TSP Briefing
Issue 2
Apr 2014

Issue two: The SEND Practitioner

The SEND Practitioner
Issue two
The Children and Families Act 2014 is born
April 2014


On 13 March, after a fair amount of time ping ponging around the two parliamentary houses, the Children and Families Act finally received Royal Assent. This particular landmark is an important staging post, but one staging post on an exacting and demanding legislative journey that began as far back as 2011. Now the race is on, the legislative touch paper has been lit, the Royal Assent starting pistol has sounded and local authorities across the country are racing to put as much as possible in place before September. And yet, in the midst of this, the forthcoming SEN Code of Practice (that puts flesh on the bones of how the Act should be followed) is set to be issued “shortly ahead of reforms coming into force in September” (GOV.UK).

Against this background, there is inevitably a great deal of uncertainty as to how schools, their leaders and SENCOs will prepare for, and adapt to, the new Code of Practice. With this in mind – and building on Brian Lamb’s opening analysis in our first issue – we spoke with Lorraine Petersen (former CEO of nasen) to get her illuminating insights on the Act and the prospective Code.

Kind regards,

Edward Farrow

PS: We’ve decided to embrace Twitter. We’re new to Twitter and we’ve spent a bit of time thinking about whether or not to join it. We’ve realised that it will give us the flexibility to respond to the latest developments in SEND with the best possible guidance and advice. So, if Twitter is something that you are keen on, feel free to follow us (@RealTrainingUK) and we will follow you.

In this issue:
In the wake of the Children and Families Act 2014: a Q&A with Lorraine Petersen
In the wake of the Children and Families Act 2014: a Q&A with Lorraine Petersen

Do you think that there will be much difference between current predictions and how the Act is translated in practice?

“There will be quite a lot of additional information but, in the main, the predictions are accurate. Statements will become plans and School Action and School Action Plus will become SEN Support. This new single category will form part of the criteria of each Local Authority’s (LA’s) offer. Having said that, there is a lot of ground yet to be covered in transition and the LAs are saying to me that they are struggling to be ready.”

In this uncertain climate, which particular elements of the legislation will SEND practitioners need to guard against?

“The biggest difficulty for schools will be that they will have to run a dual system.

  • There will be children who currently have statements, who will continue to have statements until they are transferred to Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). The transition process will take years.
  • From September 2014, any new child entering the statutory assessment system will be assessed for an EHCP. However, in some places, children are already being assessed for a plan.
  • There is also concern that some children in the future will not get a plan when they may have been eligible for a statement.

“Schools are also going to have to be very good at finding out what the LA wants in order to go for a plan. Schools should ask the following questions:

  • What will the process be once the school has identified a need?
  • We’ve done everything in school, but now we need to go for statutory assessment… what does that process look like?

“In the draft Code there is very little process. In light of this, schools will have to discover the particular process that their LA employs.”

Following on from this, which elements of the legislation do you expect SEND practitioners to react positively to?

“The greatest positive element is that every teacher will have to take responsibility for every pupil. In the current system, Teaching Assistants (TAs) are often responsible for the teaching of children with SEN – whereby these pupils are ‘Velcro-ed’ to their TA. For me, it’s extremely positive that the Code of Practice will ensure that every teacher will be accountable and responsible for the progress of every pupil. Of course, with this change, we need to make sure that teachers are fully trained and able to do this – both at an initial teaching level and in their continuing professional development.”

How can SEND practitioners prepare themselves for change?

  • “Make sure that teachers are able to meet the needs of all children – a professional development issue within each school.
  • Ensure that SENCOs are fully aware of what’s happening and give them the time and resources to actually implement the changes.
  • Make certain that everybody in the school understands what system is being set up within the SEN Support category. It’s a whole-school issue, not the exclusive domain of individual teachers or an individual SENCO.
  • Involve your school’s governors – they need to know what is happening and what it means for the school.
  • Share all of this information with each child’s parents and make parents aware of what it means for them.
  • SENCOs and schools need to be rewriting their SEN policy, because the terminology is going to change and the school systems will be different.”
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 March’s 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
What should local authorities (LAs) do?

“The LA pathfinders have undertaken initial pilot studies on a number of the planned reforms and there is lots of information about their work on the SEND Pathfinder website. However, there were only 31 pathfinder LAs out of 152 in total. This means that many LAs haven’t been on that journey. What is key, is that they catch up with those pathfinders.”LAs will need to:

  • Get their local offer out quickly.
  • Make sure that it is relevant.
  • Ensure that it is not just a list and that it has real meaning.
  • Devise ways in which they start with the school offer and think about how the school offer moves into the local offer.
  • Get their EHCP into schools, so that schools have a clear idea of what it looks like.
  • Be transparent throughout the process.
  • Build good relationships with SEND and health professionals.”

Under the new system, LAs will be required to publish a local offer. What might it look like?

“Every single local offer will be different. However, each local offer should be able to answer questions like:

  • If I am a parent of a child with autism, what is available in my local area to support me and my child?
  • What support can schools provide – is there a school with an autism base or specialist teachers?
  • What voluntary sector organisations that support children with SEN operate in my area?

“A local offer list needs to be put together by the people who actually use those services, which is why the local offer must be reviewed frequently using service users. It mustn’t be top-down led by the LA. It’s about empowering the people who use those services to say what works and what doesn’t – a bit like an SEN version of Trip Advisor.”

The EHCPs will replace the Statement of SEN and Learning Difficulties Assessment. What do you think an EHCP will look like?

“They vary from LA to LA, but those that I have seen are more user friendly than the statement; they are closer to a pupil or family profile.

  • They contain a lot more information about the pupil; their needs; their family; and what support they are receiving.
  • There is a lot more input from families/parents and young people themselves.
  • Like a pupil passport, the plan will be built up over time and will accompany them all the way through their schooling.
  • The outcomes are based on the long-term objectives of each child and are centred on what they would hope to achieve when they are ready to leave the education system. It’s about their aspirations and what needs to be put in place for them to accomplish the desired outcomes by the time that they leave.
  • Parents will also be eligible for a personal budget if they are in receipt of an EHCP.

“It’s not about prescribing a set of targets and a block of money for the school to deal with it. Ultimately, schools will be able to respond in their own way to their own particular set of circumstances. However, this approach has only been tested with a few families. By the end of this year, this new ‘untested’ approach will be progressively rolled out to a quarter of a million children who currently have statements. The length of this process will depend on each LA’s ability to undertake it. The original plan was that everybody would transfer to an EHCP on 1 September. However, as it stands, it is recognised that LAs may well need a few more years to achieve this.

“So what will a plan look like? It will really come down to each individual LA, so each and every one will be different. That is going to be a real challenge for schools where there are children across borders, or special schools that may take children from three or four LAs, or schools from the non-maintained independent sector who may take from several LAs.”

What impact will the code have on 025?

“I welcome the expansion from 16 to 25. Having said that, we are not sure what actual provision will be available. It’s great that the policy and legislation say that if young people stay in education until they are 25, then they can keep their plan. But what does the provision actually look like and who is going to pay for it? Do bear in mind that, at the moment, the post-16 and post-19 provision for young people with significant learning difficulties and disabilities is quite variable. The government has been very clear that schools can only go to 19 (special schools already do), so there will need to be additional provision for 19–25 – whether a specialist college, FE college or training within a workplace. The potential benefits are great, but I still want to know where the provision is going to come from.”

What impact will the Code have on the graduated response and the single category?

The old landscape

“Schools will have to get their heads around the fact that there is a single category and the teacher is responsible for all pupils, including those identified with SEN. The current system, which has been in place for many years, often relied on SENCO support for School Action children and the involvement of external support for School Action Plus.”

A new landscape

“The new approach will see the old process disappear and everything will come back to the class teacher.

“The new response is likely to be something like this:

  • Those who are not making sufficient progress through high quality teaching should receive internal support.
  • The SENCO and the school will need to make their own decision and if they require external support then they may need to fund this from their school budget.
  • Many LAs are now only able to provide very limited free support to schools.
  • Schools will still need to keep robust records of their children with SEN. This is an ideal opportunity to put in place an additional needs register to include all children in setting with an additional need one of which is SEN.”

A new system

“There is a tendency for schools to latch onto the systems that have informed their work in the past. It’s an understandable response, but schools need to recognise the need for new systems that can be shown to be working.”

Different schools; different systems

  • “Individual Education Plans (IEPs) have never been statutory and they are not mentioned anywhere in the new Code. If a school is setting effective targets for all children, then they will also be doing the same for children with SEN. In this instance, they can probably do away with IEPs for additional targets.
  • However, in sharp contrast, some schools may find that IEPs are particularly effective for the teachers of the most vulnerable children.”

Freedom within a framework

“It’s about simple systems and what works for each school. They’re going to be told what they need to do, but not how to do it.

“Schools and colleges will need to:

  • Think about the ‘How to’ themselves.
  • Work together with other schools across their LA, so that they can compare, share, contrast and implement best practice.

“In short: if it works, carry it on, if it doesn’t, stop.”

Key resources

SEND Pathfinder Information Packs: these introductory information packs draw together key emerging principles and case study learning from the pathfinder programme to support other areas to prepare to implement the SEND reforms themselves.

The Children and Families Act 2014: you can read the complete legislation here.

The SEND Practitioner (Issue one): features 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.


What are your final words for SEND practitioners as they prepare for the next staging posts in this journey?

“There are lots of opportunities, because schools will have the flexibility to manage the systems within a broad framework. If schools can embrace this freedom, then life should be better for all concerned. If we can support our teachers to really understand what differentiation and personalisation mean, then we will have the resources to really meet the needs of those youngsters who need additional support because the majority will have their needs met in the classroom.

“Here lies our biggest opportunity. It’s not about reducing numbers, because we may still have the same number of children identified with SEN. Instead, we will have teachers who are better able to support the teaching and learning of the majority of those in the classroom. This will free up additional capacity, enabling SENCOs to target specific things for specific children. So, those children with more complex and difficult conditions will be able to receive targeted interventions such as one-to-one and speech and language therapy.

“It’s a time of great opportunity and yet it’s a long journey that we’ve been on since 2011. It will probably be 2016–2017 before we start to see the fruits of this. However, in the long term, I really do feel that it will be better for our children.”

Lorraine Petersen OBE

From 2004–2013, Lorraine was the CEO of nasen. Prior to that, she held a number of teaching posts within mainstream schools in Sandwell, West Midlands – completing 25 years of teaching as the head teacher of two very diverse primary schools. Since November 2013, she has been working as an independent consultant supporting schools, local authorities and academy chains to successfully implement the proposed SEN legislative changes. In 2009, she was awarded an OBE for services to education.

Read Lorraine Petersen’s blog.

If you have any questions about the Children and Families Act 2014, or there is anything that you would like us to feature in future issues of The SEND Practitioner, please do get in touch.