Over the last few weeks, I’ve spoken on a number of occasions about the issues that parents with children who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) face in trying to get support through an educational health and care plan (EHCP).
I always like to keep my constituents and the educational community up to date with what I am doing so I have put videos of many of these occasions onto social media. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who responded to my post, many of them telling their stories about trying to navigate the system to get their children an EHCP and then to get the resources promised in the EHCP. These stories are harrowing, upsetting and a better critique of the system than anything that I or any other MP could ever make. I want to share some of those stories with you today.
Amanda tells us that there are problems at every point at the system- poor accountability, lack of funding, lack of appropriate provision, lack of knowledge around the legislation, lack of knowledge around SEN itself and individual needs, lack of authority to enforce the right things, poor curriculum and withdrawal of more SEN friendly curriculum subjects with too much focus on school performance and grades rather than individual outcomes and also the increase in the size of education settings!
Sarah went further and said that she had no idea what part of the system she was fighting.
Sarah said that she had to fight the school to do the referral for an EHCP before they permanently excluded him. Then she had to fight for enhanced provision because he son kept getting turned down at panel but his draft EHCP was rejected from multiple schools stating they couldn’t meet need meaning that he basically missed a whole year of school because of it all.
And the cost of getting an EHCP in place is prohibitively expensive, Elizabeth said that she had been forced to fund independent assessments due to failure of their local authority to complete the same. They have already spent £5000 on independent assessments this year and while they have received some support from family, it is not a sustainable situation. Sharon, meanwhile, spent £7,500 on private assessments and employed an advocate to help them navigate the exceptionally complex system. She says that the local authority pushed them all the way to Tribunal before conceding in the corridor just before the tribunal started, incurring more costs for her and her husband as they then had to pay for their witnesses and advocate’s attendance.
But even after all the effort of getting an EHCP, the battle isn’t over, and many parents struggle to get the agreed support actually put in place. Kelly’s son’s main priority under his EHCP is his speech disorder but could not get support for his condition and she had to get help from a local authority intervention officer before getting any kind of support.
This system is failing our young people. Marianne’s daughter went from primary school where she attained three ‘6s’ in her SATs to a situation where she was failing English and not achieving in her other GCSEs. I believe that this is partly because our schools do not have the funding they need to put the resources in place to fulfil her EHCP
Deborah’s son has an auditory processing disorder and is severely dyslexic. She says that he was very well supported in junior school but when he got to secondary school, that support was taken away. The school claims that nothing came up from the junior school and Deborah’s son’s behaviour began to deteriorate. In year 10, he was expelled. Leigh argues that this is even more true as the child moves into Further Education. This has led many parents, like Tina who fears her son is likely to end up in a Pupil Referral Unit, to be stuck in a constant cycle of moving their children from school to school.
Our education select committee is in the middle of an enquiry into SEND funding and are yet to make recommendations, but it is already clear that something must change. Labour have promised to deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity which is so desperately needed.