Sayonara, School Action and School Action Plus

Debs writes....

senreform3The Government is proposing to replace the current categories of School Action and School Action Plus with a new single early years and school-based SEN category.  This will mean that your school of choice will have to comply with clear guidance from the Government on the appropriate identification of pupils with SEN.  This guidance will include a clear process for identification and assessment of pupils, setting objectives for pupils, reviewing progress and securing further support.  This will be set out in the new SEN Code of Practice  - an indicative draft of the Code of Practice (COP) is already available.

Take a look at the Code Of Practice, specifically Section 5.4 looks at Identifying Needs, 5.5 looks at The Four Primary Areas of SEN and 5.6 covers Additional SEN support in settings.

Tania and I have written about the draft Code of Practice in previous posts which can be read here and further views here

One paragraph in 5.6 leaps out to me as a parent :

“It is the responsibility of educational settings in consultation with parents, and, where appropriate, the young person, to decide whether a child or young person requires Additional SEN Support. They must ensure that children and young people who receive Additional SEN Support have an identified SEN and that their progress has not been hampered by weak teaching or poor attendance”

Does your school consult with you?  Do you know now if your child is School Action or School Action Plus?  Did your school involve you in the decision to place (or remove) your child in this category?  Do you think your school will admit that your child’s progress has been hampered by weak teaching?

The Ofsted review of SEN (2010) found that nearly one fifth of the schools visited suggested that they provided additional SEN support when, in other schools, such provision was regarded as the norm.

Therein lies a huge part of the problem.  We all know there are schools where the staff will do all they absolutely can to ensure your child reaches their full potential and then there are schools which prefer to lay the lack of development at you and your child’s feet.  I am very fortunate in that all three of my children are now in schools that take the former stance and not the latter.  However, I do personally know of schools where there is not a chance in a million that they would ever admit they were perhaps the problem.

Ofsted reports do not always reflect the true representation of SEN in schools – we all know of parents asked to keep their child home for the day Ofsted are arriving or their Ofsted questionnaire somehow not making it home.  Would these schools be holding up their hands to say “oh sorry, some of our teaching is a bit weak”.

The proposed removal of School Action and School Action Plus is part of the Children and Families Bill.  After considering the Ofsted review of SEN (2012) and the Lamb Inquiry (2009), the Government believe the current system emphasises labelling children’s need according to the support  needed rather than the outcomes sought for the child and can lead to children being unnecessarily labelled as having SEN.  It also found that 'there is a risk that the use of the SEN label itself leads to lower expectations or less vigorous intervention.

beaconThe Lamb Inquiry (20091) reported that SEN can sometimes be ‘unhelpfully collated’ with falling behind, and this may have contributed to the growing number of pupils at School Action and Action Plus.   Did you know that at the end of Key Stage 2, August-born pupils are 60 per cent more likely to be identified as having SEN than September-born pupils?

The Government believe that removing the need for a label of SEN, will challenge schools to improve the quality of teaching and learning for all pupils but what do you think?

Once again, we come back to the culture change needed.  The new Children and Families Bill and indicative draft Code of Practice do not totally reflect the aspirational Green Paper that so excited so many of us.  However, it is still a draft and as a mum, my main concern as I read through them is this tells us what the goal is but not we actually get here?”

What about the very basic communication to families and practitioner of the proposed changes.  If we can't get that right, how do we propose to get all of the changes right?  Have you heard about the changes in your LA?  Take our quick survey and let us know - we will be sharing the results with the Department for Education.

There will always be great schools, management, LA Officers and staff (our Beacons of Good Practice) but there will also always be poor schools, management, LA officers and staff.   As long as that fact does not change, then does it matter what they call the provision of additional SEN support in settings?  What do you think?

Debs Aspland
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  1. I think this is really risky. When it’s down to the school to decide if the pupil needs Additional SEN support, but it’s also down to the school to then provide and also PAY for that support, the chance is that some schools will be reluctant to identify the need in the first place. Of course there are amazing schools and amazing staff who put the children first whatever, but sadly there are plenty who have budgets as their top priority 🙁

  2. Hi Debs
    As a SENCO I’m concerned about the lack of information coming my way. I know the new CoP is not statutory until 2014 but it would be good to have guidance and time to prepare for the changes.
    I to am concerned about the ‘weak teaching’ aspect. How should I approach colleagues with this? How easy will it be for children to be denied the support/provision they need if schools refuse to diagnose or seek diagnosis of an identified SEN? Budgets are so tight already and don’t get me started on Academies!!!
    I went to a conference early on when the Green paper was published. We all agreed it set many challenges but offered few solutions, so far nothing seems to have changed. I am very concerned as a SENCO for my pupils and their families.

  3. Sophie White

    I like the idea of it being outcome based for the child. This COULD be a better focus for everyone…if, as you’ve said, the Schools are doing their bit properly. As we probably all know, some will and some won’t.

  4. Christina Cramsie

    In my experience (2 children with sen, 1 with a statement, 1 being assessed at the moment) the main problem seems to be with the LEA. And i don’t see anything in the proposals that will change the way they operate. They do not seem to listen to schools or parents, do not turn up to important reviews, and i have found them to be less than honest.

      1. Nicky

        Debs as a SENCO I’ve found it beneficial when dealing with the LEA for the school and parents to be united as a team in support of pupil/their child. I know not all schools work well with parents but I’ve watched the LEA roll over when they realise the school are standing firm with the parents. The local Parent Partnership team has been hugely helpful too. Strength in numbers I would say.

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