SEND system is ‘lose, lose, lose’, admits Keegan

Education secretary also says parents use 'tribunal factor' to get kids into 'very expensive independent schools'

Education secretary also says parents use 'tribunal factor' to get kids into 'very expensive independent schools'

Gillian Keegan

The current system for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is “lose, lose, lose”, costing a “fortune” and not providing the “right service”, the education secretary has admitted.

Gillian Keegan also said parents were using the system of tribunals to get their children into “very expensive independent schools”, which drives up costs and creates a “tale of two outcomes”.

During a Q&A at the Schools North East conference this afternoon, the minister said SEND diagnoses were not happening “early enough”, and that government reforms would explore “different pathways to do that” through “multi-agency” work.

“SEND’s very interesting, because we’re spending a fortune. So the Treasury are not happy, the local authorities are not happy. But then nobody’s happy with the service.

“So it’s like a lose, lose, lose. We haven’t got the right service.”

It comes as fellow Conservative MP Gary Streeter led calls for at least £4.6 billion in extra high needs funding.

Writing for this newspaper, Streeter, who is vice-chair of the f40 school funding campaign group, said it was “very clear that demand and expectation are far outweighing available funding and capacity in the system”.

‘Tribunal factor’

Keegan also criticised what she described as the “tribunal factor”.

Schools Week reported last year how the number of parents launching tribunal appeals over a council’s refusal to provide SEND support for their vulnerable child passed 10,000 in a year for the first time.

Of the 5,600 that went to a hearing, 5,393 (96 per cent) tribunals sided with families either in whole or in part.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data shows 27 per cent of appeals were against a council’s refusal to secure an assessment for a plan, while 54 per cent were against the council’s choice of a school or college.

Keegan said the tribunal factor was “basically…lots of parents taking councils to tribunal to get to a particular school, normally an independent school, normally very expensive independent schools”.

“And what that’s done is not only has it put the costs up, but it’s a tale of two outcomes, you know Some people are getting this service with a great school, and some are not getting hardly anything, hardly any support.”

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  1. Lisa Sands

    She’s off her tree!!

    Independent and private schools are the ONLY schools that will talk to parents when the local authority REFUSE to consult with other schools…. If the Local authorities worked with parents we wouldn’t need to go hunting for appropriate schools ourselves….

    They will say anything to make the parents look bad all of the time! YET They’re the ones GUILTY of wasting taxpayers cash!!

    • Michele Eaton

      This lady clearly has no idea about the problems faced by families when there child needs the extra support. As a teacher and a parent of a child with SEND it is just a lottery. Those who understand the process can acheive more. The powers that be have no clue about what should be being done to support these very vulnerable youngsters and families. Its about time we had an education secretary who knows what they are talking about.

      • Gillian Keegan is our local MP. I have written to her numerous times in regards to my daughters situation, waiting for ASD assessment 14 months so far, not being in school, from dec 22 until October 23, now at school been suspended 4 times as wont go into class, due to not understanding work and sitting there getting more and more anxious, also low attendance, alot of time in what they now call inclusion,
        I told Gillian that this will affect the rest of her life, and is not being given equal life chances aged 13 years old. how crucial it is and she cannot get this time back,
        However Gillian Keegan has 2 houses abroad, and one nearby, she also sent her children to private school. if they were neurodiverse she would be able to pay £2000 to get an assessment done in a couple of weeks, HOW could she have any idea !!!! She does not care for the local constituents so sorry folks but nationally ???