2 March 2023
The Department for Education has published its Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan, the Government response to last year’s consultation on the SEND Review Green Paper.
The plan sets out the Government’s proposals to improve outcomes for children and young people; improve experiences for families, reducing the current adversity and frustration they face; and deliver financial sustainability.
In our joint response to the SEND review with the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP), we identified six enablers where further action was needed. We are pleased that in three of these areas, the plan makes specific new commitments:
We warmly welcome the announcement of Early Language and Support for Every Child (ELSEC) Pathfinders, with their focus on earlier identification and support for children with SLCN. The RCSLT is pleased to have been part of early discussions with NHS England and the Department for Education in the scoping of this project, and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership as the Pathfinders are developed.
We are pleased that the Government heard our message – including as part of the #SENDintheSpecialists coalition – that more action was needed on workforce. A new commitment has been made for a joint Department for Education and Department of Health and Social Care approach to SEND workforce planning, which is due to complete by 2025.
We also warmly welcome the extension of the Alternative Provision Specialist Taskforce (APST) project and we will continue to work with our members and the Department for Education to support this important initiative.
We are encouraged to see specific proposals on professional development for education staff including a new practice guide on speech and language development, support and upskilling of teacher assistants, and a review of the Initial Teacher Training and Early Career Frameworks.
More still to do
Despite these positive developments, significant questions remain about how the plans will address the concerns we set out about funding, joint commissioning and accountability. These are fundamental, and without them this plan is unlikely to succeed in its aim to transform the system and improve outcomes for children and young people.
We are also concerned that the timescale is not sufficiently ambitious – while we recognise that new developments must be tested and evaluated, action is required now for the thousands of children and young people who cannot access the support they need. As the Ministers rightly state in the foreword to the plan, children only get one childhood.
The plan contains many proposals which we will need to consider and analyse in more detail in the coming days and weeks. As the Government takes these plans forward it will be crucial that it works closely with children and young people, parents and carers, professionals and other stakeholders.
The RCSLT stands ready to work with the Department for Education, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS England, in partnership with our members, partner organisations and parents/carers, to inform the development and implementation of the plan.
For more information, please contact Caroline Wright: firstname.lastname@example.org