‘Advisory’ Tailored Lists – who do they really help?Tailored lists, now rebranded as 'Advisory' Tailored Lists, is one of the new policy proposals set to be piloted this year within the Department for Education's (DfE) SEND and AP Change Programme.

Special Needs Jungle recently featured DfE's responses to a series of probing questions about these proposals, attempting to shed light on their intended functionality and value. Regrettably, with still too little detail provided, our scepticism regarding their true purpose and benefit to parents persists, echoing our initial concerns when they were first introduced last March.

DfE asserts that these lists aim to assist parents by “illustrating choice” that is "tailored" to their child’s needs. However, we would argue that these lists might serve as a strategic veil, subtly guiding parents towards more generic and less specialised options, potentially saving local authorities money but failing to address need.

Local authorities will hold sole responsibility for drawing up lists. We saw from the launch of the Local Offer for each area in 2014 that many LAs have a poor awareness of the provision that might be used by children in their area. Specifically, many LAs have failed to include independent provision within their boundaries or regularly used by them in their Local Offers. This gives us concern that a similar pattern will be followed for Advisory Lists.

A critical flaw lies in the fact that these Tailored Lists are founded solely on hypothetical choices. DfE states that consultations with settings will not occur until "later in the process," posing concerns for all parties involved. For schools, this delay could lead to more instances of attempts to place children and young people with needs they cannot meet or not being able to offer a placement through lack of capacity.

For parents, we can only see it adding to the huge challenges they already experience. If created to help parents, the thinking behind tailored lists seems to lack the basic understanding of where it is in the process that parents face the most difficulties. For the majority, it is not in identifying available choices for their child, but rather in actually securing the appropriate placement that meets need. Unfortunately therefore -  advisory or not - Tailored Lists are not the answer.