Get to grips with the SEN Green Paper
The long-awaited Green Paper ‘Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability' contains a raft of proposals which aim to improve outcomes for youngsters with SEN and/or disability (SEND), minimise the adversarial nature of the system for families and maximise value for money.
The paper has taken on board many of the findings of recent reports such as those by Brian Lamb and John Bercow, and has been informed by hundreds of people working with and caring for disabled children and children with SEN. The DFE received 1,800 responses to their ‘Call for Views' last year, 40% of which were from parents.
The result is a sound appreciation of the shortcomings of the current system: too unwieldy and bureaucratic; stressful for all concerned; costly, and inefficient in meeting the wide-ranging needs of children and their families.
The document runs to 128 pages (the DFE would do well to begin its ‘reduction of bureaucracy' by producing more succinct and less repetitive documentation), and includes the following sections:
- Early identification and assessment
- Giving parents control
- Learning and achieving
- Preparing for adulthood
- Services working together for families
- Next steps
- Consultation questions
- How to get involved
Some of the main proposals are outlined for you below, but the full document contains more detail and case studies, as well as some important questions for readers. The consultation will run to 30 June.
Download the full report.
As it stands, the Green Paper is strong on the ‘what', but weak on the ‘how', placing heavy reliance on the ‘pathfinders' who will test out key changes from September.
Key features of the Green Paper
Dispensing with ‘School Action', ‘School Action Plus' and statements of SEN
A new, single, school-based SEN category will be established for ‘children whose needs exceed what is normally available in school'. This may be a means of addressing the situation reported by Ofsted of schools ‘over-identifying' children as having SEN. Will it perhaps result in a move back to a 2% cohort rather than Warnock's 20%? Might it result in schools becoming more accountable for the provision of ‘quality first teaching' and effective personalisation in the classroom? IEPs are out!
A ‘new, single assessment process' and ‘education, health and care plan' will replace the current system of formal assessment and the issuing of a statement by 2014. On the face of it, this would seem to offer little change in some cases, though it should reduce the number of separate assessments currently administered to children with multiple and complex needs (the Council for Disabled Children estimates that on average, a disabled child experiences 32 assessments). This will provide the same statutory protection to parents as the statement of SEN, but be a more streamlined and quicker process. There is as yet no detail about how to address the challenge of bringing together professionals from different disciplines, or how to organise the funding for multi-agency interventions. But there is an intention to use the voluntary and community sector to ‘introduce more independence to the process'.
The Code of Practice is to be updated and simplified.
New funding arrangements
It's encouraging to see an appreciation of the stress to parents involved in caring for SEND children - and the additional costs. The Green Paper sets out some sensible proposals for reducing stress and ‘spending to save' in the long term (eg funding short breaks for carers). The Family Fund Trust will help low-income families with severely disabled children.
There is concern, however, about the pupil premium. This funding will only address the needs of those young people from disadvantaged backgrounds (in receipt of free school meals) not all of whom will have SEN. What about those who are identified as having SEN but are not in receipt of free school meals?
It remains unclear how the personal budget option will work for parents. What will happen if the child's current provision costs more than the budget allocated to parents? What about transport costs? There is still a long way to go in sorting out these and other funding issues: ‘By June, we will also invite expressions of interest from local authorities to join the existing Individual Budget Pilots from September 2011 and test how the scope of personal budgets might be increased to reflect the wide range of support in an "Education, Health and Care Plan"; in particular, to identify the costs of providing funding in this way, the cost of provision, and the cost of supporting parents properly and appropriately...We will work with local authorities and other partners to test a system of banded funding to bring about greater transparency of funding and to compliment the work on personal budgets.'
Parents will have more say in the provision for their children with SEND
More information, clearly set out, is promised for parents; ‘creating a map' of provision and helping them to understand their options. The Green Paper promises to ‘remove the bias towards inclusion' and strengthen parental choice in which school their children attend - mainstream, special, academies or free schools. The caveat is that parents should have their preferred choice ‘unless it would not meet the needs of the child, be incompatible with the efficient education of other children, or be an inefficient use of resources'... no change there then!
Better training for teachers, headteachers and TAs
Recently highlighted gaps in teachers' initial training in supporting children with SEND have led to plans to provide a stronger focus on this in the standards for QTS. There will be more training placements in special schools, a boost to CPD at advanced level, and scholarships for teachers. The NPQH programme will include better coverage of SEND and the National College will also provide training for the chairs of governing bodies on fulfilling their responsibilities in relation to pupils with SEND.
There will be an additional year's funding for the Award for SEN Coordination. SENCOs will need to play a leading role in implementing all of the new guidance and the Green Paper reminds schools that the ‘relationship between the SENCO and the senior management team... is critical to the effectiveness of this pivotal role'.
The contribution made by TAs to the support of children with SEND is acknowledged, but alongside the reminder that this should not be a substitute for teaching from a qualified teacher: ‘too often, the most vulnerable pupils are supported almost exclusively by teaching assistants...this practice is not acceptable. Children with SEN need more, not less time with the school's most skilled and qualified teachers.'
Detailed plans will be set out by the end of the year, forming the basis of any necessary legislative changes to be taken forward from May 2012.