|Our SENCOs are concerned that children on the old School Action and Action Plus might get lost in the system. Under the new Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), how do we prevent this from happening?
“If schools know who their children with SEN are; know how they’re doing; know what support they’ve put in place to support those children; and know what impact that support is having; then they are doing all of the things that the new Code is expecting them to do. So, that support is still there and, where needed, schools will still have access to external agencies. The other thing that the Code emphasises is the importance of engaging and consulting with parents, so that parents understand their child’s needs and what support the school is putting in place.”
The new EHCP system places education first. Does that mean that educationalists, teachers and SENCOs will need to lead the way forward? Would it also become the teacher’s responsibility to contact outside agencies to coordinate and deliver the plan?
“The arrangements require local authorities and clinical commissioning groups in the health service to have agreed arrangements for how they work together and the joint commissioning of services. It should therefore be much clearer for schools and others about how agencies work together and how they access that additional support. The Children and Families Act doesn’t place new responsibilities on schools in terms of engaging with other agencies. Rather, it should make those arrangements for agencies working together much more transparent and much clearer.”
Some of our SENCOs are wondering, if the primary need was social care, would it actually be the social care part of the local authority (LA) that would then take the lead in the plan, or will it always be the LA’s SEN department taking the lead because of their responsibility for organising it?
“I think that different LAs may have different arrangements. It is important to say that the criteria for getting an EHCP are the same as the criteria for getting a statement. This means that the front door – the key point of contact – is education, and therefore often the SENCO – as it’s an educational need that triggers an EHCP. However, you would bring in other services, if it is clear that other services are required. So, if the social care need is the greatest part, then the LA might put more of that coordination into the social care element. But, ultimately, that is a decision for LAs.”
Some of our SENCOs are worried that more EP time will be taken to fulfil the EHCP assessments and to cover the wider age range. What can you say to assure them that there is enough EP time available in their schools?
“Again, this is an issue for LAs. They do have the statutory responsibility to carry out the assessments and to get the professional advice that’s needed to do that – say using EPs. Of course, with the up-to-25 age range extension, EP support may be needed over a larger age range. But, LAs will still have to put in place the support to support children. The local offer will set out what those services are with greater transparency and the government has agreed to put arrangements in place that support EP training to ensure that the flow of new EPs into the profession continues. We were aware of the concerns that the LAs might pull away from this type of funding so, prior to the Act but after the green paper, we took steps to secure the training of EPs.”
While all schools have a SENCO with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), many tell us that lots of non-qualified staff do much of the day-to-day role. Is it acceptable for the SENCO to delegate so much of the role under the new Code?
“Well, the SENCO has clear responsibilities under the Code, but it really depends on what you mean by ‘delegating the role’. Admin work is not the best use of a SENCO’s time, so delegating that sort of work is a good thing. However, SENCOs certainly shouldn’t delegate their expertise.”
Will the DfE give guidance on which criteria should be used by LAs to determine the level of notional SEN budgets for individual schools?
“The funding system changed last year, a change which was separate to the Children and Families Act 2014. We will continue to review how it’s operating as the Act is implemented. However, it is each LA’s duty to make sure that this happens. This is a local issue, whereby the LAs decide the budget and determine how that funding works for schools within the high needs funding national framework.”
Will it be the same mechanism used for academies and, to ensure parity, will the government be putting national criteria in place?
“We’re not working on national criteria at this stage. But, yes, an individual LA should be making those decisions on an institution-consistent basis across maintained schools and academies. Of course, that’s one reason for the changes to the funding system. We want a funding system that is consistent across mainstream schools and academies.”
Do all of these legislative changes apply to British services and independent schools overseas? If there are differences, can you shed light on the particulars?
“The legislation doesn’t apply to schools overseas, but Service Children Education (SCE) seeks to replicate the kind of arrangements that we have in this country. Colleagues of mine have been talking to them about that and taking them through the changes. The Code does include information about service children, particularly when service children are moving between areas and it’s about how LAs should support them in doing that.”
If teachers are now completely responsible for SEN in the classroom, does it make TAs redundant, or is there still a role for them in schools?
“No, there is very much a role for them in schools. However, their role is to support the teacher in supporting the child. By that, I am not saying that the child with the greatest needs in the class should be the responsibility of the adult in the class with the least professional experience. That responsibility is with the classroom teacher. But, we know that the best practice is when the teacher and the TA work as a team. There will still be a key role for TAs, but it’s about how they work in a way that supports the education and development of the child.”
How will the government make sure that teachers will be trained to meet the needs of SEN students by September 2014? Also, how confident are you that newly qualified teachers (NQTs) will be able to meet the needs of SEN students?
“This isn’t a big bang, a lot has been going on over time to help the teaching profession increase its capacity and capability to support children with SEN.
- There is a much stronger emphasis on SEN within initial teacher training.
- We are supporting the Teaching Schools Alliance to support schools.
- We’ve got special schools who are teaching schools and spreading their expertise.
- We have produced various impairment-specific training materials to increase awareness, understanding and competence with external organisations such as the Autism Education Trust.
- We have also recently confirmed another round of teaching scholarships for teachers to take further qualifications on supporting children with SEN.
“Ultimately, though, the responsibility for each teacher’s continuing professional development (CPD) is the responsibility of the school and this should be a key focus of each school’s work. The accountability system puts a real emphasis on the progress made by all pupils in a school. It is therefore imperative that schools are able to support all of their pupils. Nationally, just under 20% of children are identified as having SEN, this is a significant proportion of the pupil population and schools must ensure that their internal professional development programmes are addressing this.”