SEND reforms Change Programme rollout

Following the outcome of the SEND review, in March 2023 the government published an Improvement Plan setting out proposals for making changes to the SEND system. In the autumn, the government announced nine regional Change Programme Partners (CPPs) who will test elements of the Improvement Plan over the next 18 months to 2 years, to inform future legislation, policy and guidance. East Sussex and Brighton & Hove are part of the South East partnership, along with Portsmouth (lead) and West Sussex.

Collectively, across all the four local authority areas, ten proposed reforms are going to be tested, including:

  • local SEND and alternative provision partnerships – which set out how education, health and care agencies work together to drive change across the SEND system
  • local area inclusion plans (LAIPs) – which describe how organisations plan strategically to meet SEND needs across their area
  • SEND and alternative provision dashboard – how data is used to identify improvements and areas for development
  • improving the systems around alternative provision and support for children with different levels of need
  • early language support for every child
  • EHC needs assessments – including:
    • multi-agency panels
    • EHCP template
    • strengthened mediation
    • advisory tailored lists of education provision

Government guidance sets out that parent carer forums should be involved in testing these proposed reforms. ESPCF and PaCC are working with the project leads from Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) and East Sussex County Council (ESCC) to understand how they will be involved, discussing the information families need to understand the changes being proposed, and how feedback will be gathered from the SEND community and shared within the Change Programme.

The reforms being proposed are complex, and government guidance is still emerging on each element. It’s fair to say that some of the changes are ones we might all agree are needed, for example improved alternative provision for children and young people who aren’t attending school. Similarly, developing a standardised co-produced template for EHC plans which all local authorities will then be required to follow sounds logical, and should improve the experience and outcomes of children, young people, and their families.

Other changes are potentially more contentious, if not confusing, for example the introduction of advisory tailored lists of school. Under this proposal, when an EHCP is created or amended, parent carers and young people would select a preferred placement from a so-called ‘tailored list’ that has been prepared by the local authority. The Department for Education states it wants the ‘advisory tailored list’ to aid parental choice, reducing uncertainty and what it describes as the ‘bewilderment’ parent carers face when expressing a preference for placement for their child or young person. Others are more cynical, seeing it as a tool that central and local government could use to restrain family preferences.

It is important to stress that families’ rights in law have not, and will not, change during the road-testing of these proposed reforms. The intent is to see if these policies are workable, for experiences and learning to be taken on board, before they are then rolled out more widely. We understand that families will also be able to opt out of being part of the testing.

At Amaze, we will be doing our best to stay up to speed on what the changes mean, so that SENDIASS advisers can answer questions and provide guidance. We will also support the parent carer forums in seeking to ensure parent carer and young people’s views are taken on board and shape the final proposals two years down the line.

For now, both BHCC and ESCC are busily drafting local area inclusion plans (LAIPs) which they are required to submit this month to the Department for Education. These will summarise the local SEND population, detail current provision, and priorities for the next three years – a sort of baseline, we assume, before the testing phase begins.

We’ll share more news as and when we have it.

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