Recently, I've had messages from worried friends about what's happening in the SEN reforms. The first was, "My ex says that statements are disappearing in September but no one knows" and the other was from a lady who had been offered the chance to be in the pilot for the reforms but didn't know what the pilot was for.
So, Tania and I thought a "story so far" post (or two) may help out. I think we've been so engaged with the SEN reforms due to Special Needs Jungle and both playing a part in the Pathfinders, that we have forgotten how poor communication from the Government and Local Authorities can be for those parents who are just trying to remember what day it is.
Rather than writing a lengthy saga (which, let's be honest, no parent has time to read), I thought what was needed was summary with links to pages where you can find more information if you so wish, as well links to the previous updates from SNJ, in parent speak, so you can read at leisure.
So, when you are ready, put the kettle on, make yourself a cuppa and get comfortable. If you only have time to read a few key posts, then may I suggest you scroll down until you hit the bullet points in green and start there.
- In March 2011, the Government published a green paper called "Support and Aspiration: A new approach to SEN and Disability". Tania wrote about this on SNJ - generally, the introduction of the Green Paper was seen as a positive step forward, especially as the aspirational part was "We want to make the system less stressful for families and less costly to run by promoting mediation before appeals, giving parents more information about the services and expertise available locally and more support in navigating their way through the assessment system. Our proposals will also mean that children themselves can appeal if they feel they aren’t getting the support they need." What parent wouldn't want that?
- In September 2011, 20 pathfinder areas that took in 31 local areas launched. They were to trial and pilot new possibilities from September 2011 to March 2013. The details of these areas can be found on the SEND Pathfinder website
- In May 2012 the Progress and Next Steps report was published (it had been "imminent since January). Again, SNJ wrote about it from a parent's perspective.
- It started to feel as if this whole thing was being rushed through and not enough time was being given to learn from the Pathfinders. So in June, Tania wrote an open letter to Sarah Teather (the Minister who had responsibility for the reforms at that time) expressing the concerns we were hearing from parents and practitioners alike.
- In September 2012, Tania received a response to her open letter and the first draft of the proposed Children and Families Bill was published. We, of course, wrote about the draft proposal and shared the response on SNJ. It was very nice to learn that SNJ is read within the Department for Education's walls.
- In addition to the publication of the draft Bill, it was also announced that Edward Timpson, MP would now take over responsibility for the reforms as Sarah was shunted off to new pastures.
- From September to December 2012, the draft Bill was discussed by the Education Select Committee (known as pre-legislative scrutiny). During one of the meetings in November, Mr Timpson announced that the Pathfinders would be extended to September 2014. This sounded great, except there was no mention of delaying the Bill going through Parliament.
- So, in effect, the Bill will become law (if everything goes to plan) in Spring 2014 but the Pathfinders will continue testing and piloting new possibilities until September 2014 and in some areas longer still. Here at SNJ, we are still trying to figure this out.
- In December 2012, the Select Committee published their report of recommendations, SNJ wrote a précis of this report and Tania shared her views and concerns.
- In February 2013, the next version of the proposed Children and Families Bill (a much more detailed version) was published and Debs gave an overview sharing her concerns and also links to several other organisation's initial views of the Bill.
- Later that month, we also highlighted the "Missing Pieces" of the Bill.
- In March 2013, the DfE announced the Pathfinder Champions. Pathfinder Champions are there to help other non-Pathfinder Local Authorities. They also published a progress report on the Pathfinders.
- Later that month, unexpectedly, the draft Code of Practice and Regulations appeared online. Thankfully, this was just a rough draft!
- The same month, Tania & I, as Special Needs Jungle, were invited personally to meet with Mr T to discuss the reforms. Brave man. It was an interesting meeting and also a great chance to meet some other lovely SEN bloggers invited through the Tots100 site, several of whom have since become good friends.
- In May, we wrote about the proposed removal of School Action and School Action Plus - this is something we are aware many parents still do not realise is coming. Please please please, if you have a friend with children on School Action or School Action plus, pass this post to them and let them know.
- In June, we wrote about some of the issues with the new Bill and Code of Practice which every parent needs to know about - you can read these here and here. Again, if you have any friends with children with statements, on school action or school action plus or even friends who are just starting the process, please pass these posts to them.
- In July 2013, we talked about "Co-production" which seems to be the word of the Reforms. We received lots and lots of feedback on this post, some via our social media but lots of emails from parents who didn't want to have their names out there in the public domain. We'd be keen to hear what your experiences have been.
- In October 2013, we gave an overview of what the Local Offer (another word of the Reforms) is.
- In that month, the DfE also published the next draft Code of Practice for consultation. This again, was a much lengthier version than the original.
- Also, the DfE published their proposed strategies for transitioning those currently on statements to the new Education Health and Care Plans (EHC Plans or EHCPs).
- In December, Mr Timpson announced an extension of the Pathfinder Champion programme (not the Pathfinders themselves) and some inclusion of those children with a Disability but no SEN in the Bill.
- In January, we asked if parents actually were happy with the proposed SEN reforms, as announced by the DfE.
- Mr Timpson, also announced in January a £30m budget to go towards recruiting and training more than 1,800 independent supporters from this September. The supporters, drawn from the voluntary services, will help parents to navigate the new special educational needs process as they apply for an Education, Health and Care plan for their child. Although £30 million seems like a lot of money, split between all the local authorities in England, whatever size, it really isn't and there is no clarity as to how it is to be sustained into the future.
And here we are today. After writing this, I am sat thinking "Oh, what a great way to keep the proactive parents occupied". As we have been sinking beneath the deluge of changes, proposals, announcements and reports, other legislative changes have been happening and most parents would have missed them - and so would we, except SNJ has some very informed friends who know that a quick word in our ear will ensure we get the message out to our thousands of followers.
Later this week, we will be looking at what is happening now and next. Subscribe to our site to ensure you don't miss it. (Top left on this page)
If you are new to our blog, we don't just blog about the reforms, in the next few weeks we will be reviewing a book on Brain Injury, discussing the concept of " One Page Profile"s, sharing Debs' experience of her son's broken arm and consequent surgery, talking about the latest on changes from DLA to PiP for Rising 16s and also sharing the details of a new social network (just for SEN and Disability) launching in February.