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Gareth D Morewood

The new draft Code: important points for schools

Following on from my initial thoughts, from my work supporting SENCO colleagues and other schools I know these are areas that currently require a change in thinking.

What the Code wants for young people

6.1 All children and young people are entitled to an education that enables them to make progress so that they:
  • achieve their best
  • become confident individuals living fulfilling lives, and
  • make a successful transition into adulthood, whether into employment, further or higher education or training.

This seems clear and sensible to me; however the detail as to how this may be achieved seems to lie in the more ‘forceful’ parts of the Code – where ‘must’ indicates a strong duty for schools and/or LAs to act.

Whole-school approach

6.3 School leaders should regularly review how expertise and resources used to address SEN can be used to build the quality of whole-school provision as part of their approach to school improvement.

I think this is an important statement – SEND provision must be part of a ‘whole-school approach’. This was something supported by a national project almost three years ago and is so important for the inclusion of young people with additional needs. However with a ‘should’ the duty is less strong (‘must’ indicates a stronger duty). A recent book by Natalie Packer highlights the need for SEND provision to be integral to whole-school improvement planning.

Teachers

6.4 The quality of teaching for pupils with SEN, and the progress made by pupils, should be a core part of the school’s performance management arrangements and its approach to professional development for all teaching and support staff. School leaders and teaching staff, including the SENCO, should identify any patterns in the identification of SEN, both within the school and in comparison with national data, and use these to reflect on and reinforce the quality of teaching.

Ensuring that inclusive, quality first teaching is part of the professional responsibilities of all staff is an important change; however many will argue that training is required. In addition to the Whole-School Approach project mentioned previously, my recent publication 'SEND for new teachers' may support schools in developing this element of provision with more detailed explanatory notes and training materials. Additional support for this can also be found on my site.

Identification and progress

6.5 The identification of SEN should be built into the overall approach to monitoring the progress and development of all pupils.

I think this is an area that initially caused great concern – there was a view that class/subject teachers would be identifying and assessing young people as part of their roles. I think it is clear that the emphasis – perhaps made more explicit now – is on whole-school analysis of all pupils and that monitoring and progress should not segregate different groups. This is something I have been emphasising for a long time; schools that separate off SEND students for analysis and monitoring, risk falling into a trap of low-expectations and underachievement. This may be a significant shift for some.

Local Offer

6.6 The arrangements for identifying and assessing pupils as having SEN should be agreed and set out as part of the Local Offer. A school should publish its arrangements as part of the information it makes available on SEN (see the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014).

Schools should all provide a clear picture of what they offer for students at their schools, who the SENCO is and how parents/carers can contact the school. Formalising this as part of the Local Offer seems sensible (even though ‘should’ is used again); however I fear there will continue to be a clear range of schools that offer a lot as part of a basic entitlement (SALT for example) and those that choose to do the bare minimum and actively ‘encourage’ parents/carers to send their children elsewhere. Without a baseline requirement, Local Offers will vary enormously, thereby simply recreating a ‘postcode lottery’ of provision – something I feel must be guarded against!

Sharing a SENCO

Additionally the revised Code specifically notes (6.87 & 6.88) that small schools may share a SENCO – a practice that has been very effective and one that is welcomed.

Keeping up to date

A good place to find detailed analysis of the legal implications can be found at IPSEA which includes their initial feedback to the original consultation. There is little doubt that this revised Code is vastly improved; however it is important to consider the detail and implications for schools in what appears to be a final version.

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