With schools and politicians returning next week, Chris Rossiter reviews the SEND policy landscape…


Despite the Brexit focus on issues away from education, we can’t ignore the impact of politics and political decisions. Schools are facing a precarious financial situation and the impact on SEND provision is especially concerning, an issue we are glad is being consistently highlighted in the education press and is slowly filtering through to the mainstream media.

Earlier this year, our research report, Through the Looking Glass examined twenty recent reports on literacy that inform the education agenda and asked – is universal provision what it seems? We looked at what we mean by literacy, by being ‘disadvantaged’ and asked where those learners with SEND, most of whom are in mainstream school settings, fit into the picture. We challenged mainstream discourse by stating that there is no greater disadvantage than being ignored.

When we reflected on the political party manifestos of the recent General Election, we discovered that SEND learners were mostly absent,  leading us to create our five pledges for the future of education policy.

The availability of teaching assistants and the quality of their professional development, is important particularly in light of Rob Webster’s recent SENSE study that shows TAs are an essential element of most SEND children’s’ education much more so than their teachers. We see an emerging trend of school restructures and TAs leaving their posts, Jules Daulby’s blog sheds further light on this.

Links between funding, SEND provision in schools and the availability of specialists continues to be highlighted, as ICAN’s Bercow Report seeks to highlight the case of speech and language therapists. DYT intends to follow up this work with a focus on specialist services next year and we will be publishing our research on the issue.

What is clear from the many reports and articles I’ve read recently is that the educational experience of SEND children and young people is dominated by exclusions, lower attainment, poorer outcomes and unhappiness. Let us be clear this situation isn’t going to be changed simply by a new government policy.

The Education Policy Institute’s latest report highlights the enormous variation in progress made by the most disadvantaged children and young people. For the first time, EPI has an explicit mention of SEND as part of this narrative, which I’m claiming as a success on behalf of DYT’s efforts to highlight the systematic omission of SEND from policy creation.

Ensuring policy debate and design is fit for purpose for every child has never been so important, especially given recent increases to the children in receipt of SEN support, changes to primary assessment and the enduring legacy the National Funding Formula is likely to have on schools over the next decade.