Department for Education NNPCF work SEND Review

SEND review – engagement opportunities for parent carer forums

The NNPCF steering group has been working with a variety of stakeholders to offer parent carers and forums the opportunity to be briefed and engage in the SEND Green Paper. This post updates you on what we are planning and how you can get involved.

The SEND review has been a long time in the making. It was originally launched in the summer of 2019. Delayed by general elections, government reshuffles and Covid 19, it represents an opportunity to reset and further reform the SEND system following the 2014 Children and Families Act.

The latest information we have suggests that the resultant SEND Green Paper will be published before the end of March. Although, this is subject to last minute change, we are hopeful that the conference will provide a platform for Ministers and the Department for Education to share the contents of the Green Paper just after its publication.

This post outlines this and other engagement opportunities we are planning to ensure that Parent Carer Forums are briefed and our voice is heard as clearly as possible through the Green Paper consultation process.

7th March 2022 – Children and Families Minister Will Quince will be presenting a webinar that is jointly hosted by the NNPCF, Special Needs Jungle, Contact and the Family Fund. The Minister will share some information about the work of the review and will answer some questions set by parents. NNPCF Cochair, Tina Emery will be one of the joint facilitators of this event. Booking details for this event were shared on Tuesday 1st March. All 200 places have already been taken. If you have booked and are unable to attend, please let us know so we can offer your place to someone else. Note: because this is BEFORE the publication of the Green Paper, we do not believe Minister Quince will be in a position to share details of its content.

23rd March – Minister Will Quince is booked to appear at the NNPCF / Contact virtual conference. We are hopeful that the Green Paper will have been published by this time and so Minister Quince will be able to comment on the details. If so, this will be one of the very first engagement events after its publication.

24th March – we are in the process of planning a full-blown engagement session with the Department for Education at the joint NNPCF / Contact conference. We are hopeful that the SEND review team will be able to join the session and it will be an opportunity for parent carer forums to give some early feedback on the contents of the Green Paper. At this session NNPCF cochairs Mrunal Sisodia and Tina Emery will also share their initial thoughts and response – to what extent does the paper incorporate the things that PCFs asked for?

Please look out for the conference booking link that will be circulated shortly to book onto these events.

Note: please be aware that all these plans are subject to change. As you know the SEND review has already been delayed many times and it is possible there may be further changes that are beyond our control.

After the above events, there will be other engagement events planned by the Department for Education. The schedule has not yet been finalised or published but we will share this with you as soon as we have further details.

In addition, we are planning a large parental survey to ensure that as many families as possible have the opportunity to input into the Green Paper proposals. To maximise its reach and ensure that the key messages are amplified, we are planning to coproduce and distribute the survey with other parental representative groups including Special Needs Jungle, Let us Learn Too and the Disabled Children’s Partnership.

NNPCF Management Team

NNPCF appoints new management team members

The NNPCF steering group are delighted to announce that Sue Cawkwell and Melissa Chesman will be joining the NNPCF management team.

Sue will join as our administrative lead and will work with the board and management team to ensure that the work of the NNPCF is organised and managed in the best possible way. She will be supporting in building the NNPCF’s functions as a community interest company and moving us forward in areas such as management and control of our policies and processes in areas such as HR, legal support and effective delivery of our projects.

Sue said, “I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to support the ongoing work of NNPCF and look forward to being part of an organisation that has a highly dedicated team with such a strong mission and vision. I have many years management experience within the voluntary sector, specifically within disabled children’s services, together with personal experience as a parent. I’m excited to begin this new role and am looking forward to working hard with the board and management team and be part of moving the organisation forward.”  

Melissa joins as our communications lead, taking over some of the responsibilities currently held by Richard Hobbs who continues on the management team as our IT lead. Melissa will be owning the content of the NNPCF website and social media platforms. She will work closely with Richard on developing a new NNPCF website and reviewing the branding of the NNPCF.

Melissa said, “” I’m super excited to start working for the NNPCF.  The experience I’ve had locally, as chair and administrator for Rutland Parent Carer Voice as well as working for Rutland County Council in their communications team, will help and support the work of the NNPCF going forward. Developing communications on local, regional, and national level will assist in raising the profile of the crucial work the NNPCF does.  Publicising important updates, detailing exciting new developments, such as the imminent release of the SEND review, and promoting the important work our parent carer forums do in their local areas will certainly keep me busy!” 

Sue and Melissa’s appointment represents the growth of the NNPCF – the last few years have seen a significant increase in the volume of work we are involved in and as we have started operations as a community interest company, we are seeking to increase our capacity and capability as an organisation.

Sue and Melissa join the NNPCF management team that is responsible for delivering the core work of the NNPCF. The management team consists of Jacqui Watt (Participation), Richard Hobbs (IT), Kay Moore (Policy and Consultations) and Claire Powers (Finance and Operations). The team work to deliver the strategy and priorities set by the NNPCF steering group.


Elaine Lambe appointed as NNPCF Director and new West Midlands steering group member

We are delighted to welcome Elaine Lambe as our new steering group member for the West Midlands.

Elaine is a member of the Warwickshire PCF and works within the West Midlands region. She is part her NCT regional team, doing national strategic work on their behalf.

NNPCF Co-Chair Tina Emery commented, “I am looking forward working with Elaine and the energy that she is going to bring to the Steering Group, coming from a relatively new forum and with her regional and national knowledge that she has from another national organisation.”

On her appointment Elaine said, “I am delighted to be joining the NNPCF Steering Group and continuing to make sure that the West Midlands forums feel connected to the National Network and that their voices are heard. It’s an exciting time for both the West Midlands Region and the NNPCF and I look to working together to make a difference to SEND families.”

Elaine replaces Zara Bowden who stepped down as the West Midlands representative after almost 7 years in the role (Zara Bowden to step down as NNPCF regional representative – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C).

Please join us in this opportunity to thank Zara again for all her hard work and to welcome Elaine to her new role.


NNPCF Steering Group meet with Minister on Schools White Paper

On Monday the NNPCF Steering Group met with Baroness Barran, the Minister for the Schools System on proposals for the schools’ white paper.

Forums feed back to us all the time about the issues that children and young people with SEND face in the current school system and the steering group relayed these messages to the Minister and talked about how schools needed to be more integrated into the SEND system. The points we raised included:

  • The fragmentation of the schools system with no clear accountability between local authorities, multi-academy trusts (MATs) and Regional Schools Commissioners leading to CYP with SEND falling through the cracks. Ros Luff, NNPCF steering group member for London said, “There can often be a disconnect between support partners such as between SENCOs & senior leaders, LA SEND & Social Care teams, or between LA’s & health partners and/or schools. When schools become academies the senior leaders may not be aware of all that has previously been delivered for SEND through the LA. There can be issues with having the local knowledge to secure appropriate timely support, along with loss of economies of scale.”
  • The need for better integration of MATs into local systems – particularly social care and health services and other support often provided via local authorities (e.g. educational psychology). Zara Bowden, West Midlands steering group member commented, “It’s important to remember that while there is complexity and fragmentation in our school system, this also applies to the wider system that supports our SEND communities. Maintained and non-maintained schools should work with local systems to support families and share information that can help the system improve. I was pleased the Minister understood and took on board the points we raised that reflect this, and how we see the opportunity ahead for this to be embedded as an expected standard practice, of course with space for co-production to happen at local and regional levels.”
  • Re-aligning incentives for school leaders with the SEND agenda – at present funding, league tables and inspections often do not focus enough on the needs of SEND
  • The need for a more holistic view of what success looks like for children and schools beyond academic just results.
  • The need for cultural change in schools when inclusion and diversity are valued by ALL schools and SEND is seen as important as the “core” subjects (e.g. by making sure that SEND is represented on school leadership teams). Fazilla Amide, steering group member for London said, “Changing structures and models are not as important as culture change: changing hearts and minds. It requires genuine co-production, great leadership, clear goals and excellent training and communications. We need people to understand why they need to change and what they need to do to get behind this to achieve the aims.”
  • Making sure that personalisation and local character are not lost in a drive for more standardisation

We also highlighted the cynicism that many SEND parents feel about academy trusts – the perception being that they are less inclusive and disadvantage CYP with SEND in pursuit of better academic results.

The Minister understood the points we made and recognised the need for the schools’ white paper, the SEND review and the social care review to be joined up in order to be successful.

Minister for children and families SEND Review

NNPCF Steering Group meeting with Minister Will Quince

On Tuesday 18th January the NNPCF Steering group met with the Parliamentary Undersecretary for Children and Families Minister Will Quince.

It was a 45-minute meeting where we gave the Minister stories of why and what we need to be included into the SEND review. The subjects included:

  • The importance of national clarity about what should be ordinarily available and how this feed into every aspect of a child and young person’s outcomes.

o What happens when these ordinarily services available aren’t clearly set out.

o The importance of services working together, our example was transport

o How local variations can damage outcomes and services

  • The need for clear accountability in the system, between local authorities, schools and regional schools commissioners
  • The need for listening to families on local decisions and the importance of coproduction at all levels.

We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to feed into the review and the consultation that follows. We have asked that communications for the consultation is made clear and the process that follows.

We have offered to support the communications, to enable as many people to engage with the consultation as much as possible.

Jo Gilliland, the NNPCF steering group member for the North East said after the meeting, ““We are all aware of the need for clear accountability in the system between local authorities, schools and regional schools commissioners, I had the opportunity to inform Minister Quince of a situation within my region (North East & Cumbria) where the impact of the lack of accountability, is having wide reaching implications for a cohort of young people and their families. Not only is this situation leading to distress, but the reality of the situation is such that there may not be any further suitable post 16 provision in borough, which in turn leads to families seeking more costly suitable provision (and transport) out of borough. The impact upon the education, life skills, peer relationships, mental

health and future prospects of these young people is great, especially if no suitable provision can be found. Minister Quince, agreed that systems need to be held accountable for such decisions and the need to work together jointly to ensure accountability is paramount.”

Sarah Clarke, the NNPCF steering group member for the South East commented that, “The Minister too was onboard with how a well-defined Ordinarily Available improves how local services work together, increases family’s confidence when speaking to services and allocates clear areas of responsibility across the services.”

To see our SEND review updates, check out:

Education Support for CYP with SEND

Supporting children and young people with SEND attend school

The NNPCF has been asked to join the Department for Education’s Attendance Action Alliance which was set up by the Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi. Education Secretary launches new attendance alliance – GOV.UK (

The group brings together senior figures from the world of education to boost attendance at school, particularly for vulnerable pupils.

At the meeting this week, chaired by Schools Minister Robin Walker, NNPCF co-chairs Mrunal Sisodia and Tina Emery were asked to lead a discussion on how to support the attendance of CYP with SEND.

Drawing upon the insightful feedback that we got from parent carer forums in our survey last year survey we conducted on school attendance (School attendance for children and young people with SEND – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C (, Mrunal and Tina talked about the reasons for CYP with SEND missing school. These included:

  • How anxiety and mental health issues was the most significant barrier for many CYP with SEND
  • The impact that families not getting the right support had on attendance – not just from schools but also the gaps in social care and health services particularly over the pandemic
  • How fear of covid was less of an issue for parents than many perceived
  • And how the shortage of appropriate school places was stopping CYP with SEND attending school

In addition, we also spoke about the steps local and national government / NHS could take to better support families:

  • More reasonable adjustments
  • A more holistic focus from schools
  • More support for anxiety including better awareness, use and funding of mental health support teams
  • More awareness of the challenges of disability
  • Better training for staff
  • More and better coproduction

Other members of the group endorsed these messages as being aligned with their research and findings.

We also called for a more consistent approach and messages from the Department for Education – children should be supported into school and local authorities and schools must not be allowed to take a punitive approach to school attendance. We highlighted the Autism in Schools project (Autism Schools Project – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C ( as an exemplar of the right approach combining coproduction, a cross system approach and being person centred.

Contact for families with disabled children DCP NNPCF Steering Group

Disabled Children’s Partnership launches new campaign

On Monday 17th January, the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) will launch a new campaign to highlight the need for SEND to be prioritised and properly funded in April’s local authority budgets.

PCFs and this campaign share a common goal of improving services and outcomes for CYP with SEND and the NNPCF and Contact have been calling for the right prioritisation of SEND and the allocation of sufficient resources to deal with the growing crisis for many years – for example, the NNPCF raised this in the 2018 State of the Nation report (State of the Nation Reports – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C ( and this has formed a key plank of the NNPCF’s messages to the SEND review (Latest developments on the SEND Review – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C ( Local forums have echoed these messages in their meetings with local strategic partners in town and county halls across the country.

The NNPCF and Contact’s participation team have been working with our colleagues at the DCP ahead of the launch of the campaign to ensure that the work of parent carer forums is recognised and leveraged within the campaign, and so that individuals are signposted to their local PCF:

  • PCFs would agree with the core messages of the campaign that CYP with SEND and their families need greater prioritisation and resourcing in local areas
  • Forums and local campaigners could work together to achieve mutual aims – co-production and campaigning can be complementary activities
  • Much of the research compiled by DCP to support this campaign may be very useful to forums in their conversations with local authorities and health commissioners.

We recognise that the campaign may result in some forums experiencing challenge from local campaigners who may not understand the way in which forums work, so we want to remind you of some of the resources that Contact’s participation team and the NNPCF have produced on how forums can work with or alongside campaign groups when they have the same aim – you can find them via the links below:

co-production_and_campaigning_guidance.pdf (

Co-production, Campaigning & the Independence of Parent Carer Forums Webinar Recording – YouTube

The campaign may also result in parent carers who were previously unaware of their local PCF wanting to join, or local groups wanting to make links with the forum.

We wanted to make you aware of the campaign ahead of the launch.  Forums can then make informed choices about whether they wish to take part, or if they have the capacity to take part.

PCFs may also find the resource and research pack useful in their work with their local areas.

If you would like any further information or support, please contact your Contact Parent Carer Participation Advisor, or your NNPCF regional steering group member.

NNPCF and Contact

NNPCF Steering Group

Zara Bowden to step down as NNPCF regional representative

Zara Bowden has announced that she will be stepping down from her role as West Midlands steering group representative in February 2022.

Zara has been a member of the NNPCF steering group since 2015 and has served two terms of office. Her second term comes to an end in September 2022 but Zara has made the difficult decision to step down early to support her daughter through an operation planned for early 2022. Her last day as West Midlands steering group representative will be the 18th of February. Zara will continue to work for the NNPCF as a national representative.

NNPCF Co-chair Mrunal Sisodia said, “Zara was one of the people who welcomed me to the NNPCF when I joined the steering group in 2016. Back then, I was impressed with her enthusiasm and energy. Five years later she’s lost none of that verve and has made a big difference to our development over recent years. We would like to thank her for her work and wish her well in the future.”

Zara said, “Over my 7 years in the role I have seen forums change, grow, and flourish within the region, and the national steering group has completely changed with many new faces joining the team. In all those years I have always been blown away by the dedication and resilience of all parent carers within our network to keep raising aspiration and holding systems to account in partnership. You all inspire me every day to be the representative you deserve in the national steering group, but it’s time for someone else to be inspired by you all now. Whilst I have found parts of the role challenging at times, it’s been an absolute pleasure to serve alongside some of the most amazing parent carers I’ve ever met and have the honour to now call friends. While I am leaving the national team in good hands, I won’t be too far away as an active member of my regional and local forum networks still. I would like to take a moment to thank all parent carer forums and your communities for your support and contributions over the years. I feel privileged to have been a part of this journey with you all.”

We will start the recruitment process for Zara’s replacement in the first week of January. Please look out for an announcement of the timeline for recruitment of a new steering group member.

Covid-19 Department for Education NHS England

NNPCF input into planning for Omicron

You will all be aware that the omicron variant is now spreading in England. The NNPCF have been involved in several conversations with the Department for Education and NHS England about what this means for children and young people (CYP)with SEND.

Whilst we cannot predict the impact of omicron on services some very familiar topics have been discussed including wearing of masks, covid testing of children, supply of teachers and teaching assistants, remote education, blended learning, school rotas and the potential for full school closures.

Through these discussions we have been emphasising some key points:

· The need to coproduce any solutions with families – no blanket solutions and policies should be implemented and services should ensure the particular needs of CYP with SEND and their families are understood.

· The need to make reasonable adjustments for CYP with SEND to ensure that they can continue to access services and education

Whilst the government have stated that schools will only be closed in a national lockdown as a last resort, we must recognise the risk that with widespread omicron infections, some individual schools may need to close because of staff not being available either because of illness or the need to isolate

You can find the latest DfE guidance here, much of it has been updated this week: Guidance for schools: coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK (

At the same time, NHS leaders have issued a letter to NHS trusts and commissioners. You will see point 4 makes specific reference to learning disability and autism services. We have also raised concerns with both NHSE and the DfE that the vaccination drive may lead to health services for CYP with SEND being diverted to the vaccination effort.

Please keep in touch with your NNPCF steering group member to feed back what is happening in your local area. We rely upon your feedback to both to ensure we are representing your views and also to alert the DfE and NHSE to real issues in your areas.

Education NNPCF work SEND Review

SEND Review Update: NNPCF

NNPCF Co-Chairs continue to attend SEND Review Steering Group and represent views of parents and forums but the NNPCF is also heavily involved in the wider sector response to the review.

One example of this is our work with the Special Educational Consortium (SEC) of which the NNPCF is a member.

SEC is a group of organisations who protect and promote the rights of disabled children and children with special educational needs (SEND) and provide a unified voice for the sector. They work with the government, the Department for Education, members of Parliament and other organisations when there are proposals for changes in policy, legislation, regulations and guidance that may affect disabled children and children with SEN.

We believe it is really important that all parental and sector voices are heard by the Review Team and at the last SEC meeting, members were joined by Charles Lang from DfE who is leading the SEND Review. The following key areas were discussed:

  1. Keep it early: early action to identify and meet needs
  2. Keep children in school: focus on the quality of universal provision in settings, schools and colleges
  3. Keep children local: an integrated approach, locally delivered
  4. A recovery programme for all

SEC had compiled a list of 20 asks of the SEND review that the NNPCF have contributed to and which aligns with the messages that the NNPCF have given the SEND review. What we need from the SEND review: NNPCF co-chairs brief Children and Families Minister Will Quince – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

We encourage parents to keep talking to their local forums and forums to keep feeding back to NNPCF top ensure that your views are represented in the SEND review. Please share your views with your regional NNPCF steering group member and you can also send your thoughts to