The Revised SEN Code of Practice has Arrived

It's somewhat more than fashionably late and let's hope, as I said the other day, that the reason is because it has been carefully crafted to be so good that no one can raise a single objection.

Branded by both the Departments for Education and Health, the revised Code of Practice has made its appearance with a day to spare before the Easter break, so we can all read it while we munch through our chocolate eggs.

It's 253 pages long, so you may have to wait a while for a thorough analysis.

cop14However, there is a big chunk at the back, Annexe 1 which covers Mental Capacity. Having had a quick scan, it actually seems quite reasonable and says that mental capacity can be adjusted on a decision by decision basis, without need for a full reassessment each time. It also details that a young person can ask anyone, including their parents, to help them make a decision even if they are judged to have 'mental capacity.'

Was this already written before Jane McConnell from IPSEA raised the issue in her "Red Light" post and we looked at it in more detail? Or have those busy DfE policy scribes hurried to put right an unfortunate oversight kindly brought to their attention?

Well, it is an Annexe (the only one), bolted on right at the back and it does seem to have looked at and answered the issues that have been highlighted.  However it got there, it's there and to my non-legal eyes and at first read, it looks quite comprehensive. And that's all that matters.

The first draft had a public consultation that closed last December with more than 700 responses received. The Department for Education today said, "Since then, the responses have been analysed and further discussions have been held with representatives of those who have to have regard to the Code, to ensure that revision secures maximum clarity for those who will be using it.... " And this is the result.

So what's changed?

In the covering document released with the Code of Practice, the DfE sets out some of the changes that can be seen in this new version. They include:

  • The legal duties set out in the [new] Code of Practice have been further clarified to reflect concerns about an overall lack of distinction between statutory and non-statutory duties. This includes greater clarity on the duties on schools, on joint commissioning and on local authorities to support young people over 18.
  • The text on accountability has been strengthened to take account of the concerns raised by respondents in the previous consultation. In particular there were calls to strengthen the accountability on schools in relation to supporting pupils without Education Health and Care (EHC) plans and on local authorities in relation to the local offer.
  • More information on responsibilities of different service providers and routes for complaints and redress have emphasised the duty on local authorities to publish details of the action they intend to take in response to comments from children, young people and parents about their local offer.
  • The Code now addresses concerns that there was insufficient focus on disabled children and on post-16 arrangements, particularly the transition to adulthood.
  • There were also calls for more explicit involvement of children and young people and their parents in the design of services, in particular the local offer, which have been reflected in the Code.
  • Following detailed feedback on the structure and format of the draft Code, the revised Code has also been restructured to make it easier to navigate. New chapters have been added to separate out information for early years, schools and post-16 practitioners and on preparation for adulthood.
  • The revised draft also takes into account the late additions to the Children & Families Bill before it became an Act, that missed the original CoP consultation.

IPSEA had called for a further consultation on the revised Code as it included guidance on the duties included at the last minute to the Bill. This is important as without it, only part of the Code of Practice would have undergone public scrutiny before being passed.

It seems the DfE has listened and has announced a short consultation on two aspects not previously included in the Code. The first aspect however, covers a number of issues while the second aspect is a case of presentation. The consultation period is short, three weeks (11 working days excluding public holidays) so that those interested can feedback.

  1. changes made to the consultation draft of the Code to take account of subsequent amendments to the Children and Families Bill and
  2. clarity, layout and accessibility of the Code.

How To Respond

You can find the Revised Code of Practice for download here:

If you feel so moved to feedback to this new consultation, responses can be completed online at:

The results of the consultation and the Department's response will be published on the DfE website in summer 2014.

Once the responses have been reviewed the final version will be laid before parliament for approval by affirmative resolution (i.e. both houses of parliament have to agree it)

We're going to have a good look through and give you our views after Easter. And now I am off to try to persuade Youngest to have some of his luxuriously overlong hair (known as 'Steve') trimmed in Farnham. Wish me luck!

Tania Tirraoro

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