Over two years since the SEND Review was announced, it’s encouraging to hear from Will Quince, Children and Families Minister. In his open letter to families and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), we finally get recognition of the need for change, and a commitment to publishing the proposals of the review in the first quarter of 2022.

In the letter, Mr Quince acknowledges that parents and carers of children with SEND are ‘seeking change to the system so that [their] children get support earlier and outcomes improve alongside better access to jobs and services’. The question is whether the work of the SEND Review actually has an impact, and whether the government can actually make a difference. According to the ONS, 52% of disabled people were in employment in September 2020 compared to 81% of non-disabled 16-24 year olds. Can this review set the conditions for actual change?

Building back better?

At the Nasen Live conference in September, Mr Quince sent a recorded message similar in tone to his open letter with commitment around ‘building back better’ and promising increased funding. His message ignored the fact that the proposed funding is simply not enough, as demonstrated by Sir Kevan Collins’, the government’s former ‘recovery Tsar’ resignation.

Earlier in the summer, in a debate in the House of Commons, Conservative MP James Sunderland made a speech about exclusion and children with SEND in which he said:

“Specialist and dedicated settings are the way forward, and I want more dedicated schools established for SEN. Why? It is because it is not fair on the 95% of children in class if 5% are disruptive, nor is it fair on the 5% to be constantly out on a limb, feeling the odd one out or being excluded.”

James Sunderland, Conservative MP for Bracknell

Will the SEND Review proposal reflect a similar sentiment? With only one representative of the 23-strong steering group coming from a mainstream educational setting, there is a danger it might, especially as £2.6billion in funds committed to SEND in the recent budget is aimed at expanding special schools and units.

Whilst there is absolutely a need for specialist settings, one in eight learners with SEND are educated in mainstream settings. Along with their non-SEND peers, these learners are likely to benefit from greater inclusion – after all, ‘good teaching for pupils with SEND is good teaching for all‘ (EEF, 2020). At DYT, we stand by this view and have adopted the need for Whole School Inclusion in the Classroom in our Literacy Difficulties Framework which informs our professional development offer for schools.

Wait and see

So, whilst we wait with eager anticipation for the SEND Review – and perhaps a White Paper on literacy in 2022 – we will continue to advocate for improved outcomes for all learners with literacy difficulties and SEND, whichever setting they’re in.

DYT is here for all schools, teachers and leaders, with free resources and flexible professional development courses to help them meet the needs of all of their learners. Find out how we can work with your school to improve literacy and inclusion this year: programmes@driveryouthtrust.com.

Richard Bryant, Director of Programmes

Richard has a wealth of learning and development experience across sectors, having served in the Army for sixteen years and subsequently in the healthcare sector for twelve years, firstly as the director of training at a medical royal college and then as a consultant providing programme management and business development expertise to an e-learning community interest company. He is a parent of children with SEND and understands how essential excellent teaching is to the outcomes of those with SEN and literacy difficulties and is passionate about making a difference.