TSP Briefing
Issue 6
Aug 2014

Issue six: The SEND Practitioner

The SEND Practitioner
Issue six 
When September comes – a few final words on preparing for SEN reform

August 2014
A Q&A with Natalie Packer  with key quotes from previous contributors


The time has come, the holidays are drawing to a close and every town, village and city echoes with the urgent bustle of August’s last hurrah. After a long and lovely summer, September is almost here. And yet, this isn’t just any old September. For many a teacher, parent and pupil, this is a September to trump all other Septembers a September defined by some of the most seismic reforms to education in recent memory.

So, as you linger in the shadows of the ‘back to school’ feeling that always casts shade this time of year, we hope to shed light on what you should do and what you should expect when September comes. To that end, and to allay your fears, we are delighted to feature a Q&A with author and education expert Natalie Packer. Not only that, we have trawled through the past five issues of The SEND Practitioner to bring you a ‘pep talk’ of expert quotes to spur you on into September and beyond.

The new school year is always an exciting and daunting time, but it’s also one that offers real opportunity. We wish you the best of luck for the new academic year and hope that this helps you on your way.

If you have any thoughts, queries, comments or concerns, please do get in touch.

Kind regards,

Edward Farrow

PS: If you do not currently subscribe to this publication, but would like to receive it in your in box every month, please do sign up. Also, if you want to receive the latest updates on SEN and The SEND Practitioner, follow us on Twitter.

In this issue:

Key resources

A Q&A with Natalie Packer: A few final words on preparing for SEN reform

Key quotes from experts who we have featured in previous issues

About the author

 Key resources

A Q&A with Natalie Packer 
A few final words on preparing for SEN reform
What key impacts will the SEN reforms have on each SENCO’s setting and role?

“First, and foremost, the role will shift from an operational one to a strategic one. SENCOs will need to make sure that they take these steps:

  • Work with the senior leadership team to develop or refine their school vision for SEN.
  • Monitor what’s happening.
  • Coordinate provision.
  • Provide professional development for other members of staff to ensure that teachers can meet the needs of all pupils within the Code of Practice.
  • Make sure that members of staff have the appropriate attitude, knowledge and skills to fulfil their responsibilities towards pupils with SEN.

“They will also have the following key impacts:

  • Require schools to review their SEN register and their setting’s definition of SEN – particularly as part of the transition from School Action/School Action Plus to SEN Support.
  • Compel schools to define Quality First teaching more clearly – the better the Quality First teaching, the fewer children should require additional provision through SEN Support.
  • Raise the overall quality of teaching and learning for pupils with SEN.
  • Motivate each SENCO to look at what is in place in schools that will help nurture strong working relationships with parents – to empower parents to make better decisions as a result of their closer involvement in the process.
  • Encourage some schools to revisit the most appropriate ways of reviewing plans with parents so that they are able to meet the requirements within the Code of Practice.
  • Promote the co-production of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) through a joined-up approach between parents, schools and other professionals.
  • Focus on an outcome-based approach that places the child and family at the centre.”

How can schools ensure a smooth transition?

“Schools need to really reflect on what SEN means to them. They need to have clear criteria as to what constitutes SEN and SEN Support and what it looks like. For example, some schools might not have reviewed their SEN register in the last few years and, as a result, may not have had a conversation about ‘what is SEN’ and ‘what is underachievement’? In this way, they might find that some of their children on School Action no longer require SEN Support and can be removed from the register. Of course, because the Code of Practice’s definition of SEN hasn’t changed, this shouldn’t apply to too many children.

“Also, in terms of records and management systems, each school needs to decide what is going to work best. This is because there will no longer be a distinction between School Action and School Action Plus. Despite this, schools may still want to retain a record if, for example, a particular child is still receiving external agency support.”

Come September, where will you start?

  • “Read the Code of Practice (particularly Chapter Six if you are a SENCO in a school) and identify the other sections that are most relevant to you and your setting.
  • Have a conversation with your school’s governors and senior management team to ensure they are up-to-date.
  • Publish your SEN information report on your school’s website, because there is a statutory requirement to do this.
  • As part of your ongoing strategic process, you will need to determine your school’s contribution to the local offer, and review your SEN policy.
  • Provide professional development to staff, so that they are up-to-date with the key changes.
  • Speak to parents – e.g. one-to-one, through a parent forum, or pre-arranged parents’ meetings – to ensure that they are clear about the changes and the impact on their child.
  • Review your SEN register (vis à vis the shift from School Action/School Action Plus to SEN Support).
  • As part of the ongoing transition, provide your staff with regular updates to make sure that they understand exactly what to expect and what is going on – particularly what Quality First teaching means – and support them to deliver the changes.
  • Finally, it is important that you engage with your local authority, to make sure that you are clear about the transition arrangements for prioritising children who are going to be moving from statements to plans in the first year.”

What is your main message to SENCOs?

“Don’t panic! Remember, 1 September is the start of the process. To that end, schools, local authorities and the DfE are all anticipating at least a three-year transition period. It’s an organic process, so we aren’t expected to do everything at once. Develop an action plan to help you prioritise.”

Do you have any closing comments?

“The nasen gateway is an absolutely essential resource that no SENCO should do without. Also, during the summer, I updated my book (The Perfect SENCO) to reflect the changes – so you might want to take a look at that too.”

Key quotes from experts who we have featured in previous issues
Over the past six months, we interviewed a range of high-profile experts across government, education and the third sector, to give you the best possible guidance and advice as September looms. With the day of reckoning only a few short days away, we wanted to feature a smattering of some of the finest quotes from each of those issues and each of the experts who we have spoken to.
Brian Lamb OBE (issue one)

“The Code of Practice is about a change in culture. It sees children with SEN as the school’s responsibility, delivering a personalised approach that recognises that they might need additional specialist support.”

Read the first issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Lorraine Petersen OBE (issue two)

“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.”

Read the second issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Stephen Kingdom (issue three)

“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.”

Read the third issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Steve Huggett (issue four)

“The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. It’s what we do about it – rather than what we say about it – that will be critical.”

Read the fourth issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Gareth D Morewood (issue five)

“There was a real need for change. However, some of the processes supporting the trials and development of the legislation could have been more effective. We can’t go back now but, as SENCOs, we can have a real impact on the future through our practice.”

Read the fifth issue of The SEND Practitioner.

About the author

Natalie is an independent education consultant, specialising in school improvement and SEN. She delivers a wide range of professional development packages for all school staff and is the author of The Perfect SENCO. Previously, she worked for the National Strategies SEN Team, supporting the implementation of Achievement for All to improve outcomes for SEN pupils. She has also worked as a local authority adviser for SEN and school improvement, has been a SENCO and has headship experience.

Visit Natalie’s website.

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, please do get in touch.

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