BLOG: Can we get a stronger voice for SEND in government, please?

At the end of April, NASS will be launching its Manifesto for Special Schools which will set out the six key asks for the next government to action during their first 100 days of government to remove barriers to a better SEND system.

In this week’s blog, Mari Davis, NASS Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, talks about how one of these key actions is securing a stronger voice for SEND in government.


I challenge you not to be moved by the wonderful film launched last week by Let Us Learn Too, a campaign by parents and carers of disabled children to stop the fight families face trying to get their children access to education. Their poignant film highlights how children and young people with SEND are not asking for the world, but just simply for provision that meets their needs to enable them to attend school, enjoy school life and reach their potential. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Unfortunately, the reality is that we frequently observe how government policies are persistently raising barriers to children and young people with SEND instead of enabling access to education and the opportunity to enjoy activities that their peers can freely partake in.

One of these barriers is having the needs of children and young people with SEND recognised. From our experience, we know that consideration for SEND is at best an afterthought for many government policies and decisions. This frustration is not ours alone but shared by many of us. Take for example the Children at the Table campaign, a collaboration of the five leading children’s charities - Action for Children , Barnardo's, The Children's Society, National Children's Bureau and NSPCC. NASS is one of over 150 signatories supporting its call for better consideration for children and young people in key policy decisions that impact their lives. If you haven’t already done so, you may wish to provide your support for the campaign by signing their petition.

What are the key political parties saying?

We are sure we were not the only ones to be disappointed to hear Bridget Phillipson, at the Association of School and College LeadersConference say that The Labour Party will not be sharing their vision for SEND before the general election. We can only hope that this means that they will take the opportunity, if successful at the polls, to talk to all key stakeholders and ensure that the voice and concerns of the sector are heard loudly and clearly.

Last week it emerged that Sir Keir Starmer was keen to slim down government with a new four-person executive cabinet sitting above the main cabinet and also create new ‘mission boards’. We would argue that within such a structure it is even more vital to have a strong voice in the cabinet for children, young people and SEND to ensure decisions are not made that will directly or indirectly negatively impact their life, wellbeing and access to the specialist education that meets their needs.

The The Conservative Party's stance on SEND remains uncertain as we await details in their manifesto. However, what we do know is that during their tenure we have experienced a diminishing voice for SEND. The revolving door of ministers with responsibility for SEND has impeded progress, making it challenging to garner support and momentum, particularly amidst this time of change and review. The worrisome "downgrading" of the Minister for Disability role adds another layer of concern.

In terms of the other opposition parties, we were pleased to see that within their pre-manifesto document ‘Our Fair Deal’ the Liberal Democrats have pledged to “Appoint a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People”. However, we believe that there needs to be an explicit mention of children and young people with SEND within the post title and the responsibilities associated with the position. We believe that a dedicated voice for SEND should be represented at the decision-making table. NASS recently wrote to key individuals from the Liberal Democrats Manifesto team to urge them to revise their promise within their final 2024 manifesto and commit to establishing a Cabinet Minister for Children, Young People and SEND.

We need a stronger voice for SEND in government.

This is one of the key asks in our manifesto. We want all children and young people, including those with SEND, to have their voices heard when key decisions are made by the government that impact their present and their future. We want to ensure that decisions made doesn’t restrict access to vital services and special schools that our young people with SEND need in order to thrive, reach their potential and feel a valued part of the UK.

Our manifesto, which we will launch at the end of April, sets out key actions for any incoming government to take to remove barriers to a better SEND system. If you are interested in finding out more about our manifesto or would like to support our work to bring about positive change, please do get in touch –