The Government's SEN Green paper and Next Steps documents make clear that children and young people with a statement of SEN will have a right to education up to the age of 25, and that equivalent legal protections will remain in place (i.e. enforceability via SEND Tribunal / Judicial Review or similar.)
Will there be enough funding to cover the additional years of education? Our guess is no.
We predict the knock on effect of the extra funding requirements will be for local authorities to raise the eligibility criteria for statutory assessment far higher, and nominally increase the provision available at School Action and School Action Plus, so that fewer children and young people will qualify for an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan.
If you don't have a plan, there will be no legal mechanism to enforce appropriate education, and you are, in effect, outside of the local authorities' responsibility. It would fall on, for example, the F.E. college to probably make 'best endeavours', without the right to appeal to the SEND Tribunal or Judicial Review.
This raising of the bar will affect proportionally fewer children in North Yorkshire than elsewhere because the County already is one of the lowest statementing authorities. But, in any case, this prediction doesn't apply to North Yorkshire because it stated in March how "It will be vital to press on with work through the support and outreach services to enable schools to meet needs without recourse to statements, and simultaneously to tighten the processes of prescribing entitlement to statements (i.e. set the bar higher for schools to demonstrate that all available resources have been accessed and utilised). See this earlier post for more detail.
What will be the effect of transferring more children to School Action, School Action Plus or the future single SEN category? The National Autistic Society responded to Next Steps thus:
The concern is exactly how support will be improved for children with SEN who don’t have a statement but still have significant needs. A recent NAS survey indicated that only 65% of children with autism do have a statement – and although 18% without currently get some support through School Action Plus, 44% of parents told us they are dissatisfied with it.
(Note: only around 38% of children in North Yorkshire with autism have a statement.)
We predict there will be a dash to raise the threshold for statutory assessments across England before EHC Plans are introduced. Annual Reviews will become more frequent battle grounds for re-assessment and removal of statements. Local Authorities will argue, as North Yorkshire does, that more children's needs can be met at School Action and School Action Plus.
We'll report back next year when we see what the figures tell us!