Skip to main content

Response to SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan - March 2023

Tuesday 7 March 2023

The British Dyslexia Association welcomes the long-awaited publication of the Government’s SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan (‘the Plan’) and shares their ambition “to create a more inclusive society that celebrates and enables success in all forms.” But whilst Plan gets a lot of the ‘what’ right, there is scarce detail on the ‘how’. There are no immediate answers about what an improved experience for pupils with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties will look like: the Plan pushes many questions into the long grass (not to be published until the end of 2025) and no legislative changes are proposed. Whilst there is a welcome focus on ongoing stakeholder collaboration and consultation, it is disappointing that details about how to address the need for better support for dyslexic children in the classroom - where it is really needed - are missing and still nearly three years away.

We believe that better support for children with dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) in schools will require training for all classroom teachers and for all teaching assistants. Whilst we welcome the announcement of a review of Initial Teacher Training and Early Career Frameworks additional training for 5,000 early years staff and access to the Universal Services Programme, the Plan contains no commitment to require SEND CPD for the general workforce in schools which is a missed opportunity. The Plan only talks about publishing ‘practice guides’ which does not equate to proper professional training.

The Plan refers to a skilled workforce but there is no acknowledgement of the current crisis in recruiting and retaining teachers and teaching assistants and no remedy to address this in the short term. The commitment to fund training for more educational psychologists is much needed but, in itself, this will not address the current shortage of specialist teachers and assessors and will not deliver any additional support in school for dyslexic children. Specialist Teachers qualified to Level 7 would increase capacity both for identification of those with (SpLD) and also for targeted classroom-based interventions but there is no reference to this.

The Plan acknowledges the importance of Assistive Technology but extends training to just 150 maintained schools. This is another missed opportunity. Providing training to schools about assistive technology is a cost-effective means of providing support which will give students skills and confidence they can use throughout their education and working lives. This sort of programme should be rolled out to all schools.

And although the Plan refers to a commitment to fund 92 new open special free schools we know that the creation of new schools relies heavily on local communities or existing providers to organise and campaign for them. Our concern is these schools are therefore less likely to be in the areas and communities that need them the most.

We welcome the development of National Standards aiming to improve early identification of needs and intervention and setting out clear expectations for the types of support that should be available, who is responsible for delivering them and from which budget. We are also glad to see the commitment to design accountability mechanisms for delivering new National Standards. But we remain concerned that, in fact, a monumental injection of funding is required to tackle years of underfunding in schools and that there needs to be significant reform to school funding in order to sustain and continue improvements in provision over the longer term.

The BDA are calling on the Government to invest properly in the specialist workforce, to ensure that every dyslexic child has access to sufficient specialist professionals to have their needs identified and supported.

In summary…

We welcome:

  • The overall vision for an inclusive education system
  • The language of collaboration and co-production
  • The commitment to a less adversarial system
  • The recognition of the importance of Assistive Technology

We are concerned about:

  • Lack of short-term solutions: relying on ongoing review and consultation
  • Absence of requirement for SEND CPD for all adults in schools
  • Lack of reference to recruitment and retention issues in schools
  • Failure to address chronic underfunding in schools
  • New special schools may not serve the communities that need them the most
  • Failure to ensure all schools can access training about Assistive Technology
  • Whether funding for specialist schools will include dyslexia specialist schools
  • The general lack of detail in the Plan

You can read the Plan in full here: Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan (