SEND: A different way of working, a better solution for support

Jenny Bowers
Wednesday, June 22, 2022

If you are reading this in England, it is probable that you will have some experience of the education system here. It may be as a child/young person, as a parent/carer or family member.

'Seven years on from the most comprehensive reform in SEND, the system is in a mess', Jenny Bowers says. Picture posed by models credit: Adobe Stock
'Seven years on from the most comprehensive reform in SEND, the system is in a mess', Jenny Bowers says. Picture posed by models credit: Adobe Stock

It could be as an employee or volunteer within the school system or in an associated role alongside educators. You may be someone currently recruiting school leavers. You will have opinions on what it should be like, and you may have a high level of concern for those navigating it currently. We all hold opinions, and we all bear some responsibility for this complex, fractured system.

I am part of the system. As a child, young person (and adult) I was a system user, and in this time, I saw much change. (1980-1999) 

Then as a teacher, SENCO, safeguarding lead, deputy head and headteacher I was a cog within the system which seemed to contain change, but also very much maintained an uneasy status quo (1999-2020). Now as a coach and supervisor I am part of the scaffold of this system.

Having had these experiences, I am equal parts frustrated, exhausted, proud and dissatisfied. I often feel I achieved much DESPITE the system instead of because of it. However, change is afoot for I am now a delivery partner in 365 SEND. So now I feel re-invigorated, excited and ready to forge forward and shout about it from the roof tops. Why? Because I truly believe that 365 SEND is a project that will create change for the better, for the whole SEND community.

If you (or one of your family members) are one of the 1.49 million children/young people registered as having a special educational need or disability (SEND) in England, the current system is not fit for your purpose. We know that. 

Seven years on from the most comprehensive reform in SEND, the system is in a mess, those who hold the position of SENCO in our schools are struggling and resources are limited whilst needs, often complex and multiple, are not met early enough or comprehensively enough and as a result become more complex with additional needs being created, as initial needs are not met.

Many within the system feel despair and frustration - ‘something needs to change!’ is the frequently heard cry. Unfortunately, change is also seen as messy, complex and hard. It is also seen to cost huge amounts of money. But tinkering at the edges is not going to fix anything. Case law is shaping the system, but not necessarily improving it.

We need innovation, we need simplicity, and we need to remove the pain of the current improvement model where it is being done to the people within the system, without their meaningful input or any meaningful measures of progress.

365 SEND is a simple concept that will bring about deep meaningful change within the system that will embed and continue long after the scaffold of the project is gone. It is time to shift the lens away from a system where a label is attached and then the process is done to the child and the family (The ‘team around the child’ model) and move to a system where the team is with the child and family.

365 SEND is a three-year project, with six people groups and five innovations. It is led by #TeamADL who have a wealth and depth of experience within and alongside the system and across the country. The cost is minimal, because there is simplicity in the design and this is about inclusion, about utilising the resources we have, engaging with all in the community and upskilling all staff in our schools. Over three years a school or college will have in place the resources, processes and relationships that will bring about the change that is needed to improve the system, and from the place where it matters the most for the child and family. 365 SEND also recognises that each individual setting is bespoke, and so the community is in charge of the school/college, shaping the project to best suit their needs. It’s all about joint decision making and joint accountability. Real dialogue and valuing the contributions of all stakeholders .

If you are a young person, parent/family member, a SENCO, school leader or staff member, a governor or a trustee, come see what 365 SEND has to offer, and stop feeling like you are shouting into the wind! Together, let’s create a system of team WITH the child, young person and family.

Jenny Bowers is an education coach and supervisor at 365SEND. For more information visit

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