I'm told, unofficially, that the Children & Families Bill is to receive Royal Assent - ie, approved by the Queen, on Thursday 13th March 2014.
Its effects will be enormous and felt for years to come, although the part with which we are concerned, Special Educational Needs reform, will see most action behind the scenes as education, health and social care providers run around, hopefully in an orderly fashion, learning, devising and implementing.
Nothing will change for the time being until the Code of Practice passes through both Houses of Parliament by "Affirmative Resolution" after a debate and a vote in each House. If it's rejected by either, it's likely that the Bill's implementation will be delayed while the Code's issues are ironed out.
Even if the Code is passed without a hitch, this does not mean that Statements of Special Educational Needs will cease to be official, legal documents; they will remain in force as long as your child has one. The change over to the new integrated Education, Health and Care Plan will be - and needs to be- gradual as it's an enormous change. Even the Pathfinder local authorities who have been testing the reforms are going to find it a difficult process, let alone those to whom this is all completely new.
Yesterday, I attended a SEND Implementation conference hosted by Optimus Education who kindly gave me complimentary tickets to attend. As Debs and I have written about the reforms as well as been involved for a large part of their development in the Surrey & Kent Pathfinders respectively, it was really interesting to see this large audience of SENCos, Head Teachers, and Learning Support & Inclusion staff finding out more about the reforms - many for the first time.
There were some inspiring speakers, including Gareth Morewood, Specialist Leader of Education for Priestnall School in Stockport near Manchester. Gareth explained how improving the parent/carer voice and contribution makes a "massive difference" because "uncertainty breeds issues", a key lesson for many teachers because without this involvement, the reforms will miss a vital marker for success.
The main speaker was Deputy Director of SEND at the Department for Education, Stephen Kingdom. Stephen has been integral to the development of the reforms within the DfE and if you have a question, he will know the answer.
He had jokingly asked me beforehand not to ask any difficult questions but, dear reader, that is my job on your behalf and in any case, as I said, I was sure he wouldn't be stumped - although I might have come close this time!
I had two burning questions:
1. What happens if the Code of Practice is rejected by one of the Houses of Parliament?
2. The Code of Practice is full of "must", "should" and "Best Endeavours" alongside each of its clauses to be met by local authorities and education, health and care providers. What exactly does the phrase "Best Endeavours" as written in the new Code of Practice actually mean?
I recorded Stephen's answers and, with his and Optimus Education's permission, here they are in his own words via MixCloud:
Hearing Impaired or no sound?: Download PDF of Transcribed Text of Stephen Kingdom
What do you think? Are you satisfied that this phrase is sufficient or do you think anything less than a "must" isn't enough?
*SNJ will be offering training in person and online about EHCPs and the CoP in the coming months. If you're interested in having us or our resources, please make an initial inquiry, which does not commit you to anything more than expressing an interest.
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