At the end of January, we wrote about the SEN reforms – the story so far and promised a “What happens now” post and here we are.
Updates since our post:
In early February, after much campaigning from a variety of bodies, a consultation regarding children with a medical condition (but not necessarily a special educational need) was launched.
From September, there will be a new duty on schools, governors and local authorities to make suitable arrangements to support youngsters like these. It will apply whether or not a young person has an EHCP.
This is still open, so you can still have your say until 14th March.
Then later that month, there were a few announcements from the Government:
- Firstly, the government has added a clause that confirms local authorities are under a duty to provide the social care in the EHC plans.
- Secondly, the government has proposed a pilot scheme looking at whether a single point of redress from all aspects of EHC plans is feasible.
- Then, parent carers should be automatically offered an assessment rather than having to request one and there is no longer a requirement that a parent carer be providing ‘regular and substantial’ care in order to receive an assessment
- Clear recognition in law that parent carer assessments and services must have the promotion of their well-being at the heart of what they do
- Consolidation of legislation on parent carers from three different Acts making the law much clearer for parents and for practitioners to understand and use
So that sounds like quite a few positives (anyone would think there were elections coming up) but are they enough?
Sorry to sound demanding after all these concessions and improvements, but it's not really enough, no.
I am sorry, but I just can't pretend to be enthusiastic about the changes that these reforms are bringing. The original Green Paper was a promising proposal but what we are left with is a very poor relation to that aspirational paper.
The negatives still, scarily, outweigh the positives (IMO)
- Too many families know NOTHING about the forthcoming changes
- Too many practitioners know NOTHING about the changes
- And, worst of all, too many practitioners believe they know, but in fact, have incorrect information. In the last month alone I have:
- heard a SENCO tell a family that the legislation came into effect in January and therefore she couldn’t apply for a statement
- heard three families (from different local authorities) being told by practitioners not to apply for a statement now as they wouldn’t have time to go through
- of a head teacher telling a parent that her child with ASD would not get an EHC Plan as this was defined as a medical need in the new legislation and not a special educational need
- There is no longer a school IEP that parents have the right to see. Yes, there is a recommendation of a plan for schools to use within the setting to implement support but this will not be an IEP and parents do not have the automatic right to ask to see it.
- School Action and School Action Plus are being abolished. Children in mainstream settings will be delighted to know that this becomes "Additional SEN Support" (ASS - need I say more?)
- The Local Offer only has to publish services the local authority EXPECTs to be available. You cannot challenge an expectation.
- Our children are not encouraged to succeed and attend university. If you go to uni, your EHC Plan disappears and your vulnerable child is, statutorily speaking, on their own. (And DON'T mention the Disabled Students' Allowance as an adequate support - it's not about the money, it's about the protection)
What time-frames are we looking at?
In March/April, the Children and Families Bill will probably gain Royal Assent (in other words, it will become the Children and Families Act and the law we have to abide by) and we will have another full-time role in making this new system work for our children and young people.
After the Bill gains Royal Assent, the new revised SEN Code of Practice will be published after it has gained approval by 'negative resolution' in parliament. (i.e. automatically become law unless there is an objection from either House)
From September 2014, any applications for statutory assessment will go through the new assessment process and if you are lucky, result in an EHC Plan
Your local authority will also publish your area's Local Offer
- For those families who have a statement now, the proposal was to transition these to EHC Plans over the next three years but this is still to be confirmed.
So get reading and start looking into this now because this will affect you.
PS.. What if one of the Houses of Parliament objects to the new SEN Code of Practice?