16 March 2023

The #SENDintheSpecialists Coalition have written to the minister following the publication of the SEND and AP Improvement Plan.

Led by the RCSLT, the National Deaf Children’s Society, Speech and Language UK, Guide Dogs, and Voice 21, over 100 members of the #SENDintheSpecialists coalition – a broad group of over 120 organisations focused on the specialist workforce – have written to Clare Coutinho, minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, following the publication of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan. 

SEND and AP Improvement Plan 

With the Government’s response to last year’s consultation on the SEND Review Green Paper, and the minister’s comments in the House of Commons, on 7 March about the specialist workforce and the importance of specialist support, this a crucial opportunity to push for the Department for Education to address urgent gaps in the SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan. 

What the letter says 

The letter highlights that the #SENDInTheSpecialists coalition: 

  • Welcomes the Government’s commitment to work alongside children, young people, and their families, and those who work across every part of the SEND system to improve the SEND and AP system.  
  • Welcomes the announcement of the joint Department for Education and Department of Health and Social Care approach to SEND workforce planning, with a clear timeframe to establish a steering group in 2023 and complete its work by 2025. This join up across education, health and social care at the national level is vital to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND. 
  • Requests a place on the steering group to help take forward the reforms outlined in the Improvement Plan.  

What needs to happen 

The #SENDInTheSpecialists coalition members have already identified two key factors we think the steering group should address. 

  • Definition of SEND and specialist workforce: given the comments about the importance of specialist support and the specialist workforce, there should be a broad approach to defining the SEND and specialist workforce, to consider all the different education, health and care professionals who work with children and young people to identify and support the totality of their needs.  
  • Recruitment and retention: consideration should be given to how the recruitment and retention issues facing the professions highlighted in the letter appendix can be addressed.  

The SEND workforce planning work outlined in the Improvement Plan will take time to come to fruition, so we need to discuss ways in which we can work together in the interim to improve access to the specialist workforce for the many children and young people who need support right now. 

Letter to Government 

The text of the letter can be downloaded in PDF format.  The full list of signatories can be viewed at the bottom of the document.

Westminster Hall debate on 22 March 2023 

The letter comes as Geraint Davies MP has secured a debate on the Specialist workforce for children with special educational needs and disabilities on 22 March 2023. 

The debate follows a letter Geraint, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties, coordinated from 16 APPGs before Christmas to which the Government replied in January.  

Announcement of new members of the #SENDInTheSpecialists coalition 

At the same time as writing to Minister Coutinho, the coalition announced the following new members have joined them: 

  • Intensive Interaction Institute 
  • Speech and Language Link 
  • SEND Action