Westminster Education Forum

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities 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.

If you’re already booked on, joining instructions can be accessed from five working days before your conference via the booking dashboard. Need help? Contact us at delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Next steps for SEND provision in England - reform, inclusivity and access, and priorities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

TO BE PUBLISHED September 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
The conference will be an opportunity to assess priorities for the Government’s SEND Review, expected to be published prior to the conference - as well as what may be learnt from challenges faced in the wake of COVID-19.

Areas for discussion include:

  • reform of SEND provision - key areas for improvement and policy priorities going forward
  • priorities 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
  • priorities for a joined-up approach - 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 DfE; the Government Legal Department; the NAO; the MoJ; and the Welsh Government - 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:
    • government catch-up tutoring in helping students with SEND to get up to speed on their learning
    • remote learning for students with SEND, and the use of specialist tutoring
  • staff wellbeing and workload - the role of central guidance as well as that specific to Sendcos, opportunities for workload sharing, alleviating stress through the 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 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 in:
    • joining up the health, education, and social care sectors
    • assessing access to EHCPs and their quality
    • improving the level of specialist knowledge amongst school staff on how best to 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 by the pandemic financially 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 - 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
  • Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities - the inquiry from the Public Accounts Committee calling for the DfE to urgently complete the SEND review, and finding 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 concern that special needs are being under-identified amongst girls
    • students with SEND accounted for nearly half of permanent exclusions from school in 2017/18
  • Supporting SEND - the report, recently published by Ofsted, which found that pupils with SEND in mainstream schools are not getting enough support to aid their learning and development, even with assistance from external services
  • Main findings: area SEND inspections and outcomes - the report from Ofsted, finding that around 51% of area SEND inspections highlighted concerns about how effective the local area was in meeting its duties, with over 50% of these areas requiring a written statement of action (WSoA)
    • the report also highlighted that local areas who fell into the ‘most deprived’ quintile were most likely to require a WSoA
  • Systemic divergence between teacher and test-based assessment - a recent report published by Ofqual that found that teacher assessments sometimes present a bias against children with special educational needs (SEN)
  • £280m capital funding for SEND and AP for the coming year - recently announced by the Government for councils to use towards improving provision, and new specialist places in schools, academies, colleges, and early years settings
  • Guidance for carrying out area inspections and 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, as well as 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
  • DPOs call on minister to scrap ‘unfair’ SEN coronavirus measures - recent reports of concerns raised by parliamentarians and third sector representatives regarding such easements to the Children and Families Act given by the Coronavirus Act
  • 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 lockdown:
    • 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 in engaging 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 a regression 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 finding problems with attendance and 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 Department for Education; the Government Legal Department; the Ministry of Justice; the National Audit Office; Ofsted; and the Welsh Government.
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 conference

Shortly after every Westminster Education Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates