Five things schools need to know about the SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities) reforms

The SEN Code of Practice is part of the changes in the Children and Families Act (2014).

The new approach to special educational needs provision aims to place pupils and families at the centre of planning and make teachers more accountable for their progress.

Pupils and families get their say

The new system puts the young person and their family at the centre of discussions about the support offered. The Government says that parents know their children best. Young people will also have new rights. When they reach 16, you should normally consult them directly – their views will take precedence over their parents' views.

Education, health and care plans replace statements

SEN statements and learning difficulty assessments (LDAs) have been replaced with education, health and care plans (EHCP). EHCPs are used to fund SEND provision for children and young people aged 0-25. Local Authorities and schools are working hard to transition current SEN statements into EHCPs. The deadline is March 2018 and many Local Authorities are not meeting their targets.  SEN statements will not automatically be transferred into a EHCP. Schools, parents and young people are equally allowed to apply for an EHCP. EHCPs should include what educational provision, health provision and social care (including respite placements) provision the child or young person needs. EHCPs should focus on outcomes and targets, which can be tracked and measured.

No more School Action and School Action Plus

School Action and School Action Plus were used to ‘code’ learners’ needs. Now there is a single school-based category for children who need extra specialist support (SEND Register). Many schools and Local Authorities are also using a ‘monitoring’ code, for children/young people who are identified as potentially needing SEND provision in the future, if early school intervention and quality first teaching doesn’t work. Extra interventions, provisions, strategies and personalised outcomes for SEND registered pupils should be clearly set out on any personalised learning plans or target sheets created to plan and track progress. School may also decide to create a personalised learning plan for pupils being ‘monitored’. Progress should be reviewed each term. Parents must be informed when pupils without an EHCP receive special support.

Optional personal budgets for young people

Under the new system, young people and parents of pupils with an EHCP can choose to hold a personal budget to buy in the support identified. The money will come from the high-needs funding block and will not normally affect the school's overall SEND budget. Parents and/or children and young people may decide to use some of the budget for services not provided by schools and local services. For example, parents may decide to use some of the budget for private tuition, private music lessons or special experiences. The decision to do this has to be agreed during EHCP review meetings.

Teachers responsible for the progress all pupils make.

The code makes teachers more accountable for the progress of all pupils, even those supported by specialist staff. As part of performance management, teachers are judged on how well they teach pupils with SEND. In partnership with the school’s Special Needs Coordinator and senior leadership team, teachers should be given the opportunity to develop their skills and know how to identify SEND and support pupils with different needs. Ask your school about what SEND training teachers have received recently and who provided the training can give parents an indication about the SEND related skills the teachers at their child’s school may have.

Local Offers and Local Councils

Local Authorities are obliged to publish what SEN services are available within the authority. How and how much detail they publish is not specified, which has often left parents bamboozled by the information/lack of information. Parents can contact Local Authorities directly if they would like any more information about the SEND services available in their area.

If you would like any more information about the services in your area, contact your local authority. You can also contact your local NDN centre to discuss any information about services that may benefit pupils with dyslexia and/or other learning difficulties.