Inclusion Now 63

SEND Review: Wrong support, wrong place, wrong time and wrong direction!

Navin Kikabhai, ALLFIE Chairperson, summarises SEND Review findings

ALLFIE's chair, Navin Kikabhai, on a demo with a loudhailer

Listen to: ‘SEND Review: Wrong support, wrong place, wrong time and wrong direction!’

SEND Review consultation

You will without doubt be aware that ALLFIE has been holding consultation events with different audiences about the recent SEND Review. This is in response to the current government’s consultation document ‘SEND Review, right support, right place, right time’.

In brief it advances a pro-segregationist education system, a service-driven framework, suggesting that Alternative Provision be part of an already fragmented and segregated state system of education. Many Disabled people, including Young people, parents, and education professionals participated in ALLFIE’s SEND Review consultation events. There are a number of themes the review covers.

Here is a snapshot of what you can expect from ALLFIE’s response to this review.

According to the SEND Review, there are 3 key challenges:

  1. The outcomes for SEND learners are poor
  2. Navigating the system is not positive
  3. The current system does not provide value for money

For many years we have known that outcomes for Disabled Young people and children have been poor, even though their aspirations compared to their non-Disabled peer group are the same. It has been the case that navigating the SEND is negative, and that segregating Disabled Young people and children has always been a waste of money, not only in economic terms but also in social and cultural terms.

Over numerous years, we have also known that parental choice has been a convenient strategy for the UK Government to avoid its obligations to meet the progressive realisation of Inclusive Education. This consultation is it at odds with the Children and Family Act 2014 (Section 34, specifically the presumption of mainstream education), the Equality Act 2010, and the UNCRPD (2006), in particular Article 24 on Inclusive Education. It also omits to acknowledge intersectional experiences, and children’s’ rights.

The SEND Review suggests a digitised EHCP process, and proposes to introduce an inclusion dashboard, which is expected to monitor how the system is performing across education, health and care.

It is the case that the EHCP process is a service, categorical and needs-based driven process. What is needed is a children-focused process, based on Disabled young people and children being involved in the decision-making process, framed around a children’s-rights framework. There are also proposals for developing post-16 provision. What is found is that further education providers continue to segregate Disabled learners in discrete provision offering so-called inclusive learning courses. Proposals for a SENCO training qualification at Level 3 (A-level) is suggested, when previous this was set at Level 7 (postgraduate). Effective SENCo training requires far more insight that what is being proposed. Currently, SENCOs have to contend with a hostile educational environment some effectively working with colleagues to ensure positive learning experiences. Many are performing multiple roles. At its worst much of the existing training perpetuates the medical model and category-based understanding of Disabled young people and children’s experiences. Reducing the level of understanding will only perpetuate frustrations on all sides.

With regard to Alternative Provision, there are young people who have been left abandoned, without any service accountability. Children, young people with and without EHCP are often in one-to-one sessions. Individuals adults do not require any formal teaching qualifications, young people are not required to follow the National Curriculum. There is, as there is with Pupil Referral Units, an overrepresentation of Black and minoritized young people in these settings. Of course, there is money to be made – Alternative Provision is expensive, so much for ‘value for money’!

The SEND Review is also looking for metrics to measure local and national performance, obsessed as governments are with a standards agenda. No mention is made about measures for social justice. There are other concerning proposals as well. There are many things wrong with this SEND Review. Given recent government turmoil, its inability to function and the obvious in-fighting, between the wannabe next Prime Minister, it seems that the SEND Review has ended up as being the wrong support, in the wrong place, and at the wrong time! Expanding an already fragmented education system is not the direction in which to pursue our obligations under the UNCRPD (2006). Many Disabled young people are systematically excluded, the role of academies have only perpetuated and made familiar the segregation of Disabled young people and children. Education Ministers will also come and go, their commitment should be to ensure education is inclusive, accessible and enabling spaces free from inequality and discrimination.