This guidance is relevant to all schools and colleges in England, and those with responsibility for the education of disabled children and young people, and those with special educational needs (SEN).
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 (COP) provides statutory guidance on duties, policies and procedures relating to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (the Act) and associated regulations, and applies to England. It came into force in September 2014 and was last revised in January 2015.
Schools and colleges have a transition period until April 2018 to fully implement Education Health and Care (EHC) plans. The changes in respect of students currently covered by School Action and School Action Plus were complete by September 2015. The transitional arrangements to facilitate the transfer of those with statements to EHC plans, are set out in a statutory transitional order and accompanied by transitional guidance Transition to the new 0 to 25 years special educational needs and disability system (the link to this document and the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years document referred to above are provided in Further information at the end of this paper).
The code reflects good practice in many mainstream schools and colleges. The key principle that underpins the code is that SEN provision affects all staff; Nasen advises schools and colleges to start with the question “Are we an inclusive community?”
The COP makes clear that in carrying out their functions under the Act in relation to disabled children and young people and those with SEN, local authorities must have regard to:
the views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person, and the child’s parents
the importance of the child or young person, and the child’s parents, participating as fully as possible in decisions, and being provided with the information and support necessary to enable participation in those decisions
the need to support the child or young person, and the child’s parents, in order to facilitate the development of the child or young person and to help them achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes, preparing them effectively for adulthood
The definitions of SEN remain the same but the code is clear that behavioural difficulties should not automatically lead to pupils being identified as having SEN and extends the definition to young people up to the age of 25.
There is a strong focus on progress, embedding a culture of high expectations for all as well as a greater focus on the views and decision making role of young people and parents and on a successful transition to adulthood.
The role of the local authority and the local offer
The local authority (LA) has a duty to coordinate a ‘local offer’ of all SEN services in the area and to provide information, advice and support, including information on the statutory assessment process.
0-25 Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans for young people with more complex needs
EHC plans will replace statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments over three years. The legal test for an EHC plan remains the same as for a statement and there are new duties on education, health and social care to jointly plan and commission support.
Parents and young people over 16 with an EHC plan can request a personal budget for part of their support; such provision to be specified in the EHC plan.
Parents and young people over 16 can request a particular school or college to be named in the EHC plan. The LA must comply unless the institution is unsuitable or incompatible with the efficient education of others, or the efficient use of resources
All other young people with SEN have ‘additional SEN needs’
This change came into force in September 2015 and replaces School Action and School Action Plus. The code outlines a ‘graduated approach’ formed of four actions (assess, plan, do, review), to ensure effective support through decisions that are revisited and refined. There should be a clear set of expected outcomes, which include academic and developmental targets, and provision should be accurately recorded. Teachers remain responsible for progress.
Differentiated teaching, performance management and professional development
The code says the first response to pupils who have or may have SEN is high-quality, differentiated teaching. It advises schools and colleges to make the quality of teaching and progress for pupils with SEN, a core part of the performance management and professional development for all teaching and support staff and to build the identification of SEN into the overall approach to monitoring progress and development of all pupils. Schools and colleges should regularly review the quality of teaching for pupils at risk of underachievement and their teachers’ understanding of strategies to identity and support SEN.
Progress: involving parents and pupils
A teacher with a good understanding of the young person, supported by the SENCO, should meet parents at least termly to set clear goals, to review progress made and identify the responsibilities of the parent, pupil and school. The code suggests that schools and colleges ensure that teachers are supported to manage these conversations as part of their professional development.