Special Educational Needs Act to increase information on services

A new Special Educational Needs (Information) Act will require the government to publish annual reports on how well children with SEN in England are faring in different local areas.

The legislation, which received royal assent this week, is designed to tackle the wide variations in the way local authorities collect information and to drive up service standards.

The information will be collated by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and will include data on outcomes for children with special needs as measured by the Every Child Matters framework.

Ofsted review to inform duty

It is anticipated that a review of special educational needs next year by Ofsted will identify what additional information will need to be collected to fulfil the new statutory duty.

The legislation began as a private member’s bill proposed by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, who has a severely dyslexic son, and Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, the chair of family courts body Cafcass.

In a Lords debate on the bill last month, Pitkeathley said: “If we are serious about improving not only outcomes but raising expectation, we must first put an end to the drastic differences in policy and provision which exist across local authorities.”

Backing from TreeHouse

The bill received the backing of autism education charity TreeHouse after a report by the organisation found that around 60% of questions to ministers on autism went unanswered because the information was not available.

Linda Redford, director of development and public affairs, said that it was a “much needed step”. She added: “Without accurate data, how can local authorities and primary care trusts plan services effectively and allocate funding to those who really need it?”

Brian Lamb, chair of the Special Educational Consortium, which seeks to champion the interests of children with SEN, said better information was “key” to better outcomes for children. He added: “This act will allow us to get a clearer understanding about what works for children with additional needs and share good practice across schools. Crucially, it will help to raise expectations about what young people with SEN can achieve at school.”

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