Guidance issued on duties and timescales for local authorities and their partners to implement the new special needs system anticipated that most children would have been moved into the SEN Support category by Spring 2015 and all pupils would have moved by September 2015.
Schools are working to decide how to move forward with their pupils who may be currently recorded as School Action or School Action Plus, trying to de?ne how this translates to the new category of SEN Support. The goalposts haven’t just moved, they have gone! So what constitutes best practice for this decision-making?
In our ideal school, this process of review would sit neatly inside a well-established cycle demonstrating the graduated approach at a whole-school level, as well as for the individual pupil.
Within this graduated approach, the school would be reviewing its provision in light of all the evidence it is constantly gathering related to pupil progress, and so the ?uidity of the register would be accepted.
Focus on high-quality teaching
High-quality teaching, recognised as the universal offer of the school, would be the foundation in every classroom.
Everyone’s perspective informs the process at each stage, and decisions about the need to change provision are agreed by all.
The issue then, about whether a pupil is recorded as receiving SEN support and so is then on a school register for this, is clear to everyone involved and becomes potentially less sensitive.
The ideal school invests in achieving this strong foundation of universal, high-quality teaching through sound use of the SEN notional budget, as well as the Pupil Premium grant.
They do this because they know that it will then lead to a reduction in the number of pupils who may need to access targeted provision and that what is good practice for meeting SEN is effectively good practice for all.
This whole-school provision offer directs cycles of CPD for staff, encourages enquiry-based practice, and contributes to the sense of being a learning community for all (staff as well as pupils).
Where pupils are receiving high-quality universal provision but their progress is still of concern, teachers make use of a range of assessment tools to “drill down” effectively and identify any gaps in learning or areas for development.
They use this information to plan the most appropriate, evidence-based intervention, often in collaboration with the SENCO and, where necessary, with specialist teachers and outside agencies.
While the intervention is running, the teacher takes full responsibility for monitoring the quality (in terms of the regularity and integrity) of the provision, and tracks progress.
Where SEN are clearly identified through the efficient cycles of a graduated approach, or where a pupil comes to school with an already identified learning difficulty or Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), the need for more specialised provision is discussed with the pupil (where appropriate), the parents and carers, the SENCO, and any suitable specialist teachers or outside agencies.
Teachers need to be clear about how to adapt their teaching and how to present learning in line with the recommendations from specialist reports or EHCP. Programmes of specialist provision are overseen by the teacher and progress is kept under regular review.
Prioritised areas of learning, such as language development, are used to devise suitable learning activities within the classroom, thereby ensuring that all associated skills are developed most efficiently.
Different areas of the curriculum are used as vehicles for strengthening the key skills which are being taught within specialist provision.
Parents are con?dent in the school’s ability to meet the needs of their children because they are hearing consistent messages from all staff and they are fully involved in decision-making right from the start. Pupils feel well-supported and listened to and take responsibility for their learning.
The SEND Code of Practice tells us that parents and carers should be informed and given every opportunity for discussion at the point that a learner may be placed on, or removed from, the SEN register.
It is essential that schools work closely with parents and carers, via regular meetings, written information and discussion, once a learner is placed on the register. This is also when they have an entitlement to additional and different support to address their needs – SEN support.
Starting out, best practice
Auditing an existing register must start with considering individual pupil needs. Planning for the real involvement of parents and carers and the pupil themselves is also key. Where schools are using a criteria-based approach to determine identification of SEN, this may work as general guidance, but it has to lead to thinking about the individual pupil.
What needs do they have and how do we know? Have we considered any social, emotional or mental health needs?
What is their behaviour telling us? What is their pattern of attainment and progress? From this, can we tell what works for them?
The responses to questions such as these can point to follow-on steps, such as establishing whether there is sufficient evidence to show that they ?t the de?nition of having an SEN, and making an informed decision about whether they require SEN support to make good progress.
If they are currently receiving SEN support (i.e. additional to/different from), assess whether this is addressing their needs and whether it needs to continue or if high-quality universal classroom provision which is personalised would meet their needs now. It is also important to involve parents in the decision-making process and ensure that they understand the implications of continuing or leaving SEN support.
Use the school’s SEN information report to assist their understanding of the provision offered and consider sharing the local authority’s Local Offer website with them for a wider picture of local provision.
Local authorities are required to publish Local Offers, setting out in one place information about provision they expect to be available across education, health and social care for children and young people in their area who have SEND. Explain how this might relate to their child’s needs. A review of the SEN register should take place at least once a year.
High-quality, inclusive teaching supported by effective whole-school policies and frameworks, clearly targeted at all pupils’ needs and prior learning, is key. It can mean setting a new trajectory for the learning programme to take pupils to where they need to be in terms of age-related expectations. Effective teaching anticipates the needs of pupils based on good use of yearly transition data and information.
Alison Wilcox is education development officer at special needs association Nasen.
As the new SEND Code of Practice is implemented across the country and SEN provision undergoes the largest reform in 30 years, educators will gather at Nasen Live 2015 in Bolton to access free CPD, share experiences and get the advice and guidance needed to navigate new policy. Nasen Live takes place on May 20 and 21 at the Macron Stadium, Bolton, with a focus on “nine months into reform – early indicators of impact and planning for the year ahead”. Visit www.nasen.org.uk/nasen-live2015