Keegan to ‘take time to listen’ ahead of special educational needs support plan


The Education Secretary has committed to meeting children, parents and organisations in the special educational needs sector ahead of the publication of a long-awaited improvement plan early next year.It had been hoped by some that a response to the consultation into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support would be published before the end of the year.But Gillian Keegan, who took up her post in the department last month, has now pledged to “take time to listen to children and parents as well as those of you who work tirelessly in the system” before giving the Government’s response in the new year.In a letter to the education sector on Monday, Ms Keegan said she does not “underestimate the importance of getting this right”, adding that she wants to “understand the extensive feedback we received through the consultation” before publishing the response.The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the longer wait for a response is “disappointing”, adding that provision for supporting children with special educational needs is under “intolerable strain”.Read MoreIn her letter, Ms Keegan wrote: “Through my own experiences I know meaningful and significant change is necessary to deliver a system that allows every child and young person to reach their potential.Provision for supporting children with special educational needs is under intolerable strain because of severe funding pressures and a system for getting the money to the front line which is hopelessly disjointed and overly complicated“I do not underestimate the importance of getting this right. That is why I, alongside the new ministerial team, want to take time to listen to children and parents as well as those of you who work tirelessly in the system.“I want to understand the extensive feedback we received through the consultation before publishing a full response to the SEND and alternative provision green paper, in an improvement plan.“I will publish this early in the new year.”In other support announced for the special educational needs sector, the Government said funding worth £21 million will go towards training 400 more educational psychologists from 2024.It also said a training programme for teachers to help them use assistive technology to support pupils will be extended to up to 150 more schools in the coming months.The timetable for the Government’s response to the consultation was confirmed at education questions in the House of Commons on Monday.Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “It is disappointing that the Government’s improvement plan for vital provision for children with special educational needs will not be published until early in the new year.“This will be nearly a year after it published proposals for reform and launched a consultation. Even allowing for the political turmoil which has taken place since then, this delay is simply not good enough.“Provision for supporting children with special educational needs is under intolerable strain because of severe funding pressures and a system for getting the money to the front line which is hopelessly disjointed and overly complicated. The Government must show a much greater sense of urgency.”However, the news was cautiously welcomed by some charities and the public sector, who pushed ministers to get the reforms right rather than rush them.Stephen Kingdom, campaign manager for the Disabled Children’s Partnership, said it is “not a surprise that the timescale has slipped” given the number of changes in ministers at the Department for Education since the consultation closed.