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A transformation or an opportunity lost?

6 August 2015

A discussion paper, published today by Research and Information on State Education (RISE), calls on the Government to keep the impact of recently introduced legislation on the education of children and young people with special educational needs and disability under continuous review.

The Coalition government began implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice 2014 in September 2014. Ministers described these changes as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for those with special educational needs and disability (SEND). Since then, concerns about the implementation process and the extent to which the changes are improving practice have led to disquiet among disabled people and the parents and carers of those with SEND.

In the paper Transformation or an opportunity lost? Nick Peacey, Visiting Research Associate at UCL Institute of Education, University of London, argues that, while the reforms enhance aspects of the previous English SEND framework, they:

  • do not have adequate safeguards for introduction into an educational environment which is in many ways hostile to inclusion and equality
  • take insufficient account of recent international research evidence, such as the fast-developing knowledge of the infant brain, which is already challenging our SEND resource priorities
  • fall short of the highest international standards on difference and disability, particularly those set out in the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UK is a signatory to both Conventions.

In the light of such evidence, Nick Peacey concludes that the newly-elected Conservative government should review the 2014 SEND legislation and regulation and the environment in which they are being introduced. He makes recommendations that include:

  • the creation of an Institute for Equity in Education
  • the National Audit Office to consider the cost-effectiveness of the current balance and interaction of services and institutions across England
  • expanding the representation/role of disabled students in school councils and changes in professional development and guidance
  • moving away from the term “special educational needs” to a term which explicitly relates to the individual’s eligibility for additional or different resources

Read summary or download full report