND jungle that’s particularly dense and impenetrable. Understanding this part of the jungle matters. People in positions of power and influence are making important decisions off the back of what these inspections reveal or fail to reveal. 

And after a frustratingly complacent and inconsistent first year, many of these inspections are now unearthing hard truth about how SEND services work at local area level. The process is now overseen by specialist inspectors who genuinely ‘get it’. But this is a problem that boils down to a simple question – will these inspections actually improve things for children and young people with SEND? 

The answer’s mixed. The local area SEND inspections often focus on strategy and process flow, and sometimes that makes improvements hard to see at an individual level – particularly those that are happening slowly behind the scenes. But there’s a limit to what these inspections can achieve. 

Inspectors aren’t regulators – they’re there to see how effectively local areas are implementing the SEND reforms. They don’t have a direct remit to hold your local area to account for its failure to act lawfully. 

Unbelievably, four-and-a-half years after the SEND reforms began, with evidence of failure now visible from space, with serial unlawful behaviour stretching back decades, this sector still has no regulator.These inspections aren’t a fix for that. Parents are still going to need to rely on the SENDIST Tribunal, the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman, and even judicial review to secure their children’s educational rights.

These inspections also don’t touch SEND funding, which is in national meltdown. The Suffolk re-visit failed to report on the near-total breakdown of mainstream high-needs SEND funding arrangements in the local area, caused by a mixture of national shortage and local incompetence. 

And ultimately, inspections also don’t happen frequently enough to embed changes in local area organisational behaviour – which is still shocking in many local areas lucky enough to be in the first wave of complacent inspections. Talk to families in places like Derbyshire, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire & Trafford – who all ‘passed’ in 2016 and 2017 – and you’ll hear cases of appallingly unlawful behaviour. These local areas won’t be reinspected for at least two, possibly three years. No real improvement’s likely there for years. 

These inspections are now a lot better than nothing – but inspectors are working within the limits of the powers they have. And for the worst areas, the ultimate power to drive improvement lies with the Department for Education and NHS England – and they don’t appear to want parents and carers involved.

As appalling as it is, it’s still up to parents to make SEND accountability happen.

Who’s next for a re-visit?

  • Waltham Forest – Date confirmed: March 2019
  • Date not confirmed: Sefton; Middlesbrough; Brent; Bury; Wakefield


Children with SEND and the emotional impact on parents – Special Needs Jungle

Children with SEND and the emotional impact on parents – Special Needs Jungle

I recently came across a research article in the British Journal of Special Education entitled, Children with SEND and the emotional impact on parents by John Holland with Gabriella Pell, so it immediately grabbed my attention, as you can imagine.

The article itself is locked behind a paywall, but I got in touch with the authors to ask if they would like to write an article about their research for us. While of course, the experiences here will be well known to our parent readers, I think it’s a useful piece of research for professionals, especially those who are seeking to influence their senior managers to be more holistic in their support. I’m sure parents will be keen to pass it on too!

John, a freelance educational psychologist, and Gabriella, a social worker, very kindly agreed to write about their study for us, so today we bring you their research. If you have comments, please try to leave them here, not just Facebook, so the authors can see them too.


Children with SEND and the emotional impact on parents

by John Holland and Gabriella Pell

The SEND process can have a significant and sometimes unrecognised effect on the emotional wellbeing of parents. We carried out three projects, our hope being to listen to the views and experiences of parents, to raise awareness of the issues affecting them and to offer some level of reassurance to parents, that they are not alone. 

All children can present parents with emotional challenges, however there are often additional ones for parents of children with SEND, who may have to battle to first gain formal recognition of their child’s difficulties, and then to gain the support that they need. This will not come as a surprise to many parents, and professionals.

Parents may have a different life journey to the one expected, from the time that they first suspect that not is all well with their child. Parents may be aware, before or at the birth, that their child has difficulties, although for many, the first emotional challenge is often around diagnosis, as they are often the first to have concerns about their child’s progress, which professionals may not initially share.

Only once confirmed by professionals, is the gate towards support opened, but this can also be a time of emotional stress, especially if parents have to take a legal route to access this. 

Parents often described themselves as being under ‘constant stress’, this mixed with the grief of being in a situation that they had not envisaged.

Mental health issues were often raised as parents tried to negotiate through the challenges of the system whilst suffering the ‘loss’ of the child they had expected.

This had an impacts on some parent’s sense of identity and was described as detrimental to both their social life, as they had less free time, they were tired, and additionally, family and friends were sometimes not as supportive as parent’s had expected.

The value of being listened to

The Children and Families Act 2014 had a focus on early identification and agencies working together from the stage of diagnosis. This was intended to help parents, and since the change in legislation, parents stated that they found professionals and support groups of greater help than family and friends. 

Seventy percent of parents expressed feelings of being included in the SEND process, which was an increase from previous findings however also highlighted that work still needs to be done, as thirty percent of  parents felt excluded from the process. 

We found that parents valued a listening ear and emotional support above practical advice and information, and that voluntary sector can play an important and vital role here.

Over three quarters of parents said that the diagnosis process had a negative effect on their family and friends, a third feeling that families and friends simply did not understand. This is similar to a bereavement, where also some family and friends do not know what to say and how to interact, and would metaphorically, if not literally, cross the road to avoid engaging with them.

Family and friends sometimes lacked understanding, some did not accept that the child had any problems at all, and in some cases even blamed the parents. Several parents also felt that there was a detrimental effect on other siblings, they felt they lacked the time and/or resources to meet the emotional and social needs of all of their children, all of the time. 

Parents reported feeling isolated and that family life in some cases became more stressful and pressurised, and this led to the breakdown of some relationships. Stresses within certain families had led to separations and divorce, and friction within family relationships. 

Many parents described anxiety and/or fear around attending social events with their child, primarily because of concerns around how their child would behave, or how their child’s behaviour would be perceived by others in the community. This often led to families’ avoiding social events, further compounding feelings of isolation. 

A culture of parent blame

There is a long standing Government focus on parenting and the outcomes, with policy makers placing accountability on parents and specifically mothers, to develop their parenting skills and responsibility’s. This has perhaps led, unintentionally, to a culture of parental blame which our study shows is often causing a damaging effect on families.

Our research overall showed a significant shift towards more consistent positive parental experiences. Despite this positive change, however, not all families benefitted from the intended model of cohesive seamless support. It is clear that parents need to be genuinely informed, not only about the decisions affecting their child’s life, but to have accurate clear knowledge of the guidance and legislation behind the processes involved. 

Accessible information of the process and about their child is crucial in helping empower parents with the knowledge and understanding to advocate for their child and to positively navigate the processes. Professionals are not the ‘experts’ when it comes to individual children and their role doesn’t stop at just ‘involving’ the parents; there needs to be considerable effort afforded to directing parents to information and sharing some of the powers that historically has ultimately always remained with the professionals.

The projects:   

We completed two projects using questionnaires and focus groups to gain the views of families being supported by KIDS Charity, Hull.

We are currently gathering data for a third project and if you are the parent or carer of a child with an SEND we would love to hear your views and experiences. If you would like to be involved, please kindly complete the questionnaire available at this link. The questionnaire should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete. The information collected is anonymous and will be used to create further guidance on how to better support parents and carers. 


  • Holland, J & Pell, G. (2017) ‘Parents Perceptions of the 2014 SEND Legislation’ Pastoral Care in Education V35, 4, 293-311
  • Holland, J & Pell, G. (2018)  ‘Children with SEND and the emotional impact on parents’  British Journal of Special Education V45,4, 392-411
  • John Holland is a freelance educational psychologist, formerly an infant and SEND peripatetic teacher and SENCo, with an interest in loss generally, ‘Responding to Loss and Bereavement in Schools’ is published by Jessica Kingsley. John’s website is
  • Gabrielle Pell is a social worker specialising in SEND and Advocacy and is currently based in Germany. 

Source: Children with SEND and the emotional impact on parents – Special Needs Jungle

Is Ofsted a “force for good” in improving the education of SEND learners? – Special Needs Jungle

Is Ofsted a “force for good” in improving the education of SEND learners? – Special Needs Jungle

Ofsted’s draft Education Inspection Framework and School Inspection Handbook are currently out for consultation. An Ofsted inspection is a critical moment in the life of any school and the framework and handbook themselves act as drivers both for school improvement and prioritising development. Under the previous framework it was possible for schools to receive a good inspection outcome and yet not be doing particularly well for their pupils with SEND. 

The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2017/18 had more mentions of SEND than any previous report, which was to be warmly welcomed, but some serious concerns were expressed:

“At the end of our second year of Local Area SEND inspections, we have inspected 68 local areas. Thirty of these have been required to provide a written statement of action.”
“Many EHC plans have not been successfully implemented.” p.13
“Identification of SEND is weak and those who do not quite meet the threshold for an EHC plan have poor outcomes.” p.13 
“Outcomes for young people with SEND are often poor by age 16.” p.52
“…pupils with SEN support are five times more likely to have a permanent exclusion than pupils with no SEND” p.53
“27% of pupils with SEN support had a fixed-term exclusion last year – 93,800 pupils”
“…nearly 5,800 pupils with SEND left their school between Years 10 and 11 and some of them may have been ‘off-rolled’” p.53

Ofsted Annual report 2018

So it is interesting to see how this has all ‘played out’ in the recent draft documents out for consultation now until April 5th 2019. For the purposes of this article I have considered three of them:

  • Education Inspection Framework 2019: inspecting the substance of education
  • Education Inspection Framework 2019: Equality, diversity and inclusion statement
  • School Inspection Handbook

How did these concerns play out in the draft EIF?

The EIF applies to all education institutions and particular attention has been paid to its impact on SEND. The EIF consultation document is pretty limited in terms of specific mentions of SEND; the document is 35 pages long and contains only two references to SEND (pages 15 and 24).

There are 11 proposals that are being consulted upon. It is possible to comment on SEND in some of the proposals and on page 20 there is an opportunity to comment on the draft school inspection handbook which we shall come to shortly (and upon which there is much to say about SEND).

An important aspiration is expressed on page.10: ‘We want inspection to contribute to an inclusive education system that can accommodate, and cater for, the needs of all learners of all ages.’ If it is going to do that, then we can reasonably expect some pretty clear statements in the body of the inspection handbook.

Let’s turn first however to the important ‘EIF 2019 Equality, diversity and inclusion statement’, which we should expect to be very strong in the area of SEND – and it is! There are some strong comments around mainstream schools that have a high proportion of learners, the curriculum for learners with SEND being amended to meet their needs in accordance with requirements of the Equality Act 2010 to make ‘reasonable adjustments’. There is a very significant statement repeated twice (in slightly different ways) in short space in the section on SEND (pp.6-7);  ‘Ofsted intends to be a force for improving the education available for all learners with SEND’. Wow! What a powerful statement of intent that is!

So now let’s take a look at how the statement of intent is implemented in the inspection handbook so that it can have real impact on schools. There are five sections to the handbook regarding how Ofsted will judge schools:

  • Overall Effectiveness
  • The Quality of Education
  • Behaviour and Attitudes
  • Personal Development
  • Leadership and Management

For each of these five areas there are four Grade Descriptors:

  • Outstanding
  • Good
  • Requires Improvement
  • Inadequate

The only way we can judge whether the intent in the Equality, diversity and inclusion statement is being implemented in the actual inspection handbook is to look for references in these five sections and the grade descriptors for them. I’ll give advance warning now that the implementation is patchy.

Overall Effectiveness

This section has one powerful statement on SEND but nothing in the grade descriptors. The statement occurs in para. 153; ‘Before making the final judgement on overall effectiveness, inspectors must consider the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school, and evaluate the extent to which the school’s education provision meets different pupils’ needs, including pupils with SEND.’ If this statement is carried through in the inspection process then it could have real impact. It would have been nice to see something on inclusion in the grade descriptors. In a recent article my colleague Adam Boddison of Nasen, called for a strengthening of this section in this way.

The Quality of Education

This section is relatively strong; containing three statements on SEND (paras. 154,157,177) and a further five within the grade descriptors. 
Within the outstanding grade descriptor is a requirement that ‘Pupils with SEND achieve the best possible outcomes.’ Within the good grade descriptors leaders must, ‘construct a curriculum to give all pupils…including pupils with SEND the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life’.

The curriculum must be ‘…successfully adapted, designed or developed to be ambitious and meet the needs of pupils with SEND, developing their knowledge, skills and abilities to apply what they know and can do with increasing fluency and independence’‘Pupils with SEND achieve the best possible outcomes.’

Within the inadequate grade descriptors‘pupils do not benefit from a good quality education. Staff expectations of them are low, and their needs are not accurately identified and/or being met.’ This last statement emphasises accurate identification that is proving such a hot area of debate in all my discussions with schools.

Behaviour and Attitudes

In my view, this section is relatively weak. There is one comment (para 193) stating that ‘Inspectors will evaluate the experience of particular individuals and groups, such as pupils for whom referrals have been made to the local authority (and check how the referral was made and the thoroughness of the follow-up), pupils with SEND, children looked after, those with medical needs and those with mental health needs. In order to do this, inspectors will look at the experience of a small sample of these pupils.’

I think there are issues nationally in terms of how reasonable adjustments are made regarding the implementation of school behaviour policies (particularly in secondary schools) for children with SEND and where leaders do not have sufficient regard for paras 6.21-6.22 of the SEN Code of Practice. It is this that is contributing to higher exclusions for children with SEND. I would therefore have liked to have seen a much stronger statement about this in the handbook and certainly something in the grade descriptors.

Personal Development

This section is also relatively weak. There is one comment on disability (para. 202) which requires the promotion of ‘an inclusive environment that meets the needs of all pupils, irrespective of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.’

I believe both Behaviour and Attitudes and Personal Development require strengthening in the grade descriptors by referencing the needs of learners with SEND.

Leadership and Management

There are two comments on SEND (paras. 229 and 234) but nothing in the grade descriptors. It is particularly disappointing that there is nothing on the leadership of SEND in schools as this is such a key area. By strengthening this section of the handbook the requirements to lead SEND provision more effectively and achieve Ofsted’s intention of ‘being a force for good’ for SEND would have more impact.

If we turn to paras. 293 to 295* we see some very strong comments about how all leaders (not just SENCOs) should lead for learners with SEND. I would like to see these comments moved to the leadership and management section of the handbook and reflected in the grade descriptors.

*SEMH is missing from para 294 – I am hoping that this is just an oversight, but coupled with the weaker Behaviour and Attitudes and Personal Development sections, it’s a worrying omission.

So, is Ofsted a force for good in SEND?

Let’s come back to the original statement by Ofsted that it intends to be ‘a force for good for improving the education available for learners with SEND’. My view is that there is much to commend in the consultation documents but there is still much to improve.

The Education, diversity and inclusion statement is very strong and the sections in the inspection handbook for ‘overall effectiveness’ and ‘quality of education’ are generally positive. After that it is somewhat weaker in the ways I have described.

The consultation is open until 5th April. I shall be giving my feedback and I hope this article will give others interested in improving the education of children with SEND some further ideas about how they might also feed back their views. I do believe Ofsted are listening, so let’s take the chance to respond.

Source: Is Ofsted a “force for good” in improving the education of SEND learners? – Special Needs Jungle

Families Take Government To High Court Over SEND Funding

Families Take Government To High Court Over SEND Funding

Families across the country are taking the government to the High Court to challenge its special education needs (“SEND”) funding policy which has created a ‘national scandal’.

Campaigners believe that current government grants are leaving councils across the country without enough money to fulfil their legal obligation of providing education for pupils with a range of disabilities and conditions.

Families from North Yorkshire, Birmingham and East Sussex instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to issue a Judicial Review into the legality of how the government provides funding to local authorities.

A Judge has considered extensive submissions and evidence and has now ordered that the case needs to be heard at a full two-day hearing in the High Court, listed for 26 and 27 June.

The decision comes at a time when several local authorities are also facing legal challenges to their cuts to SEND budgets.

Expert Opinion

“How special education needs services are funded is an issue which is continuing to snowball. This is especially the case at a time when many local authorities are setting their budgets for the next financial year in the face of continued budget cuts. 

“We continue to hear very concerning accounts from families who say thousands of children in towns and cities across the country are not receiving the education they deserve because of government policy. 

“The families feel that there have been left with no choice but to bring this action and are pleased that the High Court recognises that SEND funding is an issue which needs to be looked at urgently in detail. 

“While we are prepared to put forward strong legal arguments in court on behalf of the families, we would rather the government re-examine its position and come up with a solution which will benefit families nationally.”

Anne-Marie Irwin,Senior Associate Solicitor

The families have launched a campaign group called SEND Action. The group is calling on Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, to increase funding to local authorities.

The judicial review will examine whether the government’s current level of funding for SEND is lawful.   If the High Court finds that the government is acting unlawfully, the government would be forced to rethink its approach to funding for SEND.

The families initially raised funds through an online crowdfunding campaign and have now been granted legal aid to bring the challenge.

Specialist barristers Jenni Richards QC of 39 Essex Chambers and Stephen Broach and Ciar McAndrew of Monckton Chambers are instructed to advise on the case.

Irwin Mitchell is also representing families of children with special education needs in Hackney, Surrey and Somerset who are opposing local authority cuts to services in their area.

Judicial reviews to decide the legality of Surrey County Council’s and Hackney Council’s decisions to reduce their SEND budgets have been heard with decisions due shortly.

Last year education watchdog Ofsted said that it was a “national scandal” that thousands of children in England diagnosed with special educational needs were missing out on support. Shortly afterwards the Department for Education pledged an additional £350 million for SEND funding. However, in response Ofsted added there was still “a long way to go” before children with specialist needs received “the support they deserve.”

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in handling education law cases

Case Studies

East Sussex

Nico Heugh Simone, 15, from Robertsbridge, has autism, anxiety and related conditions which means he requires specialist educational care to remain in a mainstream school.

When he started secondary school in September 2014  East Sussex County Council  would not meet the total cost of his care, arguing the school should pay the shortfall out of its budget.

However, following protracted correspondence between the school and the local authority, and complaints made by Nico’s mother, the local authority agreed to meet the full cost of care. The following year, the local authority again refused to meet the cost of Nico’s care. Nico’s mother instructed solicitors to send a pre-action letter to the local authority threatening judicial review, and the local authority then agreed to pay for the cost of Nico’s support.

However, the following year the school was advised by the local authority that a new scoring system would see Nico’s funding reduced.

This has seen the money the school receives from East Sussex County Council for Nico reduced by half. However, the cost of the care he needs has remained the same. The school has agreed, reluctantly, to absorb the significant additional cost, however they have told Nico’s mum that they will not be able to sustain this long-term.

Nico’s mum, Lorraine Heugh, 57, said: We are not asking for any special treatment, all we want is for Nico and others with SEND to be given the same opportunities as other children. Nico is at an important time in his education and yet it just seems like we have to be locked in a constant fight for what he deserves.

“Nico should be allowed to decide if he wants to remain in education, find a job or an apprenticeship after his exams, however, we fear that he is not going to be given the opportunity to decide what path he wants to take.

“We would rather not be in this position but we feel we have been left with no other choice because the government has just ignored us so far. We are delighted that the High Court has granted us permission to officially challenge the government.”

North Yorkshire

Benedict McFinnigan has been diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and chronic insomnia.

The 14-year-old from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, was refused an education healthcare assessment by North Yorkshire County Council because the local authority said he did not meet its criteria for having special educational needs. The family appealed the refusal and last year North Yorkshire County Council agreed to assess Benedict for an EHCP.

However, Benedict has not attended a mainstream school for two years and was taught at home. Benedict, who has a three-year-old brother Brian, is currently attending a pupil referral unit for less than three hours a day.

His mum Kirsty, 40, a full time carer for her children, said:  “Sadly the government seems totally oblivious to the national crisis it has created. You only have to see the number of councils across different parts of the country that are all struggling to fund SEND services to see the current situation is not working.

“The next few years are going to be key in determining Ben’s life chances but yet we have to find ourselves in this situation fighting every step of the way for a basic education. 

“If families across the country are all facing similar issues it cannot be the fault of councils. This is a problem being created from the very top so it should be sorted from the top.”


Dakota Riddell has a number of disabilities including cerebral palsy, global developmental disorder, seizure disorder, and muscle disorders clonus and dystonia. The overall effect of these conditions means that Dakota needs extensive support with all aspects of life, including getting dressed, feeding, bathing and maintaining personal hygiene

The nine-year-old of Great Barr had an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) drawn up by Birmingham City Council in 2016 when she attended a mainstream school.

However, she now requires a SEN school. The EHCP was not updated for three years despite a significant increase in the care and support she needed.

When the plan was finally amended Dakota’s mum Mary said it contained errors. Travel support funded by the local authority allowing Dakota to travel to and from school was withdrawn based on information contained in her previous EHCP which said she had no healthcare needs.

Mary, 35, said:  “Dakota’s school and her teachers are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances but the current situation means she is not receiving the support and education she deserves. If the current situation is allowed to slide Dakota and thousands of other children are going to suffer.

“All children regardless of their needs deserve the best education possible and this is not happening. 

“We feel that throughout all of this the government has just ignored our concerns. We didn’t want to take this to court but we feel we have been left without any choice.”

Source: Families Take Government To High Court Over SEND Funding