Annual report on special needs shelved amid ‘chaotic reforms’

Annual report on special needs shelved amid ‘chaotic reforms’

Special needs campaigners say the government is trying to mask the impact of its “rushed” reforms for special educational needs after the publication of a key data analysis document was cancelled.

The Department for Education (DfE) announced on September 17 that its “Children with special educational needs: an analysis” release had been shelved.

The annual statistics were due to be released by the end of the month. However, a message on the department’s website said the data and associated commentary “will no longer be collated from other source data”.

Instead the department said the release would be replaced with a document “signposting users to relevant releases to find the existing data”.

A DfE source insisted publication had not been cancelled, but would instead be published differently to ensure it was “user friendly and better organised”.

SEN campaigners are sceptical of the change. Barney Angliss, a SEN co-ordinator at a mainstream secondary school, told Schools Week: “There is real concern among the SEN and disability (SEND) community that this decision may have been taken to minimise attention on the impact of SEND reforms that were rushed through parliament last year – reforms that have resulted in chaos among many authorities that were unprepared for the new process.”

Last September the former coalition government launched what it called the biggest shake-up to SEND provision in 30 years. The changes included replacing SEN statements with education, health and care plans.

“The system has been close to meltdown since January,” said Mr Angliss. “This latest decision by the DfE further undermines confidence in its commitment to transparency.”

The SEN Act 2008 states the education secretary must publish in each calendar year special needs information that would be likely to help people improve the well-being of SEN children.

Mr Angliss has queried whether the changes will meet the legislation, saying there has been no consultation and no safeguards to ensure the same coverage of issues such as exclusions, destinations and appeals.

A DfE source told Schools Week the data would still be available and would be updated regularly rather than just annually.

Department officials are believed to be working on the next release now, but the source would only say it will be published “in due course”.