Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan – SEN Reform
Here is my take on the contents of the report released. Apart from the fact an improvement plan is not usually presented as prose across 101 pages of waffle, it’s not always easy to extract what is being said. There are some areas I skirted over. At the end of the day, I’m a SENCO, I want to know what directly impacts me and whilst there are some great swathes of information about short-breaks and Health changes, quite honestly, I don’t have the brain space to accommodate those as well as anything else at the moment. There are not massive changes from the version released in March last year, if anything it’s been watered down. I know it’s been positively received in many sectors, and maybe I’m getting a little cynical in my old age, but I read sections thinking about my local schools and wondering whether the authors had ever set foot in any of them. Don’t get me wrong – I’m for inclusion! But when we have 8 or 9 year olds working below Nursery level, pre-verbal, requiring intimate care and the local special schools are saying, “we can’t meet need”, how is it inclusion to throw them at the local mainstream?
I fundamentally disagree with the effective downgrading of the NASENCO to the NPQ. OK, the NASENCO isn’t fit for purpose, but the NPQ probably won’t be either and as a dumbed down version presented at a lower level, that’s worrying. Let’s get SENCOs access to legal information, training on specific needs, information on how to manage large teams (and conflict)…then we might have something workable. And the big thing missing? No mention of the SENCO being on the SLT...although, I presume we are to assume that the greater level of training for senior leaders will ensure the ‘voice of SEN’ permeates through. Like the funding, I’m not going to hold my breath.
On a positive note, I look forward to the national standards. I mean, if they’re decent documents then they could reduce a whole barrow-load of bureaucracy. If they’re reminiscent of certain other productions then that’s another story.
Onto my summary of the information then.
Not so much a change but some interesting data.
P19-20 (paragraph 17) of the report highlights some interesting data regarding the academic achievement of SEN students. According to the report, only a small percentage of SEN students are reaching expected standards in core subjects such as English and mathematics. Furthermore, the report acknowledges that for some SEN students, reaching the ‘national standard’ may not be an appropriate aim.
Chapter 2 – National Standards
On page 22, paragraph 3, it is stated that the requirements of children should be fulfilled by the existing resources available in high-quality mainstream education. This must be done without the necessity of an Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) to obtain the required assistance.
On page 23, paragraph 4, there are references to the school’s white paper and the enhanced anticipations for inclusive mainstream education in schools.
Page 23, paragraph 5 highlights the significance of early years in recognising the requirements of individuals and the contribution of Further Education (FE) in equipping them for adulthood.
Page 23, paragraph 6 emphasises the importance of identifying needs earlier, more precisely, and more consistently. This enables targeted support to be provided to address the specific requirements of individuals.
On page 24, in paragraph 7, there is a mention of alternative provision being used as an intervention rather than a final solution or destination. This means that alternative provision should not be viewed as a permanent destination for individuals who struggle in mainstream education.
On page 26, in paragraph 11, there is clarification on what the national standards will include. Specifically, it details the evidence-based support that will be made available, who will be responsible for providing this support, and which budget will be allocated to fund it.
The national standards will consist of a range of evidence-based interventions and support mechanisms designed to improve educational outcomes for students. These may include access to specialised teaching resources, additional learning materials, and targeted professional development opportunities for teachers.
It will be the responsibility of educational institutions and local authorities to make these provisions available to their students. This includes ensuring that teachers and other educational professionals have the necessary training and resources to deliver effective interventions and support to those who require it.
In terms of funding, it is expected that the national standards will be supported by existing educational budgets, with additional funding made available where necessary. This will enable schools and other educational institutions to access the resources they need to deliver high-quality education to all students, regardless of their individual needs or circumstances.
Page 27, paragraph 13 discusses how the standards for educational provisions will be supported by education legislation, and the role of Ofsted in ensuring compliance.
On page 27, in paragraph 14, there is discussion about the adaptations that may need to be made to educational environments to ensure that all students can access the support they need. It also outlines the role that Local Authorities (LAs) will play in supporting these adaptations.
Adaptations to the physical environment may be necessary to ensure that students with disabilities or additional needs can access educational resources and participate fully in the learning experience. For example, ramps may need to be installed to provide wheelchair access, or sensory rooms may need to be created to support students with sensory processing difficulties.
LAs will be required to support these adaptations by providing funding and guidance to schools and other educational institutions. They will also be responsible for ensuring that these adaptations comply with relevant health and safety regulations.
Page 28, paragraph 16 discusses an amended version of the SEND Code of Practice (CoP) that will incorporate the new National Standards for educational provisions.
The SEND CoP provides guidance to schools and local authorities on how to support children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). The amended version of the CoP will include the new National Standards for educational provisions, ensuring that schools and local authorities have clear and up-to-date guidance on how to deliver effective support to students who require additional assistance.
The updated CoP will provide detailed information on the evidence-based interventions and support mechanisms that schools, and local authorities can use to improve educational outcomes for students with SEND. It will also outline the roles and responsibilities of schools, local authorities, and other stakeholders in delivering these interventions and support mechanisms.
In addition, the amended CoP will provide guidance on how to implement the adaptations to educational environments that may be necessary to ensure that all students can access the support they need.
On page 28, paragraph 17 discusses a suite of SEND and AP practice guides that will be developed to support the implementation of the National Standards. These guides will focus on specific areas of need, including Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN), Autism, and Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH).
The SEND and AP practice guides will provide detailed information on evidence-based interventions and support mechanisms that can be used to support students with a range of needs. They will be designed to support teachers, school leaders, and other educational professionals in delivering high-quality support to students who require additional assistance.
It is expected that there will be a gradual movement towards implementing the new National Standards from Spring 2023. This means that schools and local authorities will begin to implement the new standards over a period, rather than all at once.
The suite of SEND and AP practice guides, which includes the guides for SLCN, Autism, and SEMH, will be made available by the end of 2025. These guides will provide educators with detailed information on evidence-based interventions and support mechanisms that can be used to support students with a range of needs.
On page 31, paragraph 30 provides a focus on the role of local authorities and Alternative Provision (AP) in supporting students with additional needs. Local authorities have a key responsibility to ensure that all students in their area have access to high-quality education and support, including those who require alternative provision.
AP can play a valuable role in supporting students who are struggling in mainstream education, providing tailored and individualized support that meets their specific needs. Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that AP is available and accessible to all students who require it, regardless of their individual needs or circumstances.
Paragraph 34 (page 33) – offers some financial suggestions.
Post 16 provision and wrap around care are also mentioned (as these are less focussed on the SENCO role, I’ve skipped those paragraphs!)
On page 37, paragraph 49 provides some information on the standardisation and digitisation of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). While standardisation of EHCPs is encouraged, local authorities (LAs) will not be mandated to use a specific format. Additionally, digitisation of EHCPs will also be encouraged, but again, it will not be standardized.
The paragraph acknowledges that LAs have developed their own arrangements for EHCPs over time, based on the unique needs and characteristics of their local communities. Therefore, any changes to the EHCP process must be carefully considered and worked through to ensure that they are effective and appropriate for each individual community.
On page 38, paragraph 53 reiterates that LAs will not be mandated to use a standard format for EHCPs, but rather they will be encouraged to use a consistent approach that reflects the needs of their local communities. Digitisation will also be encouraged, but this will be at the discretion of individual LAs.
The right measures will be pursued to ensure that EHCPs are developed and implemented in a way that meets the needs of students with additional needs. The consultation on timescales for the implementation of the new EHCP processes is due to be released soon, providing further clarity on the expected timeline for these changes.
On page 38, paragraph 52 recognises that a standard EHCP template would be ideal for ensuring consistency and clarity in the EHCP process. However, it also acknowledges that each child’s needs are unique and may not fit neatly into a standard template. Therefore, any standardisation of EHCPs should not equate to standardisation of provision.
While digitisation of EHCPs is encouraged, local authorities (LAs) must meet certain conditions to ensure that the digitisation process is effective and appropriate. This includes ensuring that the system is user-friendly, accessible, and secure, and that it provides adequate support to both families and educational professionals.
Furthermore, digitisation must be accompanied by appropriate training and support for those who will be using the system. This will ensure that all stakeholders have the necessary skills and knowledge to use the system effectively and to make the best decisions for each individual child.
On page 40, paragraph 65 reignites the conversation about providing lists of options to parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Parents have the right to be involved in the decision-making process regarding their child’s education, including decisions around EHCPs and alternative provision. Providing lists of options can help to ensure that parents are fully informed about the range of available options and can make the best decisions for their child.
However, it is important to recognise that simply providing a list of options may not be sufficient. Parents may require additional support and guidance to navigate the complex educational landscape and make informed decisions.
Therefore, any lists of options provided to parents should be accompanied by appropriate support and guidance from educational professionals. This may include information on the pros and cons of each option, guidance on how to access different services and support mechanisms, and support for navigating the EHCP process.
Paragraph 70 (page 41) – a discussion on the funding available – sorry, until I see this physically manifest and not be subsumed into other things or deducted from other school funding sources.
Chapter 3 – Transition and PfA
Chapter 3 of the document focuses on transitions and preparing students with additional needs for adulthood. Within this chapter, there are several important paragraphs to note.
Paragraph 4 on page 44 reiterates the importance of planning for transitions early in a student’s education. It notes that deadlines for transitions are often missed, which can have negative consequences for students as they move into adulthood. Therefore, it is crucial that educators and other professionals involved in a student’s education begin planning for transitions as early as possible, to ensure a smooth and successful transition to adulthood.
Paragraph 14 on page 47 considers the qualifications framework and post-16 adaptations. While it acknowledges that there may be room for improvement in this area, it also notes that some adaptations are being made to ensure that students with additional needs have access to appropriate qualifications and support as they move into adulthood.
Paragraph 17 on page 48 looks specifically at preparing students with additional needs for employment using Person-Centred Planning and other tools. This includes providing students with opportunities for work experience, developing their vocational skills, and working with employers to create job opportunities for students with additional needs. The paragraph emphasizes the importance of considering each student’s individual needs and strengths when planning for their transition into employment.
Chapter 4 – Skilled Workforce
Chapter 4 of the document focuses on the importance of having a skilled workforce to effectively support students with additional needs. Within this chapter, there are several important paragraphs to note.
Paragraph 6 on page 54 highlights the use of the school’s white paper to upscale and upskill the teaching workforce. This includes providing additional training and professional development opportunities to educators, as well as promoting a culture of continuous learning and improvement. By investing in the skills and knowledge of the teaching workforce, we can ensure that students with additional needs have access to high-quality education and support.
Paragraph 9 on page 55 looks specifically at improving Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and Early Career Framework (ECF) programs. This includes ensuring that these programs provide appropriate training and support for educators working with students with additional needs. By improving the quality of ITT and ECF programs, we can ensure that new educators are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to support students with additional needs.
Paragraph 11 on page 55 emphasizes the importance of ongoing training and professional development for educators. This includes training provided by organisations such as the National Association of Special Educational Needs (NASEN), as well as other professional development opportunities. By providing ongoing training and support, we can ensure that educators are equipped with the latest knowledge and tools to effectively support students with additional needs.
Paragraph 13 on page 55 contains an exciting piece of information about the greater use of assistive technology in supporting students with additional needs.
Assistive technology can play a valuable role in supporting students with additional needs by providing them with access to tools and resources that can help them to learn and communicate effectively. By increasing the use of assistive technology, we can ensure that students have access to the tools they need to reach their full potential.
This increased use of assistive technology is part of a broader effort to improve support for students with additional needs and ensure that they have access to high-quality education and support. By leveraging the latest advances in technology, we can create new opportunities and possibilities for students with additional needs and help them to succeed in their academic and personal lives.
Overall, paragraph 13 is an exciting indication of the commitment to improving support for students with additional needs and leveraging the latest technologies to achieve this goal. By embracing assistive technology and other innovative tools and resources, we can create a more inclusive and equitable education system that serves the needs of all students.
Paragraph 15 on page 56 acknowledges the important role played by teaching assistants (TAs) in supporting students with additional needs. TAs often work closely with students and provide valuable support in a range of areas, including academic work, communication, and socialisation. The paragraph emphasises the importance of ensuring that TAs are properly trained and equipped to support students with additional needs, and that their role is valued and recognized within the education system.
Paragraph 18 on page 56 discusses the use of targeted programs to support students with additional needs. These programs include national tutoring, 1:1 and small group SEND support, and resources such as the Oak National Academy. By providing targeted support to students with additional needs, we can help them to achieve their full potential and overcome any challenges they may face.
Paragraphs 19-22 on page 57 focus on the role of the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) and proposed changes to the National Award for SEN Coordination (NASENCO).
The NASENCO is currently a mandatory qualification for all new SENCOs, designed to provide them with the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively support students with additional needs. However, there have been concerns about the effectiveness of the qualification, as well as the time and cost involved in obtaining it.
As a result, the government is proposing changes to the NASENCO, including reducing it to an NPQ (National Professional Qualification) and changing the timeframe for obtaining the qualification. These changes would apply to both new SENCOs and those who qualified by experience prior to 2009.
The proposed changes are designed to make it easier for educators to obtain the necessary qualifications and skills to effectively support students with additional needs. By streamlining the process and reducing the time and cost involved, the government hopes to encourage more educators to take on the role of SENCO and ensure that all students have access to high-quality support.
My personal concern is that currently it is possible to attain the NASENCO without being in position or even in a job (provided you can work ‘with’ a school)…the NPQ requires employment.
Paragraph 24 on page 58 focuses on the importance of improving SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) leadership at all levels within the education system. This includes not only SENCOs, but also headteachers, governors, and other education leaders.
By improving SEND leadership at all levels, we can ensure that students with additional needs have access to high-quality education and support, and that their needs are properly considered and addressed. This includes promoting a culture of inclusion and equity within schools and providing appropriate training and professional development opportunities to education leaders.
The paragraph also mentions the proposed introduction of a National Professional Qualification in Early Years (EY) leadership, which would include a focus on SEND leadership. This would help to ensure that education leaders working in early years settings have the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively support young children with additional needs.
Paragraph 26 on page 59 highlights the need for increased numbers of Early Years (EY) qualifications that focus on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). This includes a review of the Early Years Educator (EYE) qualification to ensure that it includes a focus on SEND, as well as the introduction of additional EY qualifications that specifically address the needs of children with additional needs.
By increasing the availability of EY qualifications that focus on SEND, we can ensure that early year’s settings have the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively support young children with additional needs. This can help to promote early intervention and support and improve outcomes for children with additional needs.
Paragraph 31 on page 60 focuses on additional qualifications within Further Education (FE), specifically for educators working with students with additional needs.
Paragraph 39 on page 61 outlines a plan to train an additional 400 Educational Psychologists (EPs). EPs play a critical role in supporting students with additional needs, including conducting assessments, providing recommendations for support, and working with schools and families to develop effective strategies. By training additional EPs, we can ensure that more students have access to high-quality support and that their needs are properly considered and addressed.
Paragraph 42 on page 61 focuses on improving access to support for students with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). This includes promoting early identification of SLCN, providing appropriate training and support for educators, and ensuring that students have access to specialist services and resources as needed. By improving access to SLCN support, we can help students to develop the communication skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Paragraph 46 on page 62 highlights the importance of improving access to specialist teachers for students with sensory impairments. This includes providing appropriate training and support for these teachers, as well as ensuring that students have access to the resources and technologies they need to support their learning. By improving access to specialist teachers, we can ensure that students with sensory impairments have access to high-quality education and support that meets their unique needs.
The chapter on healthcare reforms includes several paragraphs focused on improving support for students with additional needs in areas such as mental health and social care.
Paragraph 59 on page 66 highlights the importance of improving access to mental health support services for students with additional needs. This includes providing appropriate training and support for educators, as well as ensuring that students have access to specialist services and resources as needed. By improving access to mental health support, we can help students to manage their mental health and well-being and support them in achieving their academic and personal goals.
Paragraph 68 on page 67 focuses on the expansion of Alternative Provision (AP) support, which provides alternative education and support for students who are unable to attend mainstream schools due to a range of factors. By expanding AP support, we can ensure that students with additional needs have access to high-quality education and support that meets their unique needs and circumstances.
The chapter also includes a section of information about social care support, highlighting the importance of providing appropriate support and resources for students with additional needs and their families.
Chapter 5 – Strengthened accountabilities and redress
Chapter 5 focuses on strengthened accountabilities and redress in the education system, with several paragraphs outlining specific proposals and initiatives.
Paragraph 3 on page 71 proposes the creation of a national and local inclusion database, which would provide information on the needs and circumstances of students with additional needs. The fact that the inclusion database is being rolled out before many of the other initiatives in the paper has led some to question the priorities of the government.
Paragraph 11 on page 73 outlines proposals for strengthening accountability through inspections.
Paragraph 20 on page 77 focuses on improving the mediation and SEND tribunal processes, which are designed to provide redress for families who are dissatisfied with the support their children are receiving. By improving these processes, we can ensure that families have access to fair and effective means of resolving disputes and obtaining the support they need for their children.
Paragraph 23 on page 77 places greater emphasis on the responsibilities of schools under the Equalities Act (2010).
Finally, paragraph 78 on page 78 highlights the importance of oversight for pupil movement, especially for students without Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). By monitoring pupil movement and ensuring that all students have access to appropriate support and resources, we can help to promote positive outcomes and improve the quality of life for students with additional needs.
Chapter 6 – Financially Stable
Chapter 6 focuses on financial stability within the education system, with several paragraphs outlining proposals for improving funding for students with additional needs.
Paragraph 4 on page 82 proposes an increase in funding for students with Special Educational Needs (SEN). By increasing funding for SEN, we can ensure that students with additional needs have access to the support and resources they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Paragraph 6 on page 83 reintroduces the concept of a “safety valve system”.
Paragraph 11 on page 84 proposes a national framework of banding and tariffs, which would ensure that similar types of support attract similar levels of funding. While there is recognition that there may be local variation in the provision of support, the framework would help to ensure greater consistency and equity in funding across the country.
Paragraph 18 on page 85 proposes the standardisation of notional budgets and national formula funding, with an indicative SEND budget given directly to schools. While this would help to provide greater clarity and transparency around funding, the report does not go far enough to state that funding will be ringfenced for students with additional needs.
Finally, paragraph 26 on page 87 highlights the importance of ensuring that funding tariffs and bands apply to the independent sector as well. By ensuring that all education providers are held accountable for providing appropriate support and resources for students with additional needs, we can help to promote positive outcomes and improve the quality of life for these students.