Additional free schools announced as SEND reviews gather momentum

The Department for Education (DfE) has announced plans to create an additional 1,100 places for pupils with additional needs.

The announcement came in the same week that new figures were released, revealing that nearly 222,000 children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) have had their care reviewed, as part of the government’s introduction of new Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.

The plans, which are intended to bring together SEND pupils’ education, health and social care needs for the first time, will soon replace Statements of SEN.

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi, who announced details of the new free school sponsors, commented: It’s been a huge task to transfer every young person to one of these [SEND] plans, but local authorities have risen to the challenge with almost 222,000 cases reviewed – and I congratulate them for it. We are now working with councils to make sure they carry out the remaining reviews and the new EHC plans are of the highest quality.

“To complement this work, we are also opening new special free schools across the country that will provide tailored support for over 1,000 children to ensure they have access to the excellent education that every child deserves.”

A national trial is also set to begin, which will give parents and young people new extended rights to appeal to the SEND Tribunal. Until now, their rights have only covered education aspects of the plan, but the trial will also see appeals allowed, relating to social care and health decisions.

Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children, said: “We have long believed that a single EHC plan will be most effective, combined with a single route of redress. We see the trial as being a real opportunity to develop a baseline for clear and effective inter-agency responsibilities and this alongside the promotion of some excellent joint commissioning models, in partnership with families, as a powerful way of embedding the cultural change, which will make the reforms a success.”

To help schools review their approach to SEND, a new online tool is available here.