News story

Special educational needs reform: draft legislation published

Sarah Teather proposes increased support to young people with special needs, including new duties for local authorities and FE colleges.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The government has today published draft provisions to improve the support provided to children and young people with special educational needs (SEN), and to their parents. These provide for:

  • a new duty for joint commissioning which will require local authorities and health bodies to take joint responsibility for providing services
  • a requirement on local authorities to publish a local offer of services for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs
  • new protections for young people aged 16 to 25 in further education and a stronger focus on preparing them for adulthood
  • parents and young people, for the first time, to be entitled to have a personal budget, extending their choice and control over their support
  • further education colleges for the first time and all academies, including free schools, to have the same duties as maintained schools to safeguard the education of children and young people with SEN

Previously further education colleges had not been subject to SEN duties. The provisions relating to academies reflect the requirements currently in the majority of funding agreements signed since the introduction of the Academies Act 2010. Placing these requirements on the face of the legislation will give greater clarity to academies, parents and young people and will ensure further education colleges face the same requirements for the first time. The draft provisions would ensure that parents, young people and children are on the same footing whether they attend (or wish to attend) a maintained school, an academy, or a further education or sixth-form college.

Sarah Teather, Minister for Children and Families, said:

As the Paralympics are powerfully reminding us, disability is not necessarily a bar to outstanding achievement as long as people are given the right opportunities. We must do all we can to ensure that our schools give those with special educational needs and disabilities the best possible start in life.

Too many parents have faced bureaucratic barriers. We are making it easier for parents to access help for their children. And we will empower parents and young people, giving them greater control over the services they receive, by putting them in charge of personal budgets.

We are also increasing rights and protections for disabled young people in further education to prepare them for adulthood and paid work better. Taken together, our reforms package is giving young people with special educational needs the platform to succeed.

The Minister of State for Children and Families has today written to the chair of the Education Select Committee to seek the committee’s agreement to consider the draft SEN and disability provisions. The committee will decide formally later this week if it is willing to carry out pre-legislative scrutiny of these draft provisions.

The government looks forward to receiving views and feedback on the draft clauses, whilst it continues to learn from its pathfinder programme, before introducing legislation at a later date.

In September 2011, the Departments for Education and Health appointed 20 pathfinders (involving health and local authority partnerships in 31 areas across England) to test ways of achieving these reforms. Pathfinders have already played a valuable role in supporting the development of draft provisions and evidence emerging from the pathfinder programme will continue to inform regulations and guidance over the coming months.

Two of the delivery partners for the reform programme, Preparing for Adulthood and the Early Support Trust, have been working with pathfinders on a series of case studies describing their experiences as SEND pathfinders and setting out some of the early learning from their work. The first case studies are now available for download on the ‘Food for thought’ pages of the SEND Pathfinder website. Further case studies will be added in future.

The department is also sending out an invitation to disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs to join the young people’s advisory group (YPAG). This group will influence the policy making process by bringing disabled young people together with ministers and officials who are taking forward the government’s reforms set out in its green paper, ‘Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability’. It will enable those working on the reforms on a day-to-day basis to hear directly from disabled young people and test out policy proposals.

Further information is available in Sarah Teather’s written ministerial statement, available from the announcements section.

Published 3 September 2012