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Government sets out next steps to improve special educational needs support in England

Published Date: 02 Mar 2023

The Department for Education has published an improvement plan which sets out how they will follow-up their special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) review consultation last year.

The plan sets out their aims to “deliver a more dignified experience for children and young people with SEND and to restore families’ confidence in the system”. They also say they want to “create a more inclusive society that celebrates and enables success in all forms.” But what does the improvement plan mean for deaf children?

Action on Teachers of the Deaf

The good news is that the plan commits the Department to ensuring there are enough Teachers of the Deaf, and to exploring further options to increase numbers.

They talk about work already underway to develop a new apprenticeship pathway for specialist teachers of children with sensory impairment. This is something we have been involved with and supported from the start. It has the potential to make a big difference because it means that schools and local authorities will be able to access government funding for the training of apprentice Teachers of the Deaf.

However, this won’t be ready before 2025 – and so urgent work before then is still needed to make sure deaf children get the specialist support they need in the meantime. We will continue to push the Department on this.   

The plan states that “the importance of these roles came through clearly in consultation feedback”. A huge thank you to all those who sent a clear message to the Department on how important Teachers of the Deaf are. Your message is being heard, and you are making a difference.

What else is in the improvement plan?

National standards. The Department says it will go ahead with developing new national standards which will set out what support families can ordinarily expect. We think that this the potential to make a big difference to ending the postcode lottery that some families experience.

We’re pleased that the Department has committed to working with families to develop these and to confirming that there will still be a focus on the individual needs of children. At the same time, we think there needs to be a stronger focus on disability in the new national standards. Under the Equality Act 2010, education settings and local authorities have to make “reasonable adjustments” to make sure disabled children aren’t disadvantaged. We think that any new national standards should clearly set out what these reasonable adjustments might look like for deaf children.  

Teacher training. There will be a review of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) this year. Deaf young people have told us that there needs to be better deaf awareness among teachers and this review might provide an opportunity to help address this with new teachers.

Post-16 support. The Department say they will publish good practice guidance on transition into and out of post-16 settings. Work is also continuing on “adjustments passports” which aim to help disabled young people move into employment by setting out what support they might need.

Education, Health and Care plans. The Department will move ahead with a new standard template for plans and continue to explore digital versions of these plans. We think this is a good thing.

The Department still also plan to move ahead with new tailored lists of settings, where families are provided with information about schools or colleges that might meet the needs of their child. We are concerned that these might be used to restrict the choice of families in the future, particularly if their child would benefit from going to a setting that’s not on the list.

They will also think about ways in which they can strengthen how mediation works, where there is a disagreement between families and the local authority on what should be included in a plan. They will see how this works before deciding whether to make mediation mandatory. 

The Department have acknowledged the concerns around these proposals and have said they will move ahead with care. We will monitor this carefully.

Inclusion dashboards. The Department say they will publish more information about support for children and families through new data dashboards. We think this could be very helpful, providing it separates out data on deaf children. 

What’s not in the improvement plan?

One big disappointment is that the plan doesn’t say anything about how the Department will improve the age 2 checks for children. The SEND review consultation indicated that the Department would look at how these could be strengthened. We want to see more involvement of Teachers of the Deaf in these checks to help make sure that the needs of deaf children are fully considered.

What do we think overall?

We’ve welcomed the improvement plan and think that it’s a positive step in the right direction.

We will be looking carefully at how these changes are introduced to make sure that the needs of deaf children are taken into account. We will also continue to raise concerns where we’re worried. We look forward to continuing to work with the Department on this to make sure deaf children receive better support.

What will happen next?

The Department plan to introduce these changes over the next few years. In some cases, the Department will test some of the changes in some local areas before rolling them out further. They have promised to continue to work with families to develop these changes.

In some cases, the Department will need to change the law. However, we understand it’s unlikely there will be any changes to the law before 2025. This means your legal rights under the current special educational needs system will remain in place and will not change.

Thank you for taking action

Together, we made sure the Government heard about what needs to change for deaf children and young people. There was no mention of Teachers of the Deaf in the SEND review and now there is.

Hundreds of you wrote to your MP and to the Government's SEND Review team to let them know about support for deaf children — and the urgent need to invest in more Teachers of the Deaf.

Together with more than 100 other organisations we also wrote an open letter to the Government to demand urgent action to plug the gap in specialist staff supporting children at school. Thanks to all of you who liked and shared the letter on social media. 

And thousands of you have signed our Young People's Advisory Board's (YAB) petition for deaf awareness — and Shikha and Juliet's letter for more Teachers of the Deaf.  

Your message is being heard, and you are making a difference. We’ll have more actions for you soon so join our campaigns network to stay in touch.

Thanks so much for your support!

More information

The Department for Education SEND improvement plan

Our response to the SEND review consultation