There is no doubt, there are some big changes coming. ‘Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability’ (March 2011) is a consultation document on proposals for the provision of SEN in schools. It includes some quite radical changes including a major overhaul of the SEN Code of Practice.
Other key suggestions include:
- A single assessment process to construct the ‘Education, Health and Care Plan’ which will replace statutory assessment and statementing
- A greater role for the voluntary and community sectors
- Single, flexible assessment in child protection cases
- That there will be a simple, short non-statutory pro-forma for annual review reporting
- Changes to school performance information
- Removal of the bias towards inclusion with the prevention of the unnecessary closure of special schools
- The Achievement for All programme to be more widely adopted with increased emphasis on teacher knowledge and awareness
- School Action and School Action Plus to be replaced by one category
- Local ‘Health and Well-being boards’ to be developed
More information about the SEN Green paper can be accessed through our Leadership Briefings.
However, many of these suggestions are still very much at the pilot stage with some pathfinder authorities trialling different elements. The timescale is quite lengthy. The personal budgets are not expected to be implemented until 2014. A long time to wait to review your SEN policy.
There are some changes, however, that are likely to be implemented a long time before then. For example, the government is keen to shorten the current statutory assessment process from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. This will mean that the time local authorities have to decide whether to assess a child will be reduced by half and assessment and drafting of the statement should be reduced from 12 to nine weeks.
My advice would be, review your policy but keep in mind that it is likely to need a complete overhaul over the next academic year. In other words, keep you major review until then but make sure what you have reflects your current policy now. If you can there are some general themes and recommendations that you should be including if you can:
- Consider carefully the way in which you deploy your teaching assistants – make sure that groups of SEN pupils receive as much, if not more, teacher time
- Make sure your lessons are well differentiated – it’s the quality of teaching and learning in classes that is key to ensuring that children never get as far as School Action
- Make sure you collect evidence of the effectiveness of interventions that you run and that you know ‘what works’
- Check that your expectations of pupils with SEN are sufficiently high and that you track their progress carefully.
- Remember pupils do not have to have an IEP – inspectors are being reminded of this and it is perhaps a good time to consider if there is a better way of setting targets and identifying support for your school
The SEN Green Paper did announce that there would be guidance on what a school’s SEN policy should include. However, if you ensure that you have taken these points into consideration and included them somewhere in your policy then you will be well prepared for whatever the final changes to SEN practice will be.