Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability

March 9th, 2011 by Rachel Kamm

The Government has published a Green Paper, which promises that its “new approach to special educational needs and disability makes wide-ranging proposals to respond to the frustrations of children and young people, their families and the professionals who work with them“.

The document is 134 pages long and I haven’t yet got beyond the Executive Summary. Look out for more blogs on the topic over the coming days and weeks, but for the moment here is a summary of what seem to be the main proposals:

Identification and assessment of SEN

  • The Government believes that there is over-identification of SEN because of “perverse incentives” created by the measures of school performance. It proposes to tackle this by “replacing the current SEN identification levels of School Action and School Action Plus with a new single school-based SEN category for children whose needs exceed what is normally available in schools“, introducing new statutory guidance on SEN identification and introducing an indicator in performance tables giving clear information on the progress of the lowest attaining pupils;
  • There will be a new approach to identifying SEN in early years settings and schools, with “a new single early years setting- and school based- cateory of SEN“;
  • A new “single assessment process and ‘Education, Health and Care Plan'” will replace statutory SEN assessment and statements by 2014, whilst providing the same statutory protection to parents. It will include a “commitment from all parties to provide the services“. Local assessment and plan pathfinders will test the best way to achieve this; and
  • The Government is testing how the voluntary and community sector could co-ordinate assessments with input from across education, health and social care. The aim is to increase the independence of the assessment process. It also wants to reduce the time the current statutory assessment process takes.

Personal budgets

  • All families with children with a statement of SEN or a new ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’ will have the option of a personal budget by 2014.

Choice of school

  • Parents wil be given “a real choice of school, either a mainstream or special school” by the removal of “the bias towards inclusion” and improved range and diversity of available schools;
  • Parents will have their preference for any state-funded school (including special schools, Academies and Free Schools) met unless it would not meet the needs of the child, would be incompatible with the efficient education of other children or would be an inefficient use of resources;
  • Parents and community groups will have the power to take over special schools which would otherwise be unnecessarily closed; and
  • All maintained special schools will be given the opportunity to become Academies in due course; and
  • Parents or local community members will be able to establish new special Free Schools.

Information and advice

  • Local authorities will “set out a local offer of all services available to support children who are disabled or who have SEN and their families“;
  • With the introduction of the option of personal budgets by 2014, “Key workers will be trained to advise families and help them navigate the range of help available across health, education and social care“; and
  • As part of the new proposed “birth to 25 single assessment process” and the new ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’, under 25s who are disabled and/or with SEN will have early and well-integrated support for, and advice on, their future (spanning education, health, social care and support into employment) by 2015.


  • For those over 16, by 2015 there will be access to better quality vocational and work-related learning options, “good opportunities and support in order to get and keep a job” and “a well-co-ordinated transition from children’s to adult health services“; and 
  • The Government will explore the feasibility of annual health checks from GPs.


  • The Government proposes to give parents more control, which it says means that “if local authorities and parents disagree, they [will] always try mediation first, to resolve problems in a less adversarial way than having to to take their case to the Tribunal“.

The Green Paper is available here: The consultation period runs until 30 June and there will then be a period of testing proposals in local areas from September 2011.

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