“High Needs funding under intolerable pressure” Dame Christine Lenehan

Dame Christine Lenehan speech to Natspec conference

“High Needs funding under intolerable pressure” Dame Christine Lenehan

In a keynote presentation at Natspec’s Annual Conference, Dame Christine Lenehan updated delegates following her review last year into residential special schools and colleges. The findings, and the implementation work that will now follow, cover a wide scope including the pressures on mainstream provision, school exclusions of children with SEN and disabilities, the concern about the results of LA SEND reviews, and the high needs funding system which Lenehan described as “at breaking point”.

During the presentation, Dame Christine pointed out that pressure on LAs had led to a range of issues which meant that the Children and Families Act has not delivered what it set out to do: “the pressure to deliver EHC plans to a fixed timescale has led to some very poor-quality plans”, she said. “Everyone knows the high needs funding system is under intolerable pressure. The current system is not working”.

She urged colleges to replicate the best provision, which is “outward looking, a part of their community, and work hard to maintain relationships with families and placing local authorities”.  She also praised specialist colleges, saying “college educational outcomes were clear and set high standards”, and told delegates how she wanted residential schools and colleges to be “the places of first choice and not of last resort”.

The Leadership Board will be set up shortly to help with the implementation of the Lenehan Review, and delegates were pleased to hear that Natspec would be invited to sit on the Board and help “set a specific college agenda” to ensure the best outcomes for current and future students with learning difficulties and disabilities.

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