14th November 2022

The Children’s Commissioner’s vision for the SEND system

I have dedicated my career to transforming the educational outcomes of children across England. First as a teacher, a head teacher, the CEO of a Multi-academy Trust and now, as Children’s Commissioner. I believe that every single child has the right to a fantastic education system that matches their aspirations and helps them achieve their goals.  

When I launched The Big Ask, the largest survey of children in the world, I wasn’t expecting school and getting a good education as being vital to children’s happiness to be mentioned so frequently. This is a generation that understands that school will always be challenging in some way, but still prizes education as a life priority:  

“I really want to learn even if it’s hard because education is important to me” – Girl, 11

Vulnerable children, such as those with SEND, were even more likely than their peers to say education was important to their future plan. And, where children needed additional support, and received it quickly and locally, they were happier than the overall cohort. But, the reality is that this is not the case for all children. I heard too many stories from children who felt that their ambitions were not being matched by the grown-ups around them. This was too often the experience of those children who would be classed as disadvantaged or vulnerable.  

This is why, when the Department for Education launched their consultation on how we, as adults, can provide the right support, in the right place, at the right time for children with additional needs I knew that children’s voices needed to be at the centre of my response.  

My office spoke with 55 children and young people with additional needs across a range of education settings including special schools and analysed the consistency and accessibility of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).  

The message was simple: a child’s experience of support and care is only as good as the worst part of the system. We need to work together to ensure that all parts of the system are delivering excellent support. What I heard, I have transformed into three simple ambitions that I feel will help create the support network children deserve. 

So today, I am publishing my vision for a transformed SEND system. We need to work quickly, joining up the reforms in the Care Review, the Schools White Paper and the SEND Green paper, so we can have an education, health and care system that works together for children, so that all children feel supported to fulfill their hopes and dreams.