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Education Update November 2019

12th November 2019

The Education Reforms in England - 5 years on

You may have noticed Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in the news recently with headlines about a SEND Crisis, a lack of funding and children with or without SEND suffering from cutbacks in schools. The House of Commons Education Select Committee launched a formal inquiry into SEND 18 months ago and their latest report was published this half term, showing how the 2014 SEND reforms have worked out in England.

“Education Committee blasts Department for Education (DfE) Local Authorities (LAs) and Ofsted over multiple SEND failures,” said one headline in a report by Special Needs Jungle at the end of October.

The Education Select Committee said, “we are confident that the 2014 reforms were the right ones,” so let’s look at the reforms.

The education reforms in England are outlined in the Children and Families Act of 2014, which replaced the old system of statutory Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN) 5 years ago. Most children with additional needs will receive a SEN Support Plan in an education setting. The SEN Support process of Assess, Plan, Do, Review will be used to assess each child’s needs and to support each child to maintain expected progress. The SEN Support Plan is sometimes called a My Plan in some parts of England and the provision is flexible. About 12% of all children and young people will have SEN Support Plans.

A child with more complex needs, preventing them from gaining full access to education, would need an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment. Section 20 of the Children and Families Act (CAFA 2014) states that an EHC Needs Assessment should be provided if a child has a “learning difficulty or disabilities calling for SEN provision.” Many children with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus will have learning difficulties and disabilities about which there is no ambiguity. Many children with either or both conditions will also experience “significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of pupils,” according to the Act.

 If the child’s “disability prevents or hinders making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others in mainstream schools” then provision needs to be in place for a pupil with a physical and cognitive disability to have a full education by removing barriers to learning. 3% of all children and young people will have an EHC Plan.

New parents may find planning their child’s SEND support rather daunting but there are many opportunities for guidance through this process. Shine provides specialist advice and support about spina bifida and hydrocephalus across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Shine has a team of support and development workers (SDWs), early intervention workers and education advisers to help you. There is an EHC Needs Assessment timeline on our website to show you the steps along the way to gaining an EHC Plan to fulfil your child’s additional needs.

As well as providing specialist support, Shine advises families to contact your local SEND Information Advice Support Service (IASS) to help you through the process. You can find out how to contact your local IASS by going to your local authority website to look for your Local Offer and your IASS team, formerly known as the Parent Partnership.

EHC needs assessment timeline

Shine can help by giving specific advice to professionals, such as SENCos in schools and SEN teams, by explaining the effects of spina bifida and hydrocephalus on learning and by offering classroom strategies in an education setting. Later in the year, Shine will be providing more Hydrocephalus and Learning seminars across England and other events are being scheduled too.

There are more advice services available from Contact for families with disabled children, who have a government funded helpline for general questions. There is also IPSEA, The Independent Provider of Special Education Advice for expert legal advice. SOS SEN runs a series of workshops around England to help parents to understand the EHC Needs Assessment process in general terms.

Returning to the report of the Education Select Committee, there were demands for “quick and decisive action.” The report went on to say that there is a need for, “a systematic cultural shift on the part of all parties involved.”

Shine members in Wales are awaiting the Additional Learning Needs reforms in 2020 and Northern Ireland families are yet to experience the planned SEN reforms. Shine is ready to help with these changes as they happen by explaining the conditions to professionals and how best to support children and young people with their learning for positive outcomes.

Have your say

If you wish to add your voice to improving SEND services then the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) has given families of disabled children a chance to have their say on their experiences of SEND provision in this stakeholder survey, asking for your reflections on the SEND reforms in England. The results of this survey will be shared with the Department for Education and could influence policy decisions in future. Click here to complete the survey


Read an article from the BBC on this topic here.

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