The first session of the Hampshire County Council SEN Conference was entitled “Implementing the SEN reforms – the next phase” and led by Andre Imich, SEN & Disability Profession Adviser for the DfE.

HCC governor services

£5.9bn spent per year on SEN in Education.  It has undergone little change whilst the rest of public services, education and the voluntary sector has seen much change.  The focus now is less on assessment and more on outcomes.  The Government wanted a review so that people felt listened to and involved in the change.

In 2011 Councils were asked to be pathways which Hampshire and Southampton have tried – it’s been challenging and led to robust dialogue.  Much of the forward agenda is based and supported through pathfinders.  Change has been where possible evidence based.

In February 2013 the Children and Families Bill was published with the hope that it becomes an Act next year.  Since March 2013 published Draft Codes.  The 1996 Education Act is only a spine, it is the Code and Regulations which affect the day-to-day.  Talking to Parliament has been a long and challenging process – it is due in the House of Lords next week, and expecting some debate.  SEN dominates two thirds of the bill, and getting most of the interest in Parliament.

Our Vision

  • Children’s SEN are picked up early and support is routinely pt in place quickly.  //  Change to funding should bring clarity of roles, the more schools are given money the more they can put things in place outside of bureaucratic processes.
  • Staff have knowledge, understanding and skills to provide the right support for CYP who have SEN or are disabled.  //  What makes the difference is what staff do in the day to day work rather than staff in County Hall.
  • Parents know what they can reasonably expect their local school college, LA and local services to provide, without having to fight for it.  //  Focus on parents rights but process has been so complex they haven’t been able to mobilise their rights.
  • Aspirations for CYP is raised through an increased focus on life outcomes.  //  The SEN gap has not narrowed at all which is an issue, children with SEN are 8 more times likely to be bullied, they are more likely to be excluded, more likely to have poor attendance, more likely to be in the NEET population – we need to focus on supporting older young people to get into a productive situation when education drops off the agenda.  We need to focus on the outcomes we are striving for.
  • For more complex needs, an integrated assessment and a single Education, Health and Care Plan from birth to 25.
  • There is greater control for parents and young people over the services they and their family use.

Children and Families Bill 2013 – 7 Key Highlights

1. Involvement of children, young people and parents at the heart of the legislation.

This is a cultural change.  Came out with a Green Paper in 2011 with the vision for the future which was welcomed by many people – mainly because like through a stick of rick parents, children and young people were the focus.  With the Bill it was clear this had become lost – this is hard to write into statutory language.  People obey law without grace – they do it because they have to.  But we want to see the way we interact with families and they interact with us.  We all have room for change on this front.  Also tried to include parents at the heart of other parts of the agenda, e.g. Local Offer requires CYP and parental involvement by law.  At school level we want to see reviews to be genuinely personal, involving parents and CYP in the policy and new approaches, e.g. the new National Curriculum.

2. More co-ordinated assessment process; new 0-25 Education, Health and Care Plan

The system works but it is clunky, mechanistic approach that is not really about the individual, but a group of professionals writing a report which the LA Officer has to make sense of, write to the family and the family write to the LA.  These are challenging children which challenges the views of professionals – we need much better sharing and dialogue.  We need discussion of provision for outcomes – practices that actually work – it’s too easy to recommend x, y, or z because that’s what we’ve always done without thinking about how it helps the child’s learning.

Assessment and Planning

31 LAs working as Pathfinders – each allowed to do it how they want which led to diverse ways of doing.

  • We need to see assessment as genuine reviews that are person-centred.
  • A “tell us once” approach to sharing information – many families complain about having to say their story several times – this is idealistic but we can certainly improve.
  • CYP and families at centre; involved in making decisions throughout – amazing how often the child’s voice is not heard in the statement or the professional advice.
  • Effective co-ordination between education, health and care services – we’ve not got there yet – something we need to continue to work on.
  • Practitioners engaged and committed to single assessment and planning – it’s often quite easy to change parental ways of working but practitioners still struggle to change, e.g. writing about child’s views.
  • Key-working approaches to provide a single point of contact – working with families with most complex needs, warmly welcomed by families, very good in early years but problems with rules and laws in school system mean it hasn’t worked their properly.  Having someone dedicated to them to help them work through the system.

EHCPs – different from statements.

  • Personal centred, focussed on outcomes, specific about provision – some examples are first person as though written by the young person.
  • Clear, concise, readable and accessible.
  • Fulfill statutory duties and support portability across areas.
  • Support preparation for key transition points.

3. LA, health and care services to commission services jointly re: SEN & disabilities.

  • New duty for health to work together with education and care to provide and arrange local services for CYP who have SEN.
  • Amendment to Bill (March 2013): a legal duty on Clinical Commissioning Groups to secure the health services that are specified in EHC Plans.  //  A duty for the individual child.


4. LAs to publish a clear, transparent local offer of services for all CYP with SEN

  • Fantastic bits of work in LAs and voluntary sector but often not clear what services are available and how to access them.
  • The LA will be statutory required to work with local families and parents to develop the local offer.
  • Every school, health and care service is under a statutory obligation to co-operate and share with the LA.

5. New statutory protections for young people aged 16-25; stronger focus on preparing for adulthood.

School system of statements, School Action and School Action +, and a system called Learning Difficulty Assessments for those in College and FE.  Not much in common between the two systems so creating a single system, bringing in statutory protection and rights for 16-25 year olds.  Young people will be allowed to appeal to tribunal for the first time.

In terms of definition:

  • Children is 0-16 – up to statutory leaving age which is still 16 years old.
  • A young person is those aged 17+.  Their rights are invested in themselves not their parents, e.g. correspondence will be directed to them, discussion primarily with them, the only party who can appeal to the tribunal unless the YP lacks capacity – which is a legal minefield.

6. Offer of a personal budget for families and young people with a Plan, extending choice ad control over their support.

At the end of the plan will be a list of costs/resources that are required – which will sometimes include additional support beyond what is normally available within education.  It is an area of controversy.

This is an optional thing – not many families actually want to take it up – not really about money or purchasing equipment, but about the personalisation of their programme – having a greater degree of control over the provision.

7. All SEN duties to apply equally to all schools, incl. Academies and Free Schools

Parents and children should see no difference in treatment regardless of schools.


Further Key Developments.

School Governing Bodies 

Must ensure there is a qualified teacher designated as a SENCo.  In a Free School, only 1 teacher by law has to be qualified – the SENCo – that is how important the SEN agenda is.

Publication of information changing from 17 to publish on their website about the implementation of the Governing Body’s policy for pupils with SEN, must be updated annually, the information required to be set out in regs.


SEN Support

  • In accurate identification of School Action and School Action +.  Now having a single category of SEN Support – refocus on genuine SEN that require additional support.
  • 1.25mn children are on School Action and School Action + so need a large-scale review.


BESD – Behaviour and Emotional Support Difficulties

  • 52% of respondents judged the current category as a catch all and focussed on poor behaviour.
  • The new Code will have a redefined category.


The new (0-25) SEN Code of Practice

  • The new SEN Code will be a draft for consultation.
  • It will be a single piece of statutory guidance to replace the current Code of Practice, the Learning Difficulties Assessment guidance and the DfE’s Inclusive Schooling guidance.
  • It will cover 0-25.
  • Everyone has to have regard to it – you must do what is in the Code of Practice unless you can demonstrate a reason for doing it a different way that is equally as good or better.

Implications for Governors of schools and colleges

  • New Code of Practice will be in place for Sept 2014 – the final code will come in April or May following Parliament.
  • Reinforced role of SENCo
  • Application of Additional SEN Support Category
  • Putting parents and children at the heart of the system
  • Greater clarity about what school/college provides – clearer info published on each school/college’s website.
  • Work with LA on local offer
  • Working with Education, Health and Care Plans – used instead of Statements, will look different, more person centered which affects Annual Reviews.
  • Improved transition planning and arrangements.
  • Support families in using personal budgets.
  • Outcomes / outcomes / outcomes


Timetable for Reform

  • 2013 – improved Bill in Parliament
  • Spring 2014 – Royal Assent
  • September 2014 – reforms go live (meeting original green paper commitment).


There will be a graduated transition over a 3 year period, with the LA responsible for planning that.  All new assessments from September 2014 will be done the new way.  LAs can start doing it this way now, there are no barriers or legal issues with doing it this way.

Change of School Action to SEN Support could be done in 1 term due to the termly review all pupils have.


Questions, Comments, Discussion

  1. In terms of the practitioners being involved in the assessment – how often – and who will be reviewing it to ensure the outcomes are met?  The day-to-day level will be managed by the school, and school governors have a duty to ensure that it is done.  Requirement for an annual (at least) review, and requirements on professionals to co-operate so should see much healthier reviews.  Schools will be co-ordinating the reviews, not the LA.  Schools have always had to manage their process – it is some of the services who will feel the pressure.
  2. How will parents be informed about the changes, and how iwll they be advised to implement the budget to gain the outcomes?  Worked with lots of voluntary organisations who will communicate alongside government.  Will have a Code of Practice for CYP and Parents.  Since the last Code of Practice Parent-Carer Forums have come into play.  Hope published info on local offer will also help.  The LA have to provide support from trained people if parents wish to take the budget up.
  3. Multi-agency work seems to be lowering with a focus instead on SENCo and Schools.  Schools don’t want to exclude children but feel they’ve done all they could and their is a limit of services.  The Local Commissioning Groups, should identify gaps of provision and increase the provision over a number of years.  Not an overnight formula, but should work at the general level of local provision and also individual children.
  4. What support is their for CYP and Parents who don’t have the capacity to engage with the process?  Who will help them?  Parent-Partnership services have held their hands through the progress, there will be an announcement on the theory of key-workers – that needs targeted to the families who you refer to.  We genuinely believe there isn’t a parent out there who doesn’t want the best for their child.  Unlike CAF key workers there will be greater support for these, and will be funded.
  5. Can parents still request an assessment?  Yes, wasn’t clear in the original guidance, made clearer.
  6. All very well, but if professionals not in place how will it work, e.g. physiotherapists and speech therapists aren’t accessible currently.  The market will need to develop and will take time, but sometimes we provide services, e.g. TAs without thinking how to get the best value, rather than using evidence based assessment.  Some children now who are seen as requiring therapy who probably need better support in classrooms.  There will always be issues of quantity and supply, most schools want Educational Psychology time, they’re willing to pay for it but it is still difficult to gain it.  Schools will choose how they spend their money.
  7. Work within Health, hear what you’re saying, want to get into schools, but more cutbacks coming which will challenge it, Commissioners need to talk with Education to resolve this.  The Duty on Health will help this, and CCG’s will have to react.  There are 212 CCGs compared with 252 LAs which will lead to some challenges.
  8. Secondary Governor, in one of the most deprived areas in the country, the concept of trialling for after 16s is critical – we need more apprenticeships – it is only up to firms good will.  Put in place supported internship, expect employers to take on apprentices as per Disability Discrimination Act.  They may require longer time at school to develop basic skills such as literacy, which will have flexibility, especially in the 16-19 Agenda.  One fifth of schools are secondary in the country.
  9. Do parents have a duty to undertake an assessment, do parents have the right to stop an assessment going ahead.  They have the right to voice an opinion if it is requested by the school.  The LA then has to make a decision on whether or not to proceed.  They can proceed without parental permission.  However, it is a long-time since when an LA has done this given the assessments own’t work without parental support.  The LA find that time works – time to dialogue and reach a consensus.
  10. Little confidence that health would engage financially – what power would a key worker have to bring health to the table, and what financial incentive is there for health?  Key workers don’t have powers, they are there to support parents.  DOn’t underestimate the challenge but driven it through the legal framework, so it will happen.  On a general level there are struggles.  There is no funding, but they have t reflect on their priorities – SEN CYP are one of the few groups that have a legal standing as a priority for health care services.
Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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