Department for Education
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Children and young people to benefit from SEND pathfinder champions

Over 1.5 million children and young people to benefit from special educational needs and disability (SEND) pathfinder champions. 

Groups of councils across the country have been announced as pathfinder champions for the government’s special educational needs and disability (SEND) reforms.

The champions will help teams in their neighbouring councils prepare for the changes, which will give thousands of families greater control over the support they receive.

The government has recently announced the biggest transformation toSEND support for 30 years which will give families more personalised care and assistance, helping the 1.55 million children and young people in England who have special educational needs. It will mean a new, joined-up approach from birth to 25, ensuring that support is made available at the earliest possible point.

Children and young people will be fully involved in decisions about their care and what they want to achieve, and new education, health and care (EHC) plans are being introduced for those with more complex needs.

The government has also announced a £70 million reform grant for councils as they prepare to implement these ambitious changes, alongside an updatedSEND code of practice, which provides a stronger foundation for delivery partners to introduce the reforms locally.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:

With less than 5 months to go until the introduction of our new reforms, the work of these regional champions is vital to ensure all local authorities, schools, colleges and health care services are ready to implement the changes.

Around 1 in 5 children currently have some form of special educational needs or disability; our ambition is for every child and young person to lead happy and fulfilled lives, with greater choice and control over their support.

The regions and their champions are:

  • North East: Darlington will lead in this area
  • Yorkshire and Humber: North Yorkshire, Calderdale and York City lead in this area
  • North West: Wigan, Manchester, Stockport, Salford and Lancashire lead in this area
  • East Midlands: Leicester City and Nottinghamshire lead in this area
  • West Midlands: Solihull, Birmingham City, Coventry City, Dudley, Sandwell, Staffordshire, Telford and Wrekin, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton and Worcestershire lead in this area
  • South West: Cornwall, Portsmouth and Southampton lead in this area
  • East of England: Hertfordshire and Bedford lead in this area
  • London 1: Bromley, Bexley and Enfield lead in this area
  • London 2: SE7 consortium which consists of Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, West Sussex, Medway, Hampshire, Kent and Surrey lead in this area
  • South East: SE7 consortium which consists of Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, West Sussex, Medway, Hampshire, Kent and Surrey lead in this area

Thirty-one councils have been test-driving the government’s reforms since October 2011, and now the new pathfinder champions will act as the first point of contact for other councils, ensuring each region is ready for the reforms coming into effect from September 2014.

Alongside their regional support roles, certain champions will take on one or more national champion roles in areas where they have already developed particular strengths and expertise, including taking a leading role at national events.

These reforms are part of the Children and Families Act, through which the government is:

  • replacing special educational needs statements and learning disability assessments with a new birth-to-25 education, health and care plan - setting out in one place all the support families will receive
  • requiring better co-operation between councils and health services to make sure services for children and young people with SEND are jointly planned and commissioned, giving parents and young people with education, health and care plans the offer of a personal budget - putting families firmly in charge of the care they receive
  • requiring councils to publish a ‘local offer’ showing the support available to all disabled children and young people and their families in the area - not just those with educational needs
  • introducing mediation for disputes and trialling, giving children and young people the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support
  • introducing a new legal right for children and young people with an education, health and care plan to express a preference for state academies, free schools and further education colleges - currently limited to maintained mainstream and special schools

Notes to editors

In October 2011, DfE set up 20 trials with 31 ‘pathfinder’ local authorities to test the proposals in the SEND green paper. The aim was to improve the support available to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The proposals being testing include the introduction of a new single assessment process, an education, health and care (EHC) plan and personal budgets for children, young people and families with SEND.

SEND pathfinder champions will act as the first point of contact for local authorities and partners within their region and provide a link to the wider free support available from specialist delivery partners funded by the Department for Education.

SEND pathfinder champions will provide a minimum of 2, one-to-one support days to each authority in their region, sharing effective approaches from other areas, not just their own. Additional support days will be provided in some areas on a targeted basis. Local authorities can choose to pool their one-to-one support days to have tailored workshops with other authorities.

Topics covered in one-to-one support days and workshops will be based on local needs and will include:

  • developing the local offer
  • developing the assessment process and education, health and care plan;
  • working effectively with parents and young people
  • preparing for adulthood
  • joint commissioning across agencies including the health service

Valuable tools such as the SEND code of practice will soon be available to councils to start implementing the reforms, and short guides of the code will be made for parents, young people, teachers and health workers. A draft code is already available.

Information packs which describe existing good practice from the SENDpathfinder programme are also available.

The full list of regional SEND pathfinder champions can be found at the SENDpathfinder website.

In the North East, Darlington will be the champion lead local authority in conjunction with Early Support (subject to discussions on the details of the support package).

The South West region will be divided into 2 with the regional champion role being delivered by a partnership of Cornwall, Portsmouth and Southampton supported by Mott MacDonald. Further details of the regional split will be made available on the pathfinder website shortly.

National champions have been appointed from the SEND pathfinder champions to cover 8 national themes.

The national champions will provide additional support and expertise through:

  • developing practical tools and resources to complement the existing pathfinder champion information packs, which will become more practical ‘how to’ guides
  • providing key note presentations and/or facilitating workshops at national events that are targeted at key stakeholder groups supporting the wider implementation
  • providing additional call-off support to other regional SEND pathfinder champions, where needed


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