A new guide aimed at explaining the new SEND Code of Practice to parents has been published by the Department for Education. The guide, that we at Special Needs Jungle are pleased to have been invited to have input into, seeks to act as an introduction to the more complicated legalese of the reform documents and legislation - although to be honest, while the Code itself may be long, the language isn't that difficult to get to grips with.
This guide is meant more as a shorter, more informal booklet than the CoP, which is more than 270 pages long. I was among a group of parent reps, including Contact A Family's lovely CEO Sue North, reps from IPSEA, the National Network of Parent Carer Forums and Daisy from the NPPN, who represent Parent Partnership services, who all initially met to thrash out the need for a guide at a workshop with officials from the DfE.
Then, a smaller group of us met again and passed around a document via email, to which we all suggested amendments. Time has played against us all however, as the DfE felt it was important to get an initial guide out to parents quickly. So no one, least of all the DfE, would claim it is a perfect guide, but as a start it's worth exploring as a more accessible way to understand the meat on the bones of Part 3 of the Children & Families Act and the other documents that make up the new SEN system.
A useful part of the guide are the pointers to where more information can be found in the Code itself on various issues, so this makes it a good place to start. And, if you are looking for an overview of the new system, you should definitely download this guide
The guide will be honed later in the coming school year I believe, so if, once you've had time to read it, you feel you could offer improvements, do suggest them to the DfE (or leave comments on this post)
I am grateful that we at SNJ had the opportunity to contribute our non-legal, parents' perspective on what the guide should contain, though I do feel a bit guilty that my own schedule, given the guide deadlines, didn't allow me to offer quite as much input as I would have liked. Hopefully this can be rectified in the coming revisions.
More SEN reform evaluation published
Also published today is a further evaluation from the pathfinder programme where a number of local authorities have been trialling various aspects of the reforms to see what works and what doesn't. It includes, interestingly a cost evaluation which we will be examining and reporting back on next week.
Included in the bundle of publications are evaluation reports of working with health (NHS) and social care departments, and of the engagement of schools, post 16 providers and the progress made towards transition from the old system to the new within Post-16 settings.
A quick glance at the latter reveals a very mixed picture - quite worrying for those of us with 16 year olds heading for Further Education this September.
Your voice counts
We do have to remember that this is a very new system and one that's far from perfect. It will be implemented by people within schools, local authorities and the NHS who have never done it before. In some cases, they will never have done anything like it either.
This means they are not experts and may not even know the law surrounding it particularly well.
Because very few people - even in 'pathfinder' authorities- are experts at the ins, outs and implications of the new system, my advice is not to take anything you are told about it as solid fact unless it is backed up with written evidence found in:
- The Children & Families Act 2014, the Equalities Act 2010 or other relevant legislation
- The new SEND Code of Practice and accompanying Regulations and Statutory Guidance.
- Something in writing from the Department for Education (and even then, best to double check that the wording is unambiguous)
- Something actually said or approved by the Minister for SEN, Ed Timpson (or his future successors) or a senior DfE official.
Your LA or school's SEN policy does NOT trump anything in 1-4 above, and in legal terms, just 1 & 2 unless 3 or 4 is reflected in 1 or 2.
Your LA will be developing its own revised SEN policies and Graduated Approach that MUST comply with the new SEND Code of Practice.
Non-statutory guidance means it is still recommended as the best course of action by the government but there is no legal duty to comply. This is the case when the guidance includes independent schools or providers in particular.
If in doubt, your free sources of legally-qualified advice include IPSEA and the SEN helpline at Contact A Family. We, at SNJ are NOT legally qualified and NEVER claim to be - everything we say has been taken from a trusted (or we hope it is) source from numbers 1 to 4 above.
What does this mean for you as a "co-producing" family?
Once again, the system is new to EVERYBODY and this means that your feedback on anything and everything about it, counts.
The new system is supposed to empower us as parents and families to improve the lives and experiences of our children. Never think you're raising irrelevancies - you may have a vital point that no one has heretofore considered. If so, let us know and we will forward it to the people who needs to see it. That's a promise.
Every family with a child or young person who has special needs, disabilities or a long term medical condition will be affected by these reforms to some degree. That includes us at Special Needs Jungle. We will be reporting our experiences of the transition and we want you to tell us yours too.
As a start, have a look at the guide and let us know:
- Does the guide help you to understand the reforms & SEND Code of Practice?
- What is good and what can you suggest to make it better?
Leave your views in the comments below - please don't be shy - everyone's opinions are important.