Last reviewed 29 March 2022

Hard on the heels of the Government’s White Paper on schools (see Schools White Paper promises opportunity for all), the Department for Education (DfE) has published a consultation on support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Its Green Paper sets out a vision for a single, national SEND and alternative provision (AP) system that will introduce new standards in the quality of support given to children across education, health and care.

SEND Review: Right support; Right place; Right time is available here.

It explains that the Government commissioned the SEND Review in September 2019 as a response to the widespread recognition that the system was failing to deliver improved outcomes for children and young people, that parental and provider confidence was in decline and that despite substantial additional investment, the system had become financially unsustainable.

“As the Review progressed,” the Green Paper states, “it became clear that alternative provision is increasingly being used to supplement the SEND system; to provide SEN Support; as a temporary placement while children and young people wait for their Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) assessment; or because there is insufficient capacity in special schools.”

Key challenges

The Green Paper sets out three key challenges facing the SEND system.

  • Outcomes for children and young people with SEN or in alternative provision are poor.

  • Navigating the SEND system and alternative provision is not a positive experience for children, young people and their families.

  • Despite unprecedented investment, the system is not delivering value for money for children, young people and families.

It then argues that “a vicious cycle of late intervention, low confidence and inefficient resource allocation is driving these challenges.”


Detailed proposals in the Paper include:

  • setting new national standards across education, health and care to build on the foundations created through the Children and Families Act 2014

  • providing a simplified EHCP through digitising plans to make them more flexible, reducing bureaucracy and supporting parents to make informed choices via a list of appropriate placements tailored to their child’s needs

  • setting a new legal requirement for councils to introduce “local inclusion plans” that bring together early years, schools and post-16 education with health and care services

  • improving workforce training through the introduction of a new SENCo NPQ for school SENCos and increasing the number of staff with an accredited level 3 qualification in early years settings.

Chance to comment

The plans to reform the system will be open for a 13-week public consultation, “giving families frustrated by the existing, complicated and bureaucratic system of support the opportunity to shape how a new system will work in the future”.

Responses to the consultation, which can be found here, are required by 1 July 2021.