Coutinho: ‘Important to take time and get SEND reforms right’

Children's minister was responding to criticism of SEND action plan that 'pushes tough decisions until after election'

Children's minister was responding to criticism of SEND action plan that 'pushes tough decisions until after election'

The children’s minister said it is “important” to “take time” to get the SEND reforms right amid criticism of the timeframe to deliver major policies to overhaul the broken system.

The long-awaited SEND and alternative provision improvement plan was published last week, revealing government will trial key policies for up to three years in a £70 million programme.

Ministers will then finalise policies and decide whether to legislate, but not in this parliament. The review was first launched more than three years ago.

The policy underpinning most of the plan is to roll-out national SEND standards to end the current “post-code lottery” of provision.

The government’s own children’s commissioner Rachel de Souza had warned ministers the further wait risks “more years of children being fed” into a “vicious cycle”.

Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow education secretary, told MPs the plan was “symptomatic of a government who have simply given up and who are governing through a mixture of distraction and delay, pushing the tough decisions to the other side of the election”.

But Claire Coutinho, children’s minister, told the House of Commons that “it is important that we consult and take time to get it right” when “setting out steps like national standards”.

Parents told her some reforms “need careful consideration” and would be tested “in collaboration”.

‘All teachers trained in SEND’

One of the proposals was to review initial teacher training and the early careers framework, which Coutinho said will work “at pace”. The government wants “all teachers to be trained” in SEND, she added.

While new teachers are required to have a “clear understanding of the needs of all pupils”, DfE said respondents to the SEND review “consistently highlighted the need for ongoing teacher training”.

A survey in May last year found that over a fifth of teachers (22 per cent) did not feel equipped to support pupils with SEND. In 2019, only 41 per cent of teachers reported that there is appropriate training in place for all teachers in supporting pupils receiving SEN support.

The review will begin early this year to look at how it can equip new teachers to “be more confident in meeting” SEND needs.

Parental communication to be national standard

Coutinho said one of the new national standards would be about “better communication from councils”.

Bridget Phillipson on SEND

The SEND improvement plan committed to refreshing “the model set for co-production at a local level, including clear and transparent communication with parents”.

The standards will also clarify the types of support that should be ordinarily be available in mainstream schools.

Coutinho added: “My priority is to make sure that every single child and young person can access the support they need to make the most of their lives.”

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