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Gareth D Morewood

However tough the SENCO role can be – remember the law trumps all!

The Children and Families Act emphasises the central importance of pupils' wishes and feelings. Above all, we must adhere to the statutory guidance. 

One of the most effective things I did early on as a SENCO was to volunteer for IPSEA, as part of which I received legal training. Ultimately, whatever systems or ‘evolved protocols’ develop with the new SEND arrangements, the law trumps all (a favourite quote of Jane McConnell’s, CEO IPSEA, duly referenced).

As a SENCO, learning the law is one of the most powerful things you can do. Check IPSEA’s website regularly as a useful place for support and, if possible, get appropriate legal training too.

IPSEA offers a range of SEND Law training on their website which could prove invaluable, especially as the new arrangements ‘bed in’ and misinformation evolves.

Also, take a look at Douglas Silas’s excellent website for additional information and useful pieces about specific areas of SEND, as well as Irwin Mitchell’s excellent factsheets and template letters.

Ultimately, until some case law is tested under the new arrangements, or a few Tribunals clarify regulations, some specifics won’t be clear immediately. However, as a lay person, using the links above will support knowledge and understanding at this time.

Some rough guidelines

Under the new Children’s and Families Act there is a renewed emphasis on:

  • the wishes and feelings in participation and decision-making
  • the aspirations and goals and improving outcomes for children and young people and transition through to adulthood
  • proper and effective joint planning / commissioning of services (co-production)

A good understanding of the law is one of the most important things a SENCO should have in order to support these new emphases, and is often one of the things that many SENCOs don’t possess.

So, as we move forward under the new arrangements, it’s useful to remember that:

  • LAs are as responsible for EHCPs as they are for statements
  • the Local Offer is a LA responsibility
  • the most direct route to request an assessment is via a parent/carer request – you can get model letters from IPSEA’s website (I often write them for parents/carers and get them to sign when we discuss the application)
  • there is no legal requirement for evaluated IEPs or anything like that – despite what some LAs may say. So if an LA insists and refuses statutory assessment based on their own requirements from a checklist, simply explain that there isn’t a legal requirement.

Ultimately, I hope that the new legislation provides a good opportunity to put some myths to bed once and for all.

New issues will arise, as with any new system, but being informed as a SENCO should keep you well-placed for when they arise!

My final tip: keep evidence and base decisions on fact and truth. Uncertainty and emotional reactions make things increasingly difficult; keeping honest, open communication is essential.

Our initial planning meetings with parents/carers have been just that; using all the documents from the sites above to ensure clarity. So far the response has been extremely positive, despite the challenges of the new systems and the need to clarify understanding.

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