September 1st 2014 - SEND Commencement Day!
It's the date that has appeared in the dreams of those in the SEND division of the Department for Education since 2011. Conversely, the date September 1st 2014 has long dogged the nightmares of SEN departments, SENCos and others concerned with implementing the new system for special educational needs and disability.
Today's the day: Commencement of Part Three of The Children & Families Bill 2014 and along with it the new SEND Code of Practice, regulations and the start of the new Education, Health and Care Plan, the EHCP or, as it is increasingly being called, an EHC Plan.
So why nightmares? Not because it isn't a change for the better, but the menu of changes brings with it a main course of a huge amount of work with an overflowing side dish of fear, confusion and resistance.
And the financial bill? It cannot be possible to work that out because the Pathfinder programme isn't even scheduled to finish until 2015. Yes, that is correct, the changes are being implemented while details are still being worked out and training is only just starting in many areas.
What changes from today
From today the following occurs:
- Families are to be at the heart of the process. That means you and, if possible, your child, MUST be a part of the team designing the SEND support. If this is daunting (of course it is!) there are Independent Supporters being trained by non-profit organisations and some Parent Partnerships* who have won contracts to provide support to parents through the process.
- Statements of SEN can no longer be applied for.
- School Action and School Action Plus will no longer exist. They will be replaced by a single, graduated approach called SEN Support. And it's the class teacher's responsibility to make sure the support is delivered as well as the SENCo because the CoP says that Every Teacher is a Teacher of Children with Special Educational Needs. Just one without the training to be one.**
- In their place, families applying for statutory support can, from today, apply for an Education, Health and Care Plan that will include a child's health and care needs, but only if they also have educational needs. For Health needs only, there is the guidance for children at school with medical conditions.
- From today, every local authority in England must publish its own "Local Offer" of services available in its area (not necessarily provided by the LA) This is NOT a directory, we have been told by the DfE. It's a ... well a directory, but one that can help identify where the gaps in support are which can, in turn, help those gaps to be plugged. The LO sites should usually have some kind of feedback and possibly user rating system and must be kept updated by the LA. A lot of money has been spent up and down the country developing local offer websites. What's yours like? How did you find it? Have you found it? Let us know in the comments.
- As part of an EHC plan, children are eligible to apply for Personal Budgets to help provide the elements listed in their EHC plan.
- An EHC plan can start at birth and go up to age 25. But this upper age limit will only generally serve the most complex young people who are still in Further Education, apprenticeships (which are covered) or other approved education or skills training. If your son or daughter manages to get into Higher Education, then tough. And the Disabled Students' Allowance? Well, good luck with that. The government, who justified leaving HE out of the EHC plan by saying that there was the DSA for these young disabled adults, immediately then slashed this vital support. This battle is not over.
- A new Code of Practice comes into force from today - herein lies the meat on the bones of the Children & Families Act. There is a preliminary DfE Parents' Guide to it and there will be lots of other guides no doubt. Including our own update to our SNJ statementing guide.
Of course, this is not everything - that would be a very long post. You can find all our SEN reform posts here. There are so many, you're bound to find something useful.
Already going through the Statementing process or have a Statement?
Nothing will change for you immediately if your child already has a Statement of SEN. Your LA should write to you (I just received a letter from Surrey about ours) with an update of their plans for the new system and let you know how/when you are likely to be switched over.
Don't worry about losing support. That's not likely to happen, the SEN Minister, Ed Timpson says so.. If it does, DO NOT just let it go or accept it. Get in touch with IPSEA, who have an awesome new website all fully up to date.
First to be switched will be Year 11 pupils and those who have just entered FE or Sixth Form at 16. Yes, that's BOTH of my boys. I will write more about this very soon.
If you are going through the Statementing process and you are successful, your child will be given a statement, not an EHCP. You can read all about this in this brand new guidance to transition to the new EHCP, published by the DfE. If you would prefer an EHC plan straight away, let your LA know immediately, so that your child's assessment can include all the factors needed to complete one. This is a good idea if your child also has health or care needs but if you want to ask, make sure you've read all about the new system here for the narrative and about the legal aspects on the IPSEA site.
Hold on to your hats...
There are two certainties about implementing the new system. One, it's going to cost a LOT of money; hopefully not yours if it all goes wrong. Second, it will be, in places and at times (many times) a bumpy ride. Everyone is learning and this means LA SEN staff, SENCos, teachers, health providers, social care providers, disability charities, you, us... EVERYONE. Mistakes will be made.
You can minimise the risk of mistakes being made at your child's expense by educating yourself. As well as us here at Special Needs Jungle and, as mentioned, IPSEA, there are other sources of information from the Council for Disabled Children and Contact A Family, to name two. Pick the one that is the easiest to understand for you.
Don't forget to print off our widely-praised SEND system Flow Charts that are DfE-approved. By the way, we were not paid for producing these and we are giving free permission to everyone to print off, share and use them in your own presentations - just don't sell them because we still retain copyright.
We have our own training about the new system and this is paid-for training and lasts two hours. Contact us for more information.
Speaking personally, I am entering the second week of physical rehab today. It won't cure me- Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is an incurable collagen disorder - but I hope to emerge with some more tools for managing it so we can keep up and expand our SNJ work and so far so good. But SNJ is still bringing you great posts this week and next, as ever so why not subscribe to our posts for free?
* Apparently, they're not called Parent Partnership any more. They have taken the time to inform me that they are now called IASS, Independent Advice and Support Service (I think). But their website still says PPS.
** There is a government consultation underway into a review of Initial Teacher Training. Don't forget to comment.