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Draft SEN Code of Practice unveiled

The SEN Code aims to help schools make decisions about SEN provision.The SEN Code aims to help schools make decisions about SEN provision.A draft of the new SEN Code of Practice, providing statutory guidance on the provision of support for children and young people with SEN, has been issued by The Department for Education (DfE).

The Code will be implemented under the forthcoming Children and Families Bill. The new document, along with draft Regulations on how the Bill will be implemented, provides the clearest indication yet of the detail of the Government’s SEN reforms.

The DfE is now inviting the views of professionals working with those with SEN, charities, parents and all other interested parties as part of its consultation process on the draft Code and Regulations.    

The SEN Code of Practice will apply to maintained schools, non-maintained special schools, academies, free schools and pupil referral units. The DfE says its Code will help these bodies to make effective decisions regarding children with SEN, though it will not provide prescriptions for what to do in individual cases. The document is also designed to help local authorities and schools make best use of the resources and expertise they devote to SEN.

Changing the system

The Children and Families Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, will introduce a major overhaul of SEN provision. Key changes will include the replacement of statements of SEN with combined education, health and care plans covering individuals from birth until the age of 25 years. Local authorities, health, education and social care services will be charged with working together to jointly commission provision for those with SEN. Councils will have to publish a “local offer” detailing available provision in their area and they will be required to consult with children and young people with SEN and their families in reviewing SEN and social care  support. In addition, families will have a right to a personal budget giving them the option to control how money is spent on provision for their child or young person with SEN.

Areas covered by the Code include the definition of SEN, parental responsibility and working partnerships with parents. It also looks at the role of SENCOs and how to involve pupils in assessment and decision-making.

Working together

The draft Code of Practice has been welcomed by education charity Achievement for All 3As, whose CEO, Professor Sonia Blandford, said that “By focusing on children and young people’s outcomes through a single mechanism of assessment, the Code of Practice provides a platform for leaders, teachers, parents and carers, students and wider professionals to work together to improve the life chances of those identified with special educational needs.”

Lorraine Petersen, CEO of the SEN professional association nasen, praised the document for the clarity of its guidance, saying it is “...clear and concise (without being too short) and very easy to read and follow.” She expressed fears about certain elements in the Code, though, and cautioned that schools will need to offer high-quality support and continuing professional development opportunities to ensure that staff have “...the knowledge, skills and expertise to deliver personalised teaching for all pupils”.

The final version of the new SEN Code of Practice will come into force with the Children and Families Bill from September 2014.

Jane McConnell of IPSEA, the SEN legal advice charity, is concerned that the proposed changes under the Children and Families Bill do not protect the existing rights of children and young people with SEN, many of whom may not be eligible for the new combined education, health and care plans. She believes that SEN reforms are being forced through because of the Government’s political agenda and has called on the DfE to consider delaying their implementation to “...allow time to get these changes right”.  

The consultation on the draft SEN Code of Practice and regulations closes on 9 December 2013. For information on how to take part in the consultation and to download the draft Code and associated documents, visit:
www.education.gov.uk/consultations

 

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