Viewpoint: The Impact of the SEND Reforms

The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced a set of transformational reforms that aspired to create a simpler, improved and consistent offer of support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The reforms followed the 2011 Green Paper – Support and Aspiration – which set out proposals to reduce the complexity and often adversarial nature of the existing support system for families with children with SEND and initiated the testing of the best way to achieve this via a set of 31 pathfinders across England.

The changes and subsequent reforms were informed by an evaluation of the SEND Pathfinder programme, which was conducted by SQW between 2011-15. Our work concluded that:

The process has improved for families, often in ways that are statistically significant. Where it has happened, the scale of improvement has been incremental. The data around improved outcomes for families is much less conclusive at this point.

This viewpoint looks at how reactions reported recently (from new evidence collected in 2017 on behalf of the Department for Education) compare to our earlier findings, to provide an assessment of how far the new approaches have delivered the high aspirations they set out to meet. Our findings suggest that although there has been some change and improvement, overall progress has been mixed despite the time and resources that have been invested to implement the reforms. We therefore recommend that further in-depth work is undertaken to assess the causes of this varied progress.

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