The SEND green paper: what do you need to know?

What are the proposed changes in the SEND review green paper, and what are the next steps and implications for schools?

Author details

Natalie Packer is an independent education consultant, specialising in school improvement, SEN and outstanding teaching. She delivers a wide range of professional development packages for primary and secondary schools and supports initial teacher...

On 30 March 2022 the Department for Education (DfE) published the SEND Review: Right support, right place, right time. This green paper sets out the government’s vision for a single, national SEND and alternative provision system that will introduce new standards in the quality of support given to children across education, health and care. It analyses the challenges within the current SEND system and proposes measures that will help create a more inclusive one.

This article outlines the main proposals within the SEND review and highlights some of the implications for schools.

Why is there a need for change?

The reforms to the SEND system introduced in 2014 had the right aspirations that were focused on an integrated 0-25 system across education, health and care, driven by high ambition and preparation for adulthood. However, implementation of the reforms has not been effective and as a result, has failed to deliver. The SEND review notes three key challenges facing the SEND system.

  1. Outcomes for children and young people with SEN or in alternative provision are poor.
  2. Navigating the SEND system and alternative provision is not a positive experience for children, young people and their families.
  3. The system is not delivering value for money for children, young people and families.

The SEND green paper gives the promise that every child or young person should have access to the ‘right support in the right place at the right time’.

What are the proposed changes?

The overarching message of the green paper is that support for children and young people with SEND needs to be accessible, effective and fair, with more children and young people being able to access the support they need in their local mainstream setting, without the need for an EHCP or specialist provision.

The paper recognises the need to resolve the postcode lottery around SEND

To achieve this, the green paper proposes a single national SEND and alternative provision system to ensure that education settings are clear about the support they are expected to deliver for children and young people with SEND and can access the right targeted support for children and young people quickly and effectively.

The SEND review sets out a series of proposals for achieving this aim. These include the following.

A single national SEND and alternative provision (AP) system

  • Establish new, nationally consistent standards for provision, process and systems for how needs are identified and met at every stage.
  • Establish new local SEND partnerships across education, health and care to produce a local inclusion plan setting out how each area will meet the national standards. 
  • Review and update the SEND Code of Practice.
  • Introduce a standardised and digitised EHCP process and template to minimise bureaucracy and deliver consistency.
  • Support parents and carers to make an informed preference for suitable placements for their child by providing a tailored list of settings. 

Excellent provision from early years to adulthood

  • Increase core schools’ budgets by £7 billion by 2024-25
  • Consult on the introduction of a new SENCO National Professional Qualification (NPQ).
  • Increase the number of staff with SENCO qualifications in early years settings.
  • Invest in SEND teacher training and development in mainstream schools.
  • Fund new, or improved existing, specialist and alternative provision.
  • Encourage all special and alternative provision to be part of a strong multi-academy trust.
  • Invest further in the supported internship programme.  

A reformed and integrated role for alternative provision (AP)

  • Make AP, focused on early intervention, an integral part of local SEND systems.
  • Support local authorities to create an alternative provision-specific budget.
  • Develop a bespoke performance framework for alternative provision schools.
  • Launch a call for evidence on the use of unregistered provision.

System roles, accountabilities and funding reform

  • Clarify roles across education, health and care partners and ensure that professionals are equipped to meet their responsibilities.
  • Introduce new inclusion dashboards so parents and professionals can see how the SEND system is performing at local and national levels.
  • Introduce a new national framework of banding and tariffs for funding matched to levels of need and types of education provision set out in the national standards.

What are the implications for schools?

The green paper is a long-awaited, welcome first step towards much-needed reform and there is a lot to be positive about in the proposals. However, there are a few gaps in the paper and some areas that schools would welcome further clarification over. The paper recognises the need to resolve the postcode lottery around SEND. For schools, clarity on the provision they should be making available will undoubtedly be helpful, and for some will simply be confirmation that they are already doing all they are required to, and possibly more!

The introduction of a standardised and digitised EHCP template should support efficiency

It will be important for the DfE to create standards which are evidence-based and broad yet concise, but that do not become a basis of criticism or blame for schools.

A more consistent approach to statutory systems and processes across all LAs is welcomed. The introduction of a standardised and digitised EHCP process and template, for example, should support efficiency and a reduction in bureaucracy – something that has been a major thorn in the side of most SENCOs and parents!

It is pleasing to see the paper’s call for the provision of sufficient protected time and dedicated administrative support for SENCOs to help address pressures, partly caused by the bureaucratic load. However, similar recommendations exist in the current code of practice, yet this isn’t always executed in practice. What will make a difference this time around?

The critical role of the SENCO in securing change is acknowledged

Investment in new, or improved, high needs provision and increased available places in specialist settings will also be welcomed by the many mainstream schools who are currently educating pupils whose needs would be better met in specialist provision that is simply not available.

However, this will require a coordinated and planned strategic approach from local authorities, not simply a reactive response to additional capital funding in an attempt to plug provision ‘gaps.’

To support those pupils who remain in mainstream provision, the DfE will also consider whether the £6,000 per pupil, per year notional budget ‘remains the right threshold beyond which schools can expect to draw down additional high-needs funding’. The £6,000 threshold has been in place for a number of years and the fact that the budget remains ‘notional’ can cause confusion and lead to a lack of accountability; consideration of changes certainly needs to happen.

How will change be secured in schools?

There is no doubting the government’s ambition to overhaul the system and develop ‘world-class support’ (whatever that looks like!). However, this ambition will only be realised if there is a deep-rooted change in culture. For schools, this means all leaders and teachers taking responsibility for SEND through whole-school approaches.

The critical role of the SENCO in securing change is acknowledged and the proposal to replace the national SENCO award with a National Professional Qualification within the leadership suite will leave SENCOs well placed to do this as part of a school's senior leadership team. However, there is little mention in the green paper of the role of other leaders and governors in the whole-school approach – this is critical if the cultural change is to take place within our schools.

Responding to the Green Paper consultation

The consultation closes on 1 July 2022. It is important that headteachers, SENCOs and staff reflect on the proposals and respond to the consultation to provide the DfE with a wide range of views from practitioners. To respond to the consultation, go to 

Special Needs Jungle (SNJ) have put together a helpful document to support response to the consultation.

Please do respond to the SEND green paper consultation – your views are important!

How do the DfE intend to deliver change?

The green paper promises a £70 million SEND and alternative provision change programme to test and refine the key proposals. Following the consultation, the DfE propose to publish a national SEND and AP delivery plan to outline how change will be implemented and to establish a new National SEND Delivery Board to hold partners to account for delivery of the plan.

What’s next?

The publication of the green paper marks the start of a 13-week consultation process so none of this is yet definite. Later this year, following the completion of the consultation, the DfE will publish a national SEND delivery plan, setting out the government’s response to the consultation and how the proposals will be implemented in more detail.

At that point, schools will be in a more informed position to consider how they can play their part in realising the ambitions of the green paper and improve the outcomes of their children and young people with SEND.

Last Updated: 
11 Apr 2022