Special needs experts have broadly welcomed the final draft of the SEN Code of Practice for 0 to 25-year-olds, published by ministers this week.
The Code, which is now out to consultation, places greater focus on the involvement of parents in the decision-making process and gives them more control over the support their children are given, including the possibility to control the personal budget for their child’s needs.
It also places a bigger responsibility on local authorities and partner agencies to ensure that all children and young people with special needs in their areas are identified and their needs met.
The Code, which is to come into effect from September 2014, introduces the new 0 to 25 Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCs) which replace statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments and which will bring together information about educational provision, health needs and social care.
Local authorities are also required to give families clear and impartial information about what provision is to be made for them. This includes publishing a “local offer”, setting out in one place information about provision they expect to be available for children and young people in their area who have SEN, including those who do not have EHCs.
Lorraine Petersen, chief executive of special needs organisation Nasen, said: “I am slightly concerned at the number of ‘musts’ written against what local authorities should do, and I wonder if they now have the capacity to deliver after being hit by such heavy cuts to their funding.
“But overall, the document is a good starting point for what needs to be done to deliver effective special needs education and we have welcomed it. It is certainly better than we expected it to be.”
For schools, the Code emphasises that they must provide an “annual report for parents on their child’s progress”.
It adds: “Most schools will want to go beyond this and provide regular reports for parents on how their child is progressing. Where a pupil is receiving SEN support, schools should meet parents at least termly to set clear goals, discuss the activities and support that will help achieve them, review progress and identify the responsibilities of the parent, the pupil and the school.”
Edward Timpson, children’s minister, said: “Too many families find themselves in a battle with a system that’s supposed to help them. Our reforms will fundamentally transform the system so that children and young people with SEN receive a joined up approach that meets their needs.
“Families who are testing our reforms have already said they have greater control over the support they receive. With a year to go until the roll-out of new system, we expect local authorities to hit the ground running to ensure all families can benefit as quickly as possible from this comprehensive support.”
The consultation closes on December 9. Visit www.gov.uk/government/consultations/draft-0-to-25-special-educational-needs-sen-code-of-practice-draft-regulations