At The Key, we have been tracking the questions that school leaders from across the country have asked us about the changes set out in the Children and Families Bill and the draft SEN Code of Practice. The new system is likely to be in place this September, so here are answers to some common questions to help you prepare.
Q: What will replace SEN statements?
Under the proposals, education, health and care plans (EHCPs) will replace statements and learning difficulty assessments (LDAs), and will cover young people up to the age of 25. New assessments of SEN will follow the new rules when they are in force, so we will see EHCPs supporting pupils from September.
The draft code explains how health provision for a child will be agreed when drawing up his or her EHCP. Each NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG) will decide what services to commission to meet the health needs of young people with SEN in the area.
Statements and LDAs that are already in place will remain in force until all children and young people have moved over to an EHCP. This transition should be completed within three years, so you will need to follow the old guidelines for some pupils until 2017.
Q: What will happen to School Action and School Action Plus?
In the draft code, School Action and School Action Plus are replaced by a single school-based category for children needing extra specialist support.
The interventions and expected outcomes for these pupils should be set out, and their progress reviewed, each term. You will need to inform parents when pupils without an EHCP receive special support.
Q: How will pupils with SEN and their families have more say?
The government says that parents know their children best, so the new system aims to put families and young people at the centre of discussions about support. You should involve parents when writing school policies and ask them to share knowledge about how the child is developing, so that you can work out what support will be effective. Planning should help parents and young people to focus on the pupil rather than on the SEN label, and should highlight each individual’s strengths.
The new system also gives new rights to young people. Once they are 16, you should consult them directly in most cases, and their views will take precedence over those of their parents.
Q: How will the SEN changes affect funding?
The proposals will mean that young people and parents of pupils with an EHCP can hold a personal budget to buy-in the support in the plan. The money for these will not normally affect the school’s notional SEN budget and will come from the high-needs funding block. Sean Stockdale, from Nasen, an organisation promoting the education and advancement of people with SEN, says that it is not yet clear how these changes will affect SEN support in schools.
If you focus on the outcomes of spending in conversations with parents, you can retain some control of how money is spent. If money from the personal budgets is pooled, children should receive better support, since buying in bulk is cheaper.
Q: What will the local offer be?
Local authorities will have to publish a document setting out the support available for children with SEN who have an EHCP and those who do not. Schools will be expected to provide details of what support they can offer. Some authorities are already providing templates for schools to complete.
Q: What do the SEN changes mean for teachers?
Under the draft code, teachers will be more accountable for the progress of pupils with SEN, even those who receive extra support from specialist staff. If a pupil is not making enough progress, teachers, SEN co-ordinators and parents should work together to solve any problems, and to plan targeted support and teaching strategies.
Teachers should expect to be judged in their appraisals on how well they teach pupils with SEN. It is important that they know how to identify different kinds of SEN and support pupils with different needs. It is good practice to offer training on this. The draft code lists organisations that can help with advice or training on different needs.
Amy Cook is a senior researcher specialising in SEN at The Key, a support service for school leaders.