On Friday 19th January, NASS published its most recent policy paper, Working Stronger Together. The paper, informed by our member schools, explores the current and possible future relationship between the state and Independent Special Schools (ISS) and has been prepared in response to the recommendation within the SEND and AP Improvement Plan published by the Department of Education (DfE) in March 2023. The Improvement Plan stated that DfE sought to “Re-examine the state’s relationship with independent special schools (ISS) to ensure we set comparable expectations for all state-funded specialist providers”.
As councils are challenged in meeting their statutory obligations and managing sufficiency effectively, our paper outlines a strong role for ISS as a viable partner for the state to consider.
In a recent Local Government Association (LGA) submission, it was noted that many councils feel constrained by their inability to support new providers to set up in areas of disadvantage and that councils were feeding back that the speed at which new special school places can be brought online is too slow. Our evidence supports that concern. The paper considers how by utilising ISS as a distinct resource that complements rather than competes with the wider SEND system, can only benefit the SEND system and is an effective use of public resources if placements are made for those who benefit from them the most.
The paper concludes with a series of recommendations for ISS, the DfE, and local authorities that we hope can underpin future discussions on the relationship between the state and the Independent Special School sector.