A major review of SEN?
24. In her evidence to this Committee, Baroness Warnock
said that a radical review of SEN policy is needed. In their
submission the DfES said that "It (The Government) does not
believe that a major review of policy on SEN would be appropriate
at present [...] what is needed now is change on the ground.
Any new review would simply delay progress in making this happen."
25. Lord Adonis told this Committee that:
"the case for a wholesale replacement of
the local authority system and statementing does not appear to
us to have been made convincingly."
26. The Minister went on to say that:
"Ofsted has been critical of the SEN in
the past, but
we know the challenges, we know what works,
we know the conditions that make things work and we know what
does not work. Ofsted's view would be: "Let us focus on
those things and change them."
27. In their memorandum to this inquiry, the DfES
have argued that it is precisely because of the Ofsted and Audit
Commission reports that the issues are known and, therefore, a
major review of SEN policy is not needed.
The Audit Commission has, however, specifically called for a review
of policy on the issue of statements. It published a briefing
entitled Statutory Assessment and Statements of SEN: In Need
of Review in June 2002 which highlighted claims that: demand
for statements was rising; statutory assessment was costly and
bureaucratic, stressful for parents and added little value in
meeting a child's needs; and that statements were leading to an
inequitable distribution of resources, and failed to support early
intervention and inclusive practice.
Despite the Audit Commission specifically calling for a review
of the statementing process in 2002, four years on the Government
still says it has no plans to review the statementing process.
This is unacceptable.
28. When asked about SEN policy during Prime Minister's
Questions on 2 November 2005, however, the Prime Minister said
"I accept there is room for improvement and we are keeping
SEN provision under review." Along with the DfES innovations
unit, Lord Adonis held a private "Ministerial Seminar on
next practice in SEN" in November 2005 which involved a wide
ranging discussion with expertsparticularly on proposals
surrounding "third way provision"
on which a paper was provided.
29. Furthermore, the Treasury is undertaking a "root
and branch" review of funding for children with complex needs.
David Singleton of Children Now reported that "the
DfES has identified this area as the one in which it would most
like funding to be increased in the next spending review [...]
The Treasury will now begin a process called "zero-base
budgeting", in which it calculates the amount of funding
required from a base level of zero (or from first principles).
This could lead to a significant increase in the level of funding
directed towards children with complex needsan area that
includes looked-after children, children with special educational
needs and those with severe disabilities."
The DfES has told the Committee that this is a joint review with
the Treasury and will report through the Comprehensive Spending
Review either in November 2006 or March 2007.
30. Ofsted do not believe a major review of SEN is
necessary, but Eileen Visser, Area Division Manager, Ofsted, did
say to this Committee that:
"Some aspects of the structural provision
need more than a tweak. They do need us to sit down together,
across the political dimension, the inspection dimension and the
professional field, and say, "What is it that we need to
31. Whilst the Government says is does not wish
to undertake a major public review of its policy on SEN, it does
seem to be re-considering its policy in private. The fact
that the DfES has identified SEN as the area it would most like
significant additional funding for is an encouraging sign of progress.
The Minister assured us that the Government:
"[...] would look very carefully at anything
you recommended to us in this area or other areas."
32. The Committee believes this is a critical
time to be publishing the results of our inquiry. We would urge
the Government to give most careful thought to our recommendations
and consider a completely fresh look at SEN. We look forward
to constructive and vital progress for children with SEN and disabilities.