Issue one: The SEND Practitioner

The SEND Practitioner
Issue one
Preparing for the new Code of Practice
March 2014

Editorial

Welcome to Real’s first monthly e-zine for the SEND practitioner. Over the coming year, we will be looking at the most essential areas of SEND practice, combining our educational expertise with the latest insights from leading SEND experts and practitioners across the education spectrum. In this issue, we are delighted to feature a Q&A on the forthcoming Code of Practice with renowned SEND expert Brian Lamb OBE, alongside an article exploring a group of SENCOs’ thoughts on, and preparations for, the new Code.

It’s a daunting time for SEND practitioners, particularly given the many other major structural changes that are taking place in education. With that in mind, we want this newsletter to be a good source of free information on the most pressing issues faced by the SEND practitioner. So, if there is anything that you want us to write about, are unsure of, or would like to comment on, please do get in touch. It would be good to hear from you.

Kind regards,

Edward Farrow
Editor
editor@realgroup.co.uk

In this issue:
Preparing for the new Code of Practice: a Q&A with Brian Lamb
The SENCOs’ voice: what does the new Code of Practice mean to them?
Preparing for the new Code of Practice: a Q&A with Brian Lamb OBE
What significant changes are evident in the new Code of Practice?
  1. Personalised: it is trying to get away from straitjacketing children into categories, to look much more fundamentally into each child’s needs.
  2. Outcome-led: there will be a much greater focus on outcomes across the system.
  3. Increased parental and child involvement: will empower the school, parent and young person to work together to address those needs.”
What impacts will the Code of Practice have in setting?

“It will challenge every school to look again at how they identify SEN and to make sure that they’ve got their assessment and identification right. It’s about ensuring that the provision enables the outcomes to be achieved. Personalisation will be the rule, not the exception. So, for example, you will assess the progression of a child with SEN in the same way that you would assess any other child, which will promote a graduated response to support needs.

“The Code also presents a more expansive picture of the role of the SENCO – which is both a blessing and a curse.

The positives: The Code will be particularly helpful at those schools where the SENCO has had to fight for their role in their corner on SEN. This is not only because it reaffirms what the legislation does – in light of the fact that the SENCO needs to be a qualified teacher – but also recognises the critical role that the SENCO plays in the whole process. It attests to the fact that the SENCO is the first port of call within the school for expertise and understanding about SEN processes, content and what the school is doing around that.

The negatives: SENCOs are already under a great deal of pressure and schools need to really look at supporting them to deliver their role well. The new Ofsted inspection framework means that there will be a much greater focus on the outcomes of children with SEN, as opposed to the current preoccupation with ensuring that children get their one, two, three, or four hours of provision.”

The Code of Practice: a timeline to change

Early 2014: the Children and Families Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent.
10 February 2014: it entered what is termed the ‘ping pong’ stage. During ping pong, the Bill travels back and forth between the two Houses, until both Houses agree on the text of the Bill.
April 2014: the SEN regulations, statutory guidance and transitional arrangements are expected to be published.
September 2014: the legislation comes into force, introducing the new 0 to 25 SEN system.
From September 2014: children and young people with existing statements and LDAs will begin to transfer to the new system.

Taken from: Implementing the 0 to 25 special needs system: Government advice for local authorities and health partners.

What can SEND practitioners do to prepare?

“Talk to the Head. Make sure that the Head knows what’s coming. Heads are just becoming aware of it but I’m not sure that they have realised that it won’t be business as usual.

“You should also examine your current SEN policy in light of the new school information requirement. Think about, and support, your school in regard to the school’s overall offer. The sooner you start pulling this together, the more advanced the school will be in its preparation for the Code.”

What should schools ask themselves in anticipation of the Code?

“It very much depends on the capacity and level of the school. However, I would suggest the following key questions:

  • How do you identify children with SEND and assess their needs?
  • How do you monitor and evaluate the progress and success of interventions?
  • Have you got the right resources in place to meet the needs of the children who come to your school?
  • Do you know about behaviour management for children with autism?
  • What is your school’s expertise on language provision?
  • What specialist support does your school provide?
  • Where does your school go when specialist support isn’t available?
  • What do you expect from your Local Authority?
  • What skills have your teachers and LSAs got and how are these being deployed?
  • What gaps have you got and how can they be filled?
  • How do you support the wider social and emotional wellbeing of children and how are they supported between phases of education?”

A few final words…

“Schools are going to have to manage a lot of change at one time – in terms of the curriculum, the funding, inspection framework and accountability measures. I am very sympathetic to the fact that a lot of change is afoot. However, it’s also a great opportunity. Ultimately, it’s going to allow people who are really good practitioners to improve child support and achieve better outcomes.”

Brian Lamb OBE is a renowned expert in the development of SEND legislation, policy and practice. Author of the influential government-commissioned Lamb Inquiry: Special educational needs and parental confidence, he works alongside charities, schools, local authorities and parents’ groups and has published widely and lectured on SEND issues.
The SENCOs’ voice: what does the new Code of Practice mean to them?
The forthcoming Children and Families Bill will have a huge impact on the lives of SEN staff, students and their families. However, the one position in each and every school that brings agencies and parents together is the SENCO. With that in mind, we spoke to a group of SENCOs from the state and independent sector – to find out their hopes and fears in advance of the new Act.

What impact will the new Code have on the SENCO?

There is quite a bit of uncertainty around the impact of the Code. Some SENCOs feel positive about the fact that class teachers will take on more responsibility for meeting the needs of individual children within their classes. Others have real doubts about taking on more of a consultative role, as they feel that teachers have insufficient training to be able to make the right interventions.

In what ways are schools helping SENCOs to prepare?

Many have been sent on various borough courses and have also been given time to meet other SENCOs in their area. However, there is real concern that the seismic changes being pushed through simultaneously (curriculum, funding, inspection framework and accountability measures) might create a perfect storm – one that would see the SEN reforms play second fiddle to the new curriculum. On the other hand, SENCOs in the independent sector feel rather disconnected from proceedings and feel that procedures seldom reach them without modification. In the light of this, one independent SENCO attended a national course run by NASEN and also encouraged her Head to attend a half-day conference.

The key conference

A new landscape for SEN and disability

The Council for Disabled Children is hosting three expert-led conferences in the wake of the Royal Assent for the Children and Families Act 2014 and the development of the new SEN Code of Practice.

  • 23 April 2014: London
  • 1 May 2014: Birmingham
  • 8 May 2014: Manchester
How is the Department for Education (DfE) supporting change?

Many SENCOs feel that the DfE has been rather distant in the whole process. NASEN training and their accessible summary of the new Code (supported by the DfE) and the SENCO forum have been major rungs of support.

The Code recognises the underlying causes of many behavioural issues – often related to mental health. How do SENCOs feel about this shift and are they prepared?

Many are positive about this, as they feel that it will encourage them to focus on the underlying issues – such as mental health and family needs – a shift in emphasis that is only as healthy as the support services that are there to help children with mental health issues. Budgetary constraints and SENCOs with little experience of tackling emotional health needs, combined with over-stretched and under-resourced Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), mean that there is little access to immediate training and support. For example, SENCOs feel as if they know a certain amount about attachment, but only from a school’s perspective.

The Code advocates the move to a single category. Are they prepared for this change and how do they feel about it?

A majority of the SENCOs feel that those on School Action Plus (SA+) will be likely to make up the majority of the single category. They also feel rather concerned about those who are not SA+ level getting lost in the system. Yes, the new single category will force schools to look at exactly what they are going to do for the children on the SEN register and ensure that the right quality of supports and interventions are in place. However, they are also worried about what might happen when a child needs to be referred for statutory assessment. How will it be possible to demonstrate the enhanced level of provision that used to be shown by two review cycles at SA+?

The Code advocates regular meetings with parents of pupils receiving SEN support.  How will this fit in with their current approach?

All of our respondents meet regularly with parents. In this regard, the only significant change is that the pupil’s teacher will also need to be present. Generally, they see this as a positive approach, as it will ensure that all parties work even closer together to meet the needs of the child.

How ready are they for the Code?

Many Local Authorities (LAs) have set up meetings with SENCOs to disseminate key information on the Code. Despite this, unanswered questions percolate around budgets and the Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Many SENCOs are prepping up on the single category, the school offer and what the records and the Individual Education Plans (IEPs) might look like. However, in the independent sector, existing good practice is being followed, whilst a keen eye is being kept on the state sector’s pathfinder projects.

Are their schools ready?

There is real concern that many schools are too fixated on the changes to the national curriculum to give the forthcoming Code of Practice much thought. Many members of staff are not even aware of the new Code. To add to this, it hasn’t been set in stone. Acting in advance of full publication of the Code is therefore seen as premature and a bit of a catch 22. Indeed, there is a palpable sense of frustration that so much structural transformation is taking place in education simultaneously.

What are they most unsure of?

SENCOs seem concerned by the EHCPs, the short timeline and the Code’s potentially negative impact on existing levels of care.

What are they positive about?

The opportunity to create a school-specific local approach and the recognition that each child’s behaviour is a symptom of their underlying needs.

A few final thoughts

The Code has had a bumpy ride. Objections from various SEN organisations have marked its creation and many SENCOs are concerned that it is being implemented too fast at a time of major structural change. Others feel that it presents more questions than answers and are apprehensively awaiting its institution in the new school year.

Key publications

Draft special educational needs (SEN) code of practice: for 0 to 25: NASEN’s informative summary of the Code so far.

Implementing the 0 to 25 special needs system: Government advice for local authorities and health: Government guidance.

If you have any questions about the prospective Code of Practice or there is anything that you would like us to feature in future issues of The SEND Practitioner, please do get in touch.