SEN Code of Practice: what does this look like in Schools?

At Special Needs Jungle, we are parents of children with SEN ourselves, so we know that you will never have the time to get to the end of a long lengthy post before something more pressing demands your attention.

We’ve therefore decided to break down our analysis of the Code of Practice into different posts for different sections. This will allow you to read the bits you are interested in without having to battle through yet another jungle.

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Code of PracticeSection 6 of the proposed Code of Practice – Schools.

This section applies mainly to mainstream schools. (includes maintained schools and academies that are not special schools, maintained nursery schools, 16 to 19 academies, alternative provision academies and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).

We have chosen this as the first post as it is probably the one that applies to the majority of children. The chapter explains the action that mainstream schools should take to meet their duties in relation to identifying and supporting all children with special educational needs (SEN) whether or not they have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan.

Now when you first read this chapter, there is a list of all the relevant legislation that relates to this section.

  • The Equality Act 2010
  • The Children & Families Act 2014
    • Co-operating generally: governing body functions: Section 29
    • Children and young people with special educational needs but no EHC plan: Section 29
    • Children with SEN in maintained nurseries and mainstream schools: Section 35
    • Using best endeavours to secure special educational provision: Section 66
    • SEN co-ordinators: Section 67
    • Informing parents and young people: Section 68
    • SEN information report: Section 69
    • Duty to support pupils with medical conditions: Section 100
  • The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014

Oh, all that lovely legislation – makes you feel sort of warm, fuzzy & protected, hey?  So, let’s begin.  Let's see if we finish with that same feeling at the end.

What is Special Educational Needs

A pupil has SEN where their learning difficulty or disability calls for special educational provision, namely provision different from or additional to that normally available to pupils of the same age.

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What are the duties on schools?

Every school

  • Should ensure that children, parents and young people are actively involved in decision-making throughout the approaches set out in this section.
  • Is required to identify and address the SEN of the pupils that they support
  • Must use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need (this means doing everything they can - still feeling warm and fuzzy?)
  • Must ensure that children and young people with SEN engage in the activities of the school ALONGSIDE pupils who do not have SEN
  • Must designate a teacher to be responsible for co-ordinating SEN provision (a SENCO). This does not apply to 16 to 19 academies
  • Must inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child
  • Must prepare an SEN information report (more on this later)
  • Should have a member of the governing body or sub-committee overseeing the school’s SEN and disability provision
  • Has a duty under the Equality Act 2010 towards individual disabled children and young people. They must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services for disabled children, to prevent them being put at a substantial disadvantage.

Broad Areas of Need

  • Communication and Interaction (children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, and also likely to apply to children and young people with ASD – including Aspergers and Autism)
  • Cognition and Learning (including moderate and severe learning difficulties through to profound and multiple learning difficulties, in addition to specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia)
  • Social, emotional and mental health difficulties
  • Sensory and/or physical needs ( children and young people who require special educational provision because of their disability. This includes vision and hearing impairment – or multi-sensory impairment – and some children with a physical disability who may require additional support to access all the opportunities available to their peers).

insulin-113200_640Medical Conditions:

There was a fair bit of campaigning to get this into the Children and Families Act, and the Code of Practice.  A lot of children with a medical condition do not have special educational needs or a disability and therefore are not eligible for an Education, Health and Care Plan.

  • The Children and Families Act 2014 places a duty on maintained schools and academies to make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions.
  • Schools are required to have regard to statutory guidance “Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions”

 Curriculum

  • All pupils should have access to a broad and balanced curriculum.
  • Lessons should be planned to address potential areas of difficulty and to remove barriers to pupil achievement

Assess, Plan, Do and Review

  • If there are concerns about a child’s progress, then information should be gathered by the teacher and SENCO.
  • This information gathering should include high quality and accurate formative assessment.
  • This information should also include an early discussion with the pupil and their parents. These discussions should provide a good understanding of the pupil’s areas of strengths and difficulties, the parents concerns, the agreed outcomes sought for the child and the next steps
  • This information should be readily available to and discussed with the pupil’s parents
  • Parents should be fully aware of the planned support and interventions
  • Should support from specialist services be required, it is important that children and young people receive it as quickly as possible.
  • The Local Offer should set out clearly what support is available from different services and how it may be accessed.

School Funding:

  • All mainstream schools are provided with resources to support those with additional needs, including pupils with SEN and disabilities
  • Schools have an amount identified within their overall budget, called the notional SEN budget. This is not ring fenced. The school must provide high quality appropriate support from the whole of its budget
  • It is for schools to determine their approach to using their resources to support the progress of pupils with SEN. (on a scale of 1-10, how warm and fuzzy does this make you feel as a parent?)
  • Schools are expected to provide additional support which costs up to a nationally prescribed threshold per pupil per year (£6k)
  • The LA (where the child lives) should provide additional top-up funding where the provision required exceeds the nationally prescribed threshold
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Bits that concern us:

  • Schools should meet parents at least three times each year.
    • Three times a year could be three times in one week. There is then no duty for the school to see you again. Oh we know if all schools were good and appreciated the benefits of working together that this would not be an issue but sadly there are schools out there that act like the new bouncer at The Place to be seen – if your name isn’t on the list, you ain’t getting in.
  • Persistent disruptive or withdrawn behaviours do not necessarily mean that a child or young person has SEN. Where there are concerns, there should be an assessment to determine whether there are any causal factors such as undiagnosed learning difficulties, difficulties with communication or mental health issues.   If it is thought housing, family or other domestic circumstances may be contributing to the presenting behaviour a multi-agency approach, supported by the use of approaches such as the Early Help Assessment, may be appropriate.
    • This could be used as a delaying technique when a school does not wish to accept that the quality of teaching within their establishment is inadequate, or when the school would rather point the finger at the parent than make any adjustments to their provision.
  • IEPs (Individual Education Plans) are no longer in the Code of Practice and although many schools and SENCOs are shouting “thank goodness for that”, it does raise a lot of concerns for families. We knew what to expect from an IEP, we knew what to look for and we also knew where everything went.
    • With many of us having to now get our head around Education Health and Care Plans, or School based category, along with the changes in SEN funding and the change in the Health and Care Act, it just seems that this is change for changes sake

Bits we liked:

6.41   More detailed information on what constitutes good outcome setting is given in Chapter 9, Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans (paragraphs 9.64 to 9.69). These principles should be applied to planning for all children and young people with SEN.  In Chapter 9 (9.66), it states that an outcome can be defined as the benefit or difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention. It should be personal and not expressed from a service perspective; it should be something that those involved have control and influence over.

This, at least, provides families without Education Health and Care Plans to ask for outcomes to be personal.  With the lack of clarity around school reporting and the demise of IEPs, there is no structure or framework for families without a EHC Plan so at least this is something.

Is this section person-centred?

Not really.  It will come down to good schools using good practice, as is the current situation.  There is little, if anything, that will enhance the rights of our children within Section 6.    It is very sad that after three years of working on this, with the amount of money that has been spent and the hours of input from families, that this is the best they could come up with.

The proof will be in the pudding, as the saying goes.  Sadly, I have a feeling that there are going to be more than a few soggy bottomed, sinking or totally collapsed puddings on the horizon.

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Debs Aspland

Exec Director at Bringing Us Together
Mum of 3, wife of 1, Exec Director of Bringing Us Together, Owner of Inspiring Circles, Writer of Chaos in Kent, Development - South at Community Circles
Debs Aspland
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One Comment

  1. Chris Stow

    I am very concerned because I am noticing that a number of schools are using support staff – Inclusions Support Managers – or other such fancy titles to fulfil the duties of the SENCO. This is because in many schools the SENCo is a teacher and some have substantial teaching responsibilities. This scenario does not appear to be in the spirit of the new Code of Practice – which clearly states teacher and SENCo, These support staff are not a SENCo and do not have the Master’s level National SENCo Award ( a requirement for all SENCos now). Are schools allowed to use their support staff rather than the SENCo? If so, SEN pupils could get a raw deal. This is a very worry state of affairs.

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