3 November 2022

Working with the National Deaf Children’s Society, Speech and Language UK (formerly I CAN) and Voice 21, the RCSLT has brought together a coalition of over 110 organisations.

Led by the RCSLT, the National Deaf Children’s Society, Speech and Language UK (formerly I CAN) and Voice 21, a broad coalition of over 110 charities, royal colleges, professional bodies, professional associations, trade unions, parents and carers and others have publicly written to the ministers in charge of the SEND Review to ask them to invest in the specialist workforce for children and young people.

With the UK Government planning to release their SEND and AP Improvement Plan by the end of the year, this is a crucial opportunity to campaign and push for this plan to address urgent gaps in the specialist workforce.

The letter highlights that:

  • A wide range of specialist professionals play a huge role in the development of many children and young people – including by providing direct support, identifying needs early, and supporting teachers to develop their knowledge and skills.
  • But while the need for specialists is increasing, insufficient numbers are being trained to meet demand.
  • Many are failing to be retained, and many are leaving the public sector altogether.
  • This must change.
  • We are calling on the Government to use their response to the SEND Review to address gaps in the specialist workforce and ensure there will be sufficient specialist professionals to help children – now and in the future.

This coalition builds on those the RCSLT, Speech and Language UK (formerly I CAN) and Voice 21 brought together during the passage of the Schools Bill:

The call for investment in the specialist workforce was one of the key enablers of success identified by the RCSLT and the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP) in our joint policy statement on the SEND Review.

Letter to Government

The text of the letter can be read in full below, downloaded in PDF format  or viewed as a Word document. The full list of signatories can be viewed in the drop down menu at the bottom of the page.

2 November 2022

Dear Secretaries of State,

Investing in the specialist workforce for children and young people

We’re writing to you as a broad coalition of over 110 charities, royal colleges, professional bodies, professional associations, trade unions, parents and carers and others who want the very best for children and young people – including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Firstly, we’d like to congratulate you both on your new positions. We look forward to working with you and your ministers to ensure that all children and young people can achieve their potential, both at school and in life, including through ensuring that those with SEND can access the support they and their families depend on.

Why the specialist workforce matters

As we’re sure you agree, ensuring children, young people and their families can access the specialist support they need from expert professionals is essential at every stage of their lives – from the early years, throughout their school lives, and, for those over 16, in colleges. For mainstream educational settings to be truly inclusive, teachers must have access to a broad range of specialist education, health and care professionals to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people, including those with SEND. Specialist settings must also be able to recruit the expert staff they need to meet the needs of their pupils.

As detailed in the appendix to this letter, a wide range of professionals provide direct support to children and young people and families, in addition to helping teachers to develop their knowledge and skills. They also help identify needs early, giving children the best possible start to education and reducing the demand for more expensive support later in life, as well as facilitating more children to be supported in mainstream schools.

The specialist workforce also plays a vital role in keeping more children in school. Through developing the skills of teachers to meet the needs of more children, they can reduce the demand for additional support that has an impact on staff capacity and resources.

As such, the specialist workforce will play an important role in supporting your ambitions in a range of policy areas, particularly those in the SEND Review.

Current challenges in accessing the specialist workforce

Across our sectors, we are seeing a variety of concerning issues impacting the specialist workforce, including:

  • an insufficient number of specialists being trained to meet demand;
  • a falling number of specialists, including through them failing to be retained and supported to further develop their specialisms, with some leaving the public sector;
  • an increased demand for support in general and in more complex cases in particular; and
  • responding to the pressures of COVID-19 which has exacerbated pre-existing demands on the specialist workforce and increased waiting times to access them.

This is an urgent issue. Without access now to the specialist support they need, children and young people, including those with SEND, will be at increased risk of poorer educational outcomes. In addition, the children, young people and families we work with tell us about the negative impact of not being able to access support. They tell us it affects their education, mental health and wellbeing, home and social life, employment prospects and life chances.

Implications for the SEND Review

This has important implications for the SEND Review. The Government’s aim to ensure young people with SEND have the right support, in the right place, at the right time, is a welcome one. We share it.

However, we struggle to see how this ambition will be achieved without a clear workforce plan to ensure there are sufficient specialist professionals to help those working with children to identify needs and secure support both now and in the future.

We are calling on the Government to clearly set out how the forthcoming SEND and AP Improvement Plan will address gaps in the specialist workforce.

This will also require the implementation of various Government policies to be aligned, for example the Schools White Paper and the SEND Review.

Unless urgent action is taken now on workforce planning, we are also at risk of further challenges in accessing the specialist workforce. The long-term future of the specialist workforce must be secured through proper workforce planning so that children and young people now, and in the future, can access the support they need to thrive.

It’s also essential that children and young people with SEND from disadvantaged backgrounds, and are experiencing inequitable outcomes, are a major focus in the Government’s plans and receive targeted action.

We look forward to hearing from you and continuing to engage with you, your ministers and officials on this topic constructively. We’d be happy to arrange a meeting between yourselves and representatives of our group to discuss this issue further.

Yours sincerely,

Letter Signatories

ACE Centre – Anna Reeves, CEO
Action Cerebral Palsy – Amanda Richardson MBE, Chief Executive
Action for Stammering Children – Ria Bernard, Chief Executive
ADHD Foundation – Dr. Tony Lloyd, CEO
Afasic – Linda Lascelles, Chief Executive
Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) – Amelia McLoughlan, Policy and Research Officer
Ambitious About Autism – Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive
Angelman UK – Emma Goodson, Trustee
ASLTIP – Ruth Crampton, Chair
Association of Colleges – David Holloway, Senior Policy Manager – SEND
Association of Educational Psychologists – Kate Fallon, General Secretary
Association of Mental Health Providers – Kathy Roberts, Chief Executive Officer
Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists – Alan Macdonald, Chair and Paediatric Physiotherapist
Association of School and College Leaders – Geoff Barton, General Secretary
Association of Youth Offending Team Managers – Jacqui Belfield-Smith and Diz Minnitt, Chair and SEND and Speech and Language Lead
Auditory Verbal UK – Anita Grover, Chief Executive
Autism Early Support – Laura Gomersall, Head of Children’s Services
Autistica – Dr. James Cusack, CEO
Better Communication CIC – Marie Gascoigne, Director
British and Irish Orthoptic Society – Veronica Greenwood, Chair
British Association for Community Child Health (BACCH) – Dr Doug Simkiss, Chair
British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT) – Andrew Langford, Chief Executive
British Association of Educational Audiologists (BAEA) – Teresa Quail and Simon Blake, Chair and Secretary
British Association of Social Workers – Julia Ross, Chair
British Association of Teachers of Deaf Children and Young People (BATOD) – Martine Monksfield, Paul Simpson and Teresa Quail, President and Co-National Executive Officers
British Dietetic Association – Liz Stockley, Chief Executive
British Dyslexia Association – Chivonne Preston, Chief Executive Officer
British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA) – Dr. Dan Lumsden, Secretary
British Psychological Society – Sarb Bajwa, Chief Executive
Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE) – Dr. Artemi Sakellariadis, Director
Chailey Heritage Foundation – Gareth Germer, Chief Executive
ChatterPack – Claire Ryan, Founder
Children England – Kathy Evans, CEO
Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) – Claire Cunniffe, CEO
Cochlear Implanted Children’s Support Group – Tricia Kemp, Group Coordinator
Commtap CIC – Neil Thompson, Director
Communication Matters – Helen Whittle, Chair
Contact – Amanda Batten, CEO
Coram Family and Childcare – Megan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare
Council for Disabled Children – Christina Welsh, Education Programme Manager
Cystic Fibrosis Trust – Ben Kind, Head of Policy and Public Affairs
Deaf Experience – Jill Jones, Chair
Deafblind UK – Stephen Conway, CEO
Dingley’s Promise – Catherine McLeod MBE, Chief Executive
Disabled Children’s Partnership – Stephen Kingdom, Campaign Manager
Down Syndrome Association – Carol Boys, Chief Executive
Elklan Training – Henrietta McLachlan, Director
Embracing Complexity Coalition – Dr. James Cusack, Chair
Empowering Deaf Society – Mangai Sutharsan, Director
English Speaking Board (International) Ltd – Tina Renshaw, CEO
English-Speaking Union – Jane Easton, Director-General
Ewing Foundation – Sarah Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer
Guide Dogs – Emma Foulds, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer
Headlines – Karen Wilkinson-Bell, Director
Institute of Health Visiting – Alison Morton, Executive Director
KIDS – Katie Ghose, CEO
Max Appeal – Claire Hennessy, Development Officer
MENCAP – Edel Harris OBE, Chief Executive
Microtia UK – Tina Rycroft, Non-executive director of fundraising and communications
Muscular Dystrophy UK – Catherine Woodhead, CEO
NAHT – Paul Whiteman, General Secretary
NAPLIC – Stephen Parsons, Chair
NASS – Claire Dorer OBE, Chief Executive Officer
NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union, Dr. Patrick Roach, General Secretary
National Acquired Brain Injury in Learning and Education Syndicate (NABLES) – Dr. Emily Bennet, Chair
National Association for Hospital Education – Cath Kitchen and Stephen Deadman, Chairperson and Director
National Autistic Society – Jake Runacres, Policy and Parliamentary Officer
National Day Nurseries Association – Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive
National Deaf Children’s Society – Mike Hobday, Executive Director of Policy and Campaigns
National Development Team for Inclusion – Paul Marshall, CEO
National Education Union – Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries
National SEND Forum – David Bateson OBE, Chair
National Sensory Impairment Partnership (NatSIP) – Lindsey Rousseau, Facilitator
Natspec – Clare Howard, Chief Executive
NCFE – Janet King, Sector Manager for Education and Childcare
NNPCF – Mrunal Sisodia and Tina Emery, Co-Chairs
Pace – Ian Sansbury, Chief Executive
pdnet – Diane Caesar, National Project Lead
Prospect ECS Group – Tony Bell, Secretary
PRUsAP – Angela Ransby, Executive Committee Member
Rett UK – Robert Adamek, CEO
Royal Association for Deaf People (RAD) – Amanda Casson Webb, Joint Chief Executive
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health – Dr. Mike McKean, Vice-President for Policy
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists – Kamini Gadhok MBE, Chief Executive
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) – Caireen Sutherland, Head of Education
SAPHNA – Sharon White OBE, CEO
Sen.se – Julie Walker, Executive Officer
SENSE – Richard Kramer, CEO
Signalong – Tracy Goode, CEO
SMIRA – Dr. Shirley Landrock-White, Chair
Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE) – Grace Lockrobin, Director of Philosophy for Children, Colleges and Communities
Speaking Citizens – Dr. Tom Wright, Reader in Rhetoric and Principal Investigator
Special Needs Jungle – Tania Tirraoro and Renata Blower, Co-directors
Speech and Language UK (formerly I CAN) – Jane Harris, CEO
Speech Bubbles – Elizabeth Kennedy, Administrator
 SPTS – Julie Walker, Lead
STAMMA – Catherine Woolley, Children and Families Programme Lead
Stroke Association – Charlotte Nicholls, Head of Policy and Influencing
Symbol – Julie Wagge, Director, Speech and Language Therapy
The British Association of Dramatherapists – Karen Eastwood, Education Committee Convener
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy – Professor Karen Middleton CBE FCSP MA, Chief Executive
The Children’s Trust – Dalton Leong, Chief Executive
The Elizabeth Foundation for Preschool Deaf Children – Julie Hughes, CEO
The Makaton Charity – Stephen Hall, Chief Executive
The Migraine Trust – Steph Weatherley, Information and support team advisor
The National Organisation for FASD – Sandra Butcher, Chief Executive
The Neurological Alliance – Georgina Car, Chief Executive
UKABIF – Chloe Hayward, Executive Director
Unique – Sarah Wynn, PhD, CEO
UNISON – Christina McAnea, General Secretary
Up The Adult Cerebral Palsy Movement – Emma Livingstone, Founder and CEO
VIEW – Caireen Sutherland, Vice Chair
Voice 21 – Rebecca Earnshaw, Chief Executive
Young Minds – Tom Madders, Director of Communications and Campaigns

Update: 24 November 2022

Since the #SENDInTheSpecialists letter was sent to the government on 2 November, other organisations have joined the coalition.

The British Deaf Association were missed off the original letter when they should have been included.

Other new members of the coalition are:

  • The Royal College of Occupational Therapists
  • Intermediaries for Justice
  • Dyspraxia Foundation
  • Praxis Care
  • British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
  • Different Strokes