NSN Director, Unity Howard, responds to House of Commons Education Select Committee report 'Special educational needs and disabilities' released today.
"We welcome this report from the Education Select Committee, highlighting a serious shortfall in provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. The aim of putting young people at the heart of system was the right one in 2014, but time and again we see that poor implementation, bureaucracy and lack of accountability is perpetuating the postcode lottery in special provision. Families do not know where to turn and constant churn and poor practice in local authorities means they are regularly faced with delay, confusion and often unfair outcomes for their child.
"We support the call from the committee to ensure cross-Departmental collaboration to ensure good provision, which meets the needs of every child. It is right that there should be more oversight from central Government to both overcome inequities between different areas and provide parents with a mechanism to redress issues with local authorities when they arise. The current regularity of tribunals is costly in both time and money for families who are facing challenging circumstances and need support.
"We do not, however, believe local authorities ability to set up new provision has been constrained by free schools policy. The current process allows special free schools to be opened primarily in response to a local authority's requirements, giving them the power to ease tension in the needs of the community and the available provision.
"The current wave of special schools will see another 37 approved to open, joining 47 already approved and 42 open, which are working tirelessly to provide outstanding education in response to local demand - such as The Family School in London, Rosewood Free School in Southampton and Pioneer House High School in Manchester.
"However, this has not gone far enough. There is still a desperate need for special schools and it is not acceptable that so many of our most vulnerable children are not receiving the support they require. The Government should commit to a new wave of special free schools in 2020 and beyond to ensure the programme keeps delivering for families who need it most.
"There is much more to do to ensure the SEND provision is there for every child that needs it, and free schools have shown they are part of the solution. However, the whole education sector must now work better together to ensure that those children who need more support can access it, no matter where they are from."