Colourful figurines guided by hands

The National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Schools (NASS) commissioned Sonnet Advisory and Impact to explore the impact that can be achieved by complex Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision, when learners’ needs are appropriately met. The two key research questions follow:

  • How do outcomes differ for learners with SEND who have their needs met at the right time?
  • What are the wider benefits to learners, their families and society of having their needs met?

Reaching My Potential

Our report, ‘Reaching my potential’, demonstrates how, on average, the value to society of meeting the needs of learners with complex SEND (as profiled in the report*) is at least £380,000. The increased cost of provision to do this, is far outweighed by the value of the improved outcomes to learners, their families and other stakeholders in society. We expect that this will hold true for most learners with special educational needs and disabilities. 

Beyond this headline figure, the report takes a detailed look at the stories of eight learners with special educational needs and disabilities. Meeting their needs can differ substantially from one learner to another, especially depending on when they receive this support. Emerging from this, we have a number of key findings that are highlighted in the ‘Reaching my potential report: at a glance’ :

  • Better outcomes for learners with SEND often relate to effective support much earlier on in their learning journey 
  • Each learner with SEND has a unique combination of needs, strengths and potential. Provision that meets needs should be tailored to each individual learner in terms of the provision they receive and the setting in which it is delivered 
  • The integrated and holistic approach to education alongside mental and physical therapies in many special schools adds significant value. This also has the added benefit of reducing demand for similar services from public resources such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the NHS.

These findings are not necessarily new to those in the sectors focused on, working in or related to special education needs and disability. However, this study is a striking addition to the evidence base – usefully supportive in influencing debates, lobbies and decision-making related to policy, funding and provision of SEND support in the system and to learners.  

Report recommendations 

As with all of our work, we want it to see Reaching my potential empower and inform positive change. We urge the system focused on working with SEND (from policy makers to those delivering support in education settings), to use this report to:

  • recognise the difference that can be made in the early meeting of the needs of SEND learners (both now and into the future), and
  • to think about where we can all work together to increase opportunities for learners with SEND to reach their full potential.  

The report makes eight recommendations for the sector, in summary: 

  1. SEND policy and regulatory changes should be driven by evidence-based analysis of the current and future impact of SEND provision 
  2. Young people with special needs must be afforded the same aspiration as the general population – to be the best they can be 
  3. In preparation for policy changes, education settings need to keep good records of provision for each individual learner including learners’ destinations on leaving school and what difference their provision has made for learners 
  4. Key current local authority intervention programmes should be closely monitored and evaluated, and where they are having a negative impact be understood and reconsidered 
  5. Important to build upon this ‘reaching my potential’ research to better understand the key factors behind successful education placements 
  6. Value is often added through elements of provision which are not routinely captured in Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) currently – we would like to ensure that future EHCP templates and guidance capture broad and aspirational outcomes for children and their families 
  7. Investments made in provision for individual children make returns beyond that individual child over a considerable period of time. Within the SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan, we would like to see scope to explore models which acknowledge and support this 
  8. The role of Health within SEND provision should be clarified as part of the SEND and AP Improvement Plan. We would like to see a specific focus on mental health provision within this. Education settings should record systematically the care and mental health support they provide to learners, including which interventions are effective. Findings should be used to inform government guidance to support the wider sector in delivery of these services. 

We would be delighted to speak with any party that wishes to discuss our research, its results and approach, in greater depth. Similarly, if you think that our approach might be applicable to you in a different setting, don’t hesitate to start a conversation! 

Jake Kemp, Executive


*In exploring the difference that can be made for SEND learners, we followed a qualitative story-based and learner-centric approach to exploring the impact of this provision. This approach focused upon the creation of 8 archetypes of ‘typical’ learners (five of which were selected for outcomes-based economic evaluation). Exploring individual learner stories in this way meant that we were able to consider the systems and stakeholders impacted whilst keeping the learners at the heart of our study. 

The average value to society of £380,000 of our five archetypes of learners with SEND represents benefits to learners themselves, their families, government departments and the wider economy. For instance, for some learners, meeting their needs significantly increases the potential for them to attain paid employment. For others, the integrated approach of their provision can mean that they are less reliant upon health services, and less likely to need intensive support in their future 

Published On: June 8th, 2023Categories: ReportsBy

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