Westminster Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
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Next steps for SEND provision in England - reform, inclusivity and access, and priorities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

Morning, Tuesday, 14th September 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference is focusing on the future for improving SEND provision in England.

The conference will be an opportunity to assess priorities for the delayed SEND Review, expected later this year, and what may be learnt from challenges faced in the wake of COVID-19.

Areas for discussion include:

  • reforming of SEND provision - key areas for improvement and policy priorities going forward
  • in the wake of COVID-19 - mental health needs and recovery, staff wellbeing and workload, catch-up tutoring, and lessons for future practice
  • inclusivity and access to education - educational facilities, assistive technologies and specialised equipment, as well as policy priorities for the Government’s School Rebuilding Programme
  • next steps for EHC plans, meeting demand, funding, and support for post-16 transitions

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from Ofsted; the National Audit Office and the Ministry of Justice; as well as parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons Library.

The agenda:

  • Priorities for SEND provision in the wake of COVID-19
  • Improving support for children with SEND post-pandemic - mental health needs and recovery, staff wellbeing and workload, catch-up tutoring, and lessons for future practice
  • Improving inclusivity and access to education for students with SEND - educational facilities, assistive technologies and specialised equipment, and priorities for the Government’s School Rebuilding Programme
  • Reforming SEND provision - key areas for improvement
  • Developing a joined-up cross-sector approach for SEND - next steps for EHC plans, meeting demand, funding, and support for post-16 transitions
  • Policy priorities going forward for supporting students with SEND

Key areas for discussion:

Improving support for children with SEND post-pandemic:

  • mental health needs - including:
    • supporting children with a sensitivity to change through the return to in-person schooling
    • improving the readiness of school staff to identify and respond to significant mental health issues amongst children with SEND
    • joining up with specialist knowledge amongst child psychologists in the healthcare sector
  • catch-up tutoring - assessing the effectiveness of governmental catch-up tutoring in helping students with SEND to get up to speed on their learning, the effectiveness of remote tutoring for students with SEND, and the use of specialist tutoring
  • staff wellbeing and workload - the role of central guidance and also that specific to Sendcos, opportunities for workload sharing, and alleviating stress through sharing of best practice between mainstream and specialist schools and improving engagement with parents

Inclusivity and access:

  • assistive technologies and EdTech - looking at:
    • the government’s assistive technology pilots and people’s experience with them
    • priorities for boosting access to assistive technologies
    • evaluating what has been learned about the use of EdTech to support learning during the pandemic
    • improving the evidence-base around how to provide differentiated virtual learning for students with SEND
  • educational facilities - next steps for providing specialised facilities and tailored sites at schools to help level out the playing field for students with SEND, and dovetailing with the Ten-Year School Rebuilding Programme

The SEND system - assessing priorities after the 2014 reforms, and in light of the upcoming SEND review:

  • multi-agency working - evaluating progress so far with:
    • joining up health, education and social care sectors
    • assessing access to EHCPs and their quality
    • improving the level of specialist knowledge amongst school staff on how to best support children with SEND
    • possibilities around improving school-to-school and peer-support
  • regional disparities - addressing variation in the provision of adequate support for children with SEND, priorities for supporting regions hit hardest financially by the pandemic to improve their provision, and dovetailing with the levelling up agenda
  • demand - responding to rising demand for SEND services, and examining what is needed in terms of:
    • funding allocations and training specialist staff
    • addressing under-identified special educational needs amongst certain groups of children, as well as high numbers of special needs in other groups
  • post-16 transitions - looking at widening access to further and higher education, as well as:
    • immediate priorities in the wake of the pandemic in terms of ensuring fairness in exam grading in 2021 amidst exceptional circumstances
    • next steps for ensuring system-wide adequate support for educational transitions for students with SEND

Relevant developments:

  • the upcoming SEND Review - announced in September 2019 and delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, seeking to take stock of the support system available for children with SEND and how it can be improved to ensure every pupil can reach their potential
  • Public Accounts Committee inquiry: Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities - calling for the DfE to urgently complete the SEND review, and findings that:
    • half of local authority areas inspected by Ofsted and the CQC have considerable weaknesses in their provision of support for SEND
    • significant and unexplained variance exists in SEND between groups of children, including to concern that special needs are being under-identified amongst girls
    • students with SEND accounted for nearly half of half of permanent exclusions from school in 2017/18
  • Guidance for carrying out re-visits to local areas required to produce a written statement of action - Ofsted and CQC’s phased return of area SEND inspections and re-visits to areas in need of improvements, as identified in a written statement of action
  • Identifying pupils with special educational needs and disabilities - Education Policy Institute research finding inconsistencies in how children with SEND are identified, particularly in terms of vulnerable or disadvantaged children being identified as having SEND, and significant variation in support across the country
  • High needs national funding formula - proposed changes - the recent DfE consultation on proposed changes to the formula, forming the first stage of a long-term review of the High Needs NFF
  • emergency legislation during the first wave of the pandemic - in place for three months, relaxing local authorities’ duties towards vulnerable children, including children with SEND, and expecting councils to show only ‘reasonable endeavours’ that they are fulfilling duties around Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), followed by legal challenges and discontent from advocates for children with SEND
  • Remote education research - research and analysis from Ofsted, with concern among teachers and parents of children with SEND, including issues around engagement and adapting remote education
  • Children with special needs failed if lessons are not learnt from the first lockdown - ASK Research findings, funded by the Nuffield Foundation on the experience of the first COVID-19:
    • significant levels of disruption to the education and wellbeing of children with SEND
    • rising challenges for school staff to provide support, including in terms of:
      • difficulty for students with SEND to engage with online learning and social distancing
      • the majority of pupils having received only a small amount or no healthcare or social support during lockdown
      • rising mental health issues and regressing in basic skills amongst children with SEND
  • The National SENCO Workforce Survey 2020 - gathering input from SENCOs on their experience of supporting pupils with SEND during the pandemic, with reports of sharp increases in workloads and difficulty in providing differentiated virtual learning, and with only 10% of those surveyed reporting they were content with the amount of support they received
  • Ofsted COVID-19 Series - with the third and final report of the series, the report from the autumn, finding problems with attendance, remote learning and therefore also the risk of abuse and neglect for children with SEND
  • DfE assistive technology pilots - assessing the usefulness of different types of assistive technologies in supporting the wellbeing of students with SEND as a part of the EdTech Strategy
  • the Government’s major School Rebuilding Programme - with a focus on improving facilities and educational provision as well as accessibility, sustainability, and promoting good health
  • Over £42m to extend projects for children with SEND - funding allocated to projects, including those helping to raise educational standards and service improvement
  • International Education Strategy: 2021 update - the recent update in the wake of the pandemic, now including an aim to boost the export of UK SEND provisions abroad

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons Library and officials from the Ministry of Justice; the National Audit Office and Ofsted.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from Ofsted, Ofqual and EFSA, together with representatives from schools and colleges, local authorities, SEND consultancies and charities, NHS learning disability practitioners and commissioners, publishers, awarding bodies, SENDtech providers and other suppliers, law firms, and academics, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conferenc

Keynote Speaker

André Imich

SEN and Disability Professional Adviser, Department for Education

Keynote Speakers

Professor Adam Boddison

Chief Executive, nasen

Professor Brian Lamb

Visiting Professor of Special Educational Needs and Disability, University of Derby

André Imich

SEN and Disability Professional Adviser, Department for Education


James Daly MP

Officer, All-Party Parliamentary Group on SEND


Stephen Kingdom

Campaign Manager, Disabled Children's Partnership

Neill Oldham

Headteacher, Highfurlong School, Blackpool

Dr Helen Curran

Senior lecturer: SEN, Bath Spa University

Gurvinder Samra

Associate, Shoosmiths

Helen Simon

Advisory Teacher for SEND and Assistive Technology in the classroom, Helen Simon Associates

Amy Skipp

Director, ASK Research

Claire Learman

Chairperson of the Trustees, Friends of Kirkleatham Hall School, Redcar

Marijke Miles

Chair, SEND Council, National Association of Head Teachers

Emmanuel Awoyelu

SENCO, New Rush Hall School, Ilford and Director, The Reach Out Project