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Gareth D Morewood

The updates and changes SENCOs need to know about

With constant additions to SEND reforms, Gareth D Morewood lists the top things SENCOs need to be aware of.

After delivering keynote addresses and workshops at a few SENCO conferences this last week I feel it is useful to give a quick update on some of the key issues regarding SEND implementation and reform.

The seven key features of the SEND reforms

The DfE have touted the key elements of SEND reforms by focusing on these seven key features:

  1. Involvement of children, young people, parents and carers
  2. All duties apply to all state-funded schools, including academies
  3. Coordinated assessments for 0-25 EHCPs
  4. LA, health and care co commission services jointly
  5. A Local Offer which is clear and transparent for all CYP with SEND
  6. Statutory protections for 16-25 year olds, with a focus on preparation for adulthood
  7. Opportunity for a Personal Budget

In reality, after four different SENCO conferences and events over the last two weeks and chatting with numerous parents/carers, much of what is heralded as successful is not mirrored by SENCo colleagues and families on the ground.

Transferring to EHC plans

It is useful to note that during the last month all local authorities have received a reminder about deadlines for transfer reviews, specifically for all children and young people with statements of SEN transferring to a new school by 15 February 2016.

Where this has not been the case LAs should:

  • write to parents/carers and explain the delay
  • name the school that the child will move to in September so that appropriate planning can take place
  • ensure a timetable for when the final EHC Plan will be completed.

In addition it is very important that SENCos remember that LDAs need to transfer to EHCPs by 1st September this year. The Education Funding Agency will not fund LDAs from September, so now is a timely reminder to ensure LAs are leading the transition.

There is detailed information about the EFA and high needs for 19-25 year olds available and this excellent blog post from @aspiedelazouch on the DfE’s new SEND funding consultation is recommended – although I will warn you (as Barney does) it isn’t the most exciting read ever, but very important.

Additional SEND Funding 2016-2017

At the start of the year, Edward Timpson announced a package of additional support for SEND implementation as follows:

  • £35.8 million in implementation funding for local authorities in 2016 to 2017, recognising the additional duties placed on them as a result of the transition to EHC plans
  • £27.3 million for the Family Fund Trust to support low income families with disabled children
  • £15 million to fund the independent supporters programme, helping to support families and young people to navigate the system, and creating positive experiences for them
  • £2.3 million for Parent Carer Forums, which bring parents together to provide invaluable support and advice for families.

Ultimately for schools this doesn’t mean much directly in the short-term, however the extension of Independent Supporter contracts and additional support for Parent Carer Forums will, hopefully assist more families at this time of significant need.

New SEND contracts

The DfE have provided an invitation to tender for SEND contracts in the following areas:

  1. Support for young offenders with SEND
  2. Workforce support – schools
  3. Workforce support - Further Education
  4. Dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties specialist support
  5. Sensory impairment specialist support
  6. Support for young people’s participation

It remains to be seen what direct impact these contracts will have for schools. However, having been involved with the KIDS Personal Budget project from a previous round, I can speak from direct experience that depending upon who is awarded the contract and the specific remit of the work will see a range of possible outcomes. I think this is, in reality, one for the ‘watch this space’ area!

Ofsted and CQC Area Inspections

These new Joint Targeted Area Inspections of services for vulnerable children and young people (JTAI) will involve CQC, Ofsted, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP).

All four inspectorates will jointly assess how local authorities, the police, health, probation and youth offending services are working together in an area to identify, support and protect vulnerable children and young people. These inspections are expected to begin in May 2016.

It is important to note that while inspectors will visit providers, such as schools and colleges or other provision, as part of assessing the effectiveness of the local area, these providers will not be under inspection as they are subject to separate institutional inspection arrangements in line with statutory and regulatory duties. However, these visits to providers will be used to inform inspectors’ assessment of how all these providers, and other agencies, work collaboratively to improve the life chances of children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.' Christopher Robertson, Senco-forum, 2016.

Parent/Carer Forum Survey

It is also worth noting the Parent Carer Forum Survey (Nov 2015) results prove interesting reading. 

Some of the highlights include:

  • Forums report that only 14% of children, and 18% of young people are either fully or largely involved in making decisions about their own SEND provision.
  • Only 2% of forums feel that further education providers are fully reshaping SEND provision in light of the new Code of Practice; a further 26% are doing this to some extent.
  • 14% of forums are very, or extremely confident that their local authority will complete the Transition Review process from statements and LDAs to EHCPs between 1st September 2015 and 31st August 2016. 43% are not at all, or not very confident that this will happen.
  • Very low numbers of forums report that their short breaks statement or local offer meet the requirement to contain up to date information on eligibility criteria, or how services meet the needs of parent carers very well, or extremely well, just 14% and 13% respectively.

There is a handy infographic from Special Needs Jungle about these ‘facts & stats’ in addition to a more detailed blog post, which is definitely worth a read.

All doom & gloom?

Even being a positive guy, it is tough at the moment. However it is important to keep provision child-centred, ensure parents/carers are fully engaged with all elements of provision and support and that we ensure a focus on facts and the law, not misinformation and spurious guidance.

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