Election 2024

SEND moved into schools minister McKinnell’s brief

Move to align special needs with schools responsibilities comes after education secretary said she's 'gripping the issue'

Move to align special needs with schools responsibilities comes after education secretary said she's 'gripping the issue'

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New schools minister Catherine McKinnell will be tasked with sorting out the SEND crisis as the policy area is set to be moved into her portfolio, Schools Week understands.

Under the previous administration, SEND and AP policy sat within the brief of the children and families minister, along with early years and other policy areas linked to schools.

But the change follows the Department for Education announcing a restructure yesterday to move the SEND policy areas from its families to its schools directorate, something welcomed by many leaders.

Education secretary Bridget Phillipson said yesterday: “The Tories said the SEND system is ‘lose, lose, lose’. I agree.

“The difference is I’m gripping the issue. We have already restructured the Department to focus on improving inclusion in mainstream schools for children with SEND.

“A long way to go, but an important start.”

‘School system’ title likely scrapped

Another interesting change is the lack of focus on academies. The previous Conservative Lords minister, Baroness Barran, was minister for the school system.

She had responsibilities including for academies and multi-academy trusts, academy regulation and free schools.

But, as it stands, that role will not exist under the new administration. Schools Week understands titles and portfolios have been communicated to department staff, however they will still need sign off from Number 10 – so could change.

Stephen Morgan will take on some of Barran’s previous responsibilities, such as school buildings and attendance. But he will be taking on a new brief covering early education, and is set to be named minister for early education.

Morgan to oversee private schools VAT plan

However he will also preside over a raft of schools policy areas including Labour’s controversial private school tax plans, and creating a register of children not in school.

As Morgan has taken on the early years elements of the brief, new children’s minister Janet Daby will be focused largely on children’s social care, Labour’s family hubs policy and local authority improvement, Schools Week understands.

Like her predecessors, McKinnell is set to remain responsible for school improvement, teacher training and retention, teacher pay, support staff, core school funding, qualifications, assessment and curriculum, with SEND and AP added into an expanded brief.

The Lords minister is now Jacqui Smith, but she has been given a brief covering skills, further and higher education.

She will oversee some policies relevant to schools, such as careers advice, technical qualifications and 16 to 19 funding.

Here is a rough list of what we understand each minister will have responsibility for:

Catherine McKinnell, schools minister

  • School improvement
  • Teacher training and retention
  • Teacher pay and pensions
  • School support staff
  • Core school funding
  • Qualifications, curriculum and assessment
  • SEND, alternative provision and high needs

Stephen Morgan, minister for early education

  • Early years education
  • Breakfast clubs and free school meals
  • Independent schools
  • Education estates
  • Attendance, including register of children not in school
  • Mental health support
  • Safeguarding
  • Behaviour and exclusions

Janet Daby, minister for children and families

  • Children’s social care
  • Children’s number
  • Children in care/need and child protection
  • Local authority improvement
  • Family hubs

Baroness Jacqui Smith, minister for skills

  • Technical qualifications including T-levels
  • Careers advice and NEETs, including the Careers and Enterprise Company
  • Youth guarantee
  • Apprenticeships, including the growth and skills levy
  • 16-19 funding
  • Lead member for the board

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