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Special Educational Needs

Question for Department for Education

UIN 156342, tabled on 22 February 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to help ensure the adequacy of education for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Answered on

26 February 2021

During periods of national lockdown, education settings have remained open to vulnerable children and young people, including those with education, health and care plans. The guidance for the full opening of schools is clear that all children and young people, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), should return to education settings full-time from Monday 8 March. Where it is not possible for a child or young person with SEND to attend their education setting during this period, there is a legal duty on schools and colleges to use their best endeavours to meet the educational needs of their pupils or students. Discussions should be collaborative, focusing on the welfare and views of the child or young person and their parents.

To support remote learning, the department has made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy, both for the summer term of the 2019-20 academic year and the 2020-21 academic year, to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects for Reception to year 11. This includes specialist content for pupils with SEND, along with therapy-based lessons and resources.

Whilst inspection activity has been paused, Ofsted is conducting monitoring inspections of inadequate schools and some that require improvement. These include a focus on support for pupils with SEND, whether they are in school or being educated at home.

The government has announced further elements of the recovery support package so that children and young people can catch up on missed learning and development due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This will be supported with a new £700 million package, focusing on an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes, as well as supporting the development of disadvantaged children in early years settings, and summer provision for those pupils who need it the most. These measures will build on the existing £1 billion support package, which includes a £650 million catch-up premium directly allocated to schools, with additional weighting for specialist settings, recognising the significantly higher per-pupil costs that they face. Headteachers decide how this premium is spent (for example, on educational psychologists, speech and language therapy or other activities to support children to catch-up).

We have put major funding investments into education, including increasing high needs funding for local authorities by £780 million this year and a further £730 million next year, boosting the total budget to more than £8 billion in 2021-22. Local authorities have been allocated a further £4.6 billion to help their communities through the COVID-19 outbreak. This funding is un-ringfenced, recognising local authorities are best placed to decide how to meet the major COVID-19 service pressures in their local area, including support to children’s services.

Through the SEND review, we are committed to ensuring the SEND system is consistent, high quality, and integrated across education, health and care. It is also considering measures to make sure that money is being spent fairly, efficiently and effectively, and that the support available to children and young people is sustainable in the future.