Changes in provision for young people with special needs

25 Aug

I           What are the changes?

Changes in the provision we make to provide for pupils with special educational needs (SENs) in our schools and further education took effect from 1 September 2014.  These arrangements will cover young people from the time they are born to the age of 25 (instead of 18 as it formerly was).

The Department for Education (DfE) issued a new Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) on 30 July 2014 to which all schools, local authorities and health authority must adhere.   The Code is in accord with the Children and Families Act 2014.

The nine important changes in the Code are on pages 13 and 14 of the document. These are as follows.

(a)          There is a clearer focus on the participation of children and young people and their parents/carers in decision-making at individual and strategic levels.

(b)          There is a stronger focus on high aspirations and on improving outcomes for children and young people.

(c)           The Code includes guidance on the joint planning and commissioning of services to ensure the education, health and social care agencies closely co-operate.

(d)          The Code includes guidance on publishing a Local Offer of support for children and young people with SEN or disabilities.

(e)          There is new guidance for education and training settings on taking a graduated approach to identifying and supporting pupils and students with SENs (to replace School Action and School Action Plus).

(f)           For children and young people with more complicated needs a co-ordinated assessment process and the new 0-25 Education, Health and Care plan (EHC plan) replace statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments (LDAs).

(g)          There is a greater focus on support that enables those with SENs to succeed in their education and make a successful transition to adulthood.

(h)          Information is provided on relevant duties under the Equality Act 2010.

(i)            Information is provided on relevant provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

II          Increase in Family Involvement

Local authorities (LAs) must involve parents/carers and their children with special needs in the decision-making process.   This is made explicit in paragraphs 1.3 and 1.4 of chapter 1 of the Code (page 20).

III        The local offer

The LA must publish the local offer, i.e. information about provision it will make available for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) and young people in its area including for those who have Education and Health Care (EHC) plans.  This is described in Chapter 4 – pages 59 to 77.   In paragraph 4.2 – page 59, the Code explains the reasons why this is necessary, i.e. to

  1. provide clear, comprehensive and accessible information about the provision available and how to access it; and
  2. make provision more responsive to local needs and aspirations by directly involving children and young people with SEN and disabilities and their parents/carers and service providers in its development and review.

In paragraph 4.3 – page 60 – the Code states that the local offer must not simply be a directory of existing services.  Its success will depend as much on the full engagement of children, young people and their parents/carers as the information it contains.

The process described in developing the local offer is intended to help local authorities and their health partners to improve provision.

The SEND Regulations 2014 provide a common framework for the local offer.  Paragraph 6.6 of the Code – page 93 – states that the mainstream school’s arrangements for assessing and identifying pupils with SENs should be agreed and published as part of the local offer.  The school must also display its provision on its website.

IV        The School’s Responsibilities

Chapter 6 – pages 91 to 110 – contains information on the school’s responsibilities for identifying and supporting pupils with SENs whether or not they have EHC plans.

A member of the governing body or one of its committees must oversee the arrangements for SENs.

Paragraph 6.2 – page 92 – describes the school’s duties, as follows.

(a)          All mainstream schools (including nursery schools), academies and Pupil Referral Units are required to identify and address the SENs of the pupils that they support.

(b)          They must use their best endeavours to make sure that children with SENs get the support they need.

(c)           They must ensure that children and young people with SENs engage in the activities of the pupils who do not have SENs.

(d)          Every school, academy or PRU must designate a teacher to be responsible for co-ordinating SEN provision – the SEN co-ordinator (SENCO). (This does not apply to a 16-to-19 academy).

(e)          All mainstream institutions must inform parents when they are making special educational provision for their children.

(f)           Each school/academy/PRU must prepare an SEN information report (see ‘Publishing information: SEN information report’, paragraph 6.79 – pages 106 and 107) and their arrangements for the admission of disabled children, the steps being taken to prevent disabled children from being treated less favourably than others, the facilities provided to enable access to the school for disabled children and their accessibility plan showing how they plan to improve access progressively over time.

In 6.28 to 6.35 – pages 97 and 98 – the Code describes the four broad areas of special educational needs which are

  1. Communication and interaction difficulties
  2. Cognition and learning needs
  3. Social, emotional and mental health difficulties
  4. Sensory and/or physical needs

V         Assessments

Chapter 9 – pages 141 to 153 – of the Code sets out the EHC assessment and planning process. If an LA thinks it may be necessary for a child to have an EHC plan, it must conduct an assessment of education, health and care needs.

A flow diagram is printed on page 154 of the assessment process. The LA must consult the governing body, principal or proprietor before naming the school on the EHC plan. The school must respond within 15 days. The whole process must be completed within a maximum of 20 weeks.

VI        Personal budgets

Young people and their parents/carers can request personal budgets from the LA to meet the young persons’ SENs as set out in the EHC plans.   This is described in pages 179 , 180 and 181. Budgets can be requested once the LA has completed the assessments and confirmed that it will prepare the EHC plans.

What is to be delivered through personal budgets will be made explicit as part of the provision specified in the EHC plans. These budgets can include funding from education, health and social care authorities.

VII       Youths over 18

The Code, in accord with the Children and Families Act 2014, explains that where a youth over 18 needs to continue with the EHC plan to complete and/or consolidate her/his education and/or training, the plan will be valid till the young person attains the age of 25.

VIII       And Finally

Where governors wish to secure more help and information, they can contact the National Association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN) here.

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