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Groups of councils across the country have been announced as pathfinder champions for the government’s Special Educational Needs and Disability reforms.

These pathfinder champions will help teams in their neighbouring councils prepare for the changes, which will give thousands of families greater control over the support they receive.

The government is undertaking the biggest transformation to SEND support for 30 years which will give families more personalised care and assistance, helping the 1.55 million children and young people in England who have special educational needs.  It will mean a new, joined-up approach from birth to 25, ensuring that support is made available at the earliest possible point.

Children and young people will be fully involved in decisions about their care and what they want to achieve, and new Education, Health and Care plans are being introduced for those with more complex needs.

The government has also announced a £70 million reform grant for councils as they prepare to implement these ambitious changes, alongside an updated SEND code of practice, which provides a stronger foundation for delivery partners to introduce the reforms locally.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:

“With less than five months to go until the introduction of our new reforms, the work of these regional champions is vital to ensure all local authorities, schools, colleges and health care services are ready to implement the changes.

“Around one in five children currently have some form of special educational needs or disability; our ambition is for every child and young person to lead happy and fulfilled lives, with greater choice and control over their support.”

The regional champions are:

  • North East: Darlington
  • Yorkshire and Humber: North Yorkshire, Calderdale and York City
  • North West: Wigan, Manchester, Stockport, Salford and Lancashire
  • East Midlands: Leicester City and Nottinghamshire
  • West Midlands: Solihull, Birmingham City, Coventry City, Dudley, Sandwell, Staffordshire, Telford and Wrekin, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton and Worcestershire
  • South West: Cornwall, Portsmouth and Southampton
  • East of England: Hertfordshire and Bedford
  • London: Bromley, Bexley and Enfield
  • South East : SE7 consortium which consists of Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, West Sussex, Medway, Hampshire, Kent and Surrey

31 councils have been trialling the government’s reforms since October 2011, and now the new pathfinder champions will act as the first point of contact for other councils, ensuring each region is ready for the reforms due to come into effect from September 2014.

Alongside their regional support roles, certain champions will take on one or more national champion roles in areas where they have already developed particular strengths and expertise, including taking a leading role at national events.

These reforms are part of the Children and Families Act, through which the government is:

  • replacing special educational needs statements and learning disability assessments with a new birth-to-25 Education, Health and Care plan – setting out in one place all the support families will receive
  • requiring better co-operation between councils and health services to make sure services for children and young people with SEND are jointly planned and commissioned, giving parents and young people with Education, Health and Care plans the offer of a personal budget – putting families firmly in charge of the care they receive
  • requiring councils to publish a ‘local offer’ showing the support available to all disabled children and young people and their families in the area – not just those with educational needs
  • introducing mediation for disputes and trialling, giving children and young people the right to appeal if they are unhappy with their support
  • introducing a new legal right for children and young people with an Education, Health and Care plan to express a preference for state academies, free schools and further education colleges – currently limited to maintained mainstream and special schools


  • In October 2011, the DfE set up 20 trials with 31 ‘pathfinder’ local authorities to test the proposals in the SEND green paper. The aim was to improve the support available to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities
  • The proposals being testing include the introduction of a new single assessment process, an Education, Health and Care plan and personal budgets for children, young people and families with SEND
  • Valuable tools such as the SEND code of practice will soon be available to councils to start implementing the reforms, and short guides of the code will be made for parents, young people, teachers and health workers. A draft code is already available at:
  • ‘Information packs’ which describe existing good practice from the SEND pathfinder programme are available at: