This is a copy of our submission to the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper Consultation.
What key factors should be considered, when developing national standards to ensure they deliver improved outcomes and experiences for children and young people with SEND and their families? This includes how this applies across education, health and care in a 0-25 system.
The National Standards must not be minimum standards, they must be aspirational. They must be coproduced with parent carers, children and young people and professionals from all agencies and there must be accountability across education, health and social care and this must be enforced. There is no point having standards if no one is holding systems to account. The Standards must include improved training for all across the system. There needs to be better initial teacher training on how to meet the needs of SEND children in the classroom, minimum levels of training for EHCP Officers (Plan Coordinators), and more consistent training regarding SEND for staff working in health and social care and other agencies. There must be mandatory SEND training for those who are in leadership roles. The standards should include maximum waiting times for services, assessments and delivery of services / support including the maximum waiting times between appointments. There should be standards outlining the Universal provision that includes standards for education settings on the support they are required to give around a CYP’s needs to prevent over reliance on specialist services. The standards must make it clear what SEN Support is, who should be on the SEN Register, what support should be given and how this should be progressed to an EHC Needs Assessment. SEN Support MUST be placed upon a statutory footing; SEN Support plans to set out needs, provision and outcomes. Standards must also focus on inclusion in all schools. The Ofsted framework should be linked to inclusion to promote early identification and early intervention as well as schools doing all they can to include SEND children and young people. A school must not be rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted if it is not being inclusive. There also needs to be a real focus on post-16 settings to improve inclusion, identification and intervention. Systems must be financed sufficiently to reach (and exceed these standards) including ring fenced funding for SEND including in the schools notional funding. There need to be standards outlining what schools must provide from notional funding and an accessible escalation process for parents to raise concerns if this is not being delivered.
How should we develop the proposal for new local SEND partnerships to oversee the effective development of local inclusion plans whilst avoiding placing unnecessary burdens or duplicating current partnerships?
Local Partnerships should expand on existing partnerships and identified good practice. Partnerships must include the parent carer forum as well as children, young people and other parent carer groups. There must be clear guidelines for governance, including joint responsibility across education, health and social care and clear information and guidance about the links between the Integrated Care Systems and Local Authorities in the formation of SEND Partnership boards. A template for SEND Partnerships should be included in the National Standards, detailing responsibilities of each partner. To ensure inclusion plans are actually successful, Ofsted and CQC inspections for settings and local area SEND inspections must be linked to the inclusion plans and there must be clear accountability. Systems and particularly schools and settings must be incentivised to improve inclusion. Schools are so focused on attendance, attainment and behaviour that Inclusion and SEND are pushed out. Partnerships must have a focus on the movement of children and young people between schools and out of schools, as well as exclusions. Partnerships must also focus on the impact of other factors on a child or young person that may increase the likelihood that they are not included. Systems must have an inclusive overview that goes beyond SEND and includes other inequalities as well. Partnerships must cover the full 0-25 age range not just those of statutory school age and cover all children with children and young people with SEND not just those with the highest needs.
What factors would enable local authorities to successfully commission provision for low-incidence high-cost need, and further education, across local authority boundaries?
The voice of the child or young person and their parent carers must be obtained early and their voice must be at the centre of planning support. Joint funding arrangements must be in place and clearly defined to reduce delay – families should not have to wait whilst the system works out which budget will fund the provision. Processes and policies must be clear and are transparent so that families and services are all aware. Commissioning must be done thoroughly with clear expectations and accountability to reduce incidences of paying for provisions children and young people are no longer attending. There should be improved sufficiency in provision including support for regional approaches to low-incidence, high cost provision and placements. There should be more cross-school support and cross-school work so that schools can support each other to meet the needs of children and young people. There must be improved careers support for children and young people with early and robust planning for post-16 with a focus on the provision gaps for post 16 children and young people. There needs to be a cross agency focus on partnership working to enable young people to successfully enter the workforce and to provide community opportunities and support for young people.
What components of the EHCP should we consider reviewing or amending as we move to a standardised and digitised version?
Any standardised template must be co-produced with children, young people and families to ensure that it is easy to use and understand. The focus of a child’s plan must be the child or young person. Their views and those of their families should be evident throughout the plan. Plans should be strengths-based and the outcomes in the plan should be holistic. The plan should be able to be read by the child or young person without detriment to their well-being. Parent carers, children and young people must have the correct support to provide their views and to have the family conversation. There should be standardised templates for the gathering of information to inform the plan and that all agencies must be trained and given clear expectations about completing these. There should be clear guidance regarding the specificity of advice given, to enable specificity in the provision in the plan. There should be a minimum standard of training for EHCP officers (plan coordinators) to ensure that they know and follow SEND law. There should be clear guidelines and expectations for writing EHCPs and expectations around requesting advice. It should be clear when advice should be renewed and new assessments undertaken so that the plans can stay current. The format of the EHCP should be clear so that provision is clearly linked to both needs and outcomes so that it is not necessary to keep going backwards and forwards to check that there is a provision for all needs. There should be a clear format for preparation for adulthood to be included into plans and this must include life skills for all young people. If plans are going to be digitised there must be funding available for local areas to implement and integrate this and for the staff across the systems to ensure they have sufficient training to use the software. Families in digital poverty must have support to be able to access the system to be able to upload their views and to consistently be able to access the system to read updated reports and follow the progress of assessment or review. There should be a clear process to challenge the plan and all areas- education, health and social care must have the same level of accountability.
How can parents and local authorities most effectively work together to produce a tailored list of placements that is appropriate for their child, and gives parents confidence in the EHCP process?
Parent carers generally feel that a list is a bad idea, if there is going to be a list it must be coproduced with families and it must be clear what the process is if a family want a school that is not on the list. There is concern that a list will effectively going to prevent children and young people from accessing some settings – typically the Independent Specialist Settings that can be expensive but extremely beneficial for some children and young people. The Local Offer should already contain a list of the schools in the local area and information about where to find schools in neighbouring areas so how is a tailored list going to help, is it just going to limit families choice. Instead of new lists there should be a standard set of information that should be provided for each school / setting that is kept up to date. This informatino should include the type of school and if it is a special school what needs it caters for and a link to each schools SEND page on their websites. If there are lists there needs to be a clear process for what happens if there is a disagreement between a school and the local authority as to whether they can meet need. There are currently no enforceable timescales for schools to respond to EHCP placement consultations this risks further delays. If each child is at the centre of their plan then a tailored list will need to be created for each child, this must not impact the timescales every time a new plan is issued or reviewed.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with our overall approach to strengthen redress, including through national standards and mandatory mediation? Strongly disagree
Mediation must be a choice with both parties agreeing to work together to find the solution. Often Local Authorities do not attend mediation with any intention of changing their decision so already mediation can be a waste of time especially in the binary decision of refusal to assess. If mediation is mandatory more families may have their time wasted. Professionals attending mediation must have the authority to overturn decisions and authorise changes in placement and must be knowledgeable in SEND law. There must be more support for young people and parent carers to attend mediation and tribunal. SENDIAS services are underfunded and cannot support everyone who needs their help. Mediation is expensive, this must be given extra funding and not take more money from already struggling High Needs Budgets. Mandatory mediation will delay parent carers / young people going to tribunal and therefore delay the child or young person getting the support that they need. They only way to prevent this would be to run mediation alongside tribunal (so that you can apply for tribunal whilst waiting for mediation) however this could then totally overwhelm an already overwhelmed tribunal service. Strengthening redress is very important however there needs to be equal accountability for education, health and social care. Mediations and tribunals must be linked to any new national standards.
Do you consider the current remedies available to the SEND Tribunal for disabled children who have been discriminated against by schools effective in putting children and young people’s education back on track? Please give a reason for your answer with examples, if possible.
No- there is not enough clear and easy to understand information available about Disability Discrimination tribunals. Many parents do not understand that these tribunals are a way of addressing disability discrimination from schools, which means that schools continue to discriminate. Many parents choose to move their child or young person to a different setting rather than go to a disability discrimination tribunal, parents do not have the energy to fight every aspect. More should be put in place to support families to challenge discrimination and more should be in place to prevent discrimination and improve inclusion without the need for families to constantly have to challenge.
What steps should be taken to strengthen early years’ practice with regard to conducting the two-year-old progress check and integration with the Healthy Child Programme review?
Developmental checks must be done in person and not over the phone or through a questionnaire. There should be strengthened links between health visitors and Early Years settings. All Early Years settings must have a SENCo with equal training of those in schools and there should be more SEND information included in childcare qualifications for early years staff. There should be a focus on assessment and early identification of the needs of all children bringing professionals together when necessary with clear guidance on the sharing of information so that assessment outcomes are shared with all the settings and professionals supporting a child. There should be clear pathways for support for SEND children. There needs to be an improvement in SEND placement planning in early years ensuring that there is specialist Early Year provision available for those children with the highest needs. There needs to be an improvement in funding in early years as settings often do not want SEND children due a lack of funding.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that we should introduce a new mandatory SENCo NPQ to replace the NASENCo? Agree
We agree that there needs to be mandatory SENCo training, however we do not know enough about a new NPQ and how different this will be from the current training. SENCo training needs must be completed before a SENCO can take up a role so that they do not take up a role and then move on without ever completing the training. The training must include knowledge and understanding of the law, increase their knowledge to support the early identification of needs and early interventions and how to support children with SEND. It must also include mandatory training on inclusion, gathering the voices of children, young people, and their families, and on working with families and other professionals to ensure that the child or young person has the best outcomes. SENCo training must include mandatory Continuing Professional Development so that their knowledge remains current. There should be the same qualification requirement for mainstream, special and independent schools and in Early Years settings. SENCos should have a mandatory number of minimum hours (non -teaching) that they are given for the role linked to the number of SEND children on roll so that they have sufficient time to carry out the SENCo duties.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that we should strengthen the mandatory SENCo training requirement by requiring that headteachers must be satisfied that the SENCo is in the process of obtaining the relevant qualification when taking on the role? Strongly agree
This is essential to ensure the commitment of the SENCo, this would also stop SENCos moving roles or schools within the 3 year timescale and not completing their training. Ofsted should also look at SENCo qualification and their CPD as well as the SEND specific training undertaken by the whole school and this information on the training their SENCO (and others in the SEND Team) have had should be a part of a schools SEND Information Report. It should be mandatory for SENCos to be part of a schools Senior Leadership Team to ensure that SEND has the priority it needs for schools to be inclusive. SENCos should have a mandatory number of minimum hours (non -teaching) that they are given for the role linked to the number of SEND children on roll so that they have sufficient time to carry out the SENCo duties.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that both specialist and mixed MATs should be allowed to coexist in the fully trust-led future? This would allow current local authority maintained special schools and alternative provision settings to join either type of MAT Disagree
Mixed MATs would be preferrable as this would ensure that the knowledge and expertise of specialist schools can be shared across the MAT enabling improved inclusion in mainstream schools. MATs need to be incentivised to have an inclusive vision and ethos that goes across the entire MAT, not just specialist schools. They need to be incentivised to provide time for specialist school teaching and support staff to spend time in mainstream schools within the MAT to build their knowledge. All MATs need to be held accountable by OFSTED when it comes to SEND and Inclusion.
What more can be done by employers, providers and government to ensure that those young people with SEND can access, participate in and be supported to achieve an apprenticeship, including through access routes like Traineeships?
There needs to be more support for SEND young people accessing careers advice- there is a lack of specialist careers advice, and careers events need to be tailored to be accessible for SEND young people. Colleges, universities and prospective employers do not send people with experience in SEND to attend Careers events meaning young people cannot get a true picture as to whether that career is one that would actually work for them. There needs to be clear links between schools, colleges and employers to improve work experience offers, these are sorely lacking for SEND young people. SEND young people in specialist provision often do not have the opportunity to access work experience, and for all young people with SEND, no matter the type of school placement the work experience provider is far too often just whichever provider will offer them the opportunity rather than an employer in a field the young person is interested in. Legislation needs to be clear and robust with regards to employers not offering jobs to those with SEND. There needs to be clear accountability. Employers need to be provided with training about different types of needs, how they can be supported and about reasonable adjustments. There needs to be a focus on increasing provision at a post 16 level, whether this is college, internships, apprenticeships or employment. There should be incentives for further education, higher education and employers to work together to ensure all young people with SEND reach their potential. It is important that Higher and Further Education is also recognised as a route into employment. SEND does not always mean a learning disabilities and many young people with SEND have high aspirations to progress to University.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that this new vision for alternative provision will result in improved outcomes for children and young people? Neither
Including Alternative Provision seems to be a good thing however there is no clarity around the role that they play. There must be there is a focus on early identification and early intervention of SEND as well as improved inclusion and support in schools, alternative provision must be used to support this and not be used as a means to segregate children and young people. Alternative Provision placements must be used is a supportive manner. Alternative Provision needs to be held accountable in the same way that schools are and there needs to be clarity around training and standards and accountability processes. Alternative Provision must be used in a holistic manner including health and social care. There needs to be consistency nationally in how it is funded, especially when it is used for children and young people who do not have EHCPs. It is important that any restrictions around the length of a placement in Alternative Provision are clear to everyone before the placement is started there must also be alternatives to traditional schools for those children and young people who need them as a long term provision.
What needs to be in place in order to distribute existing funding more effectively to alternative provision schools, to ensure they have the financial stability required to deliver our vision for more early intervention and re-integration?
There needs to be clarity in who is responsible for funding Alternative Provision and in what circumstances it should be used. Good provision will only exist in the long term if they have consistent funding. If they are reliant on children and young people coming in for short term placements they will struggle to plan funding for staffing, resources and other costs. There needs to be consistency nationally in how Alternative Provision is funded.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that introducing a bespoke alternative provision performance framework, based on these 5 outcomes, will improve the quality of alternative provision? Agree
Alternative provisions need to be inspected on a more holistic picture. The engagement of children and young people, their willingness and readiness to learn, their emotional well-being and mental health, their outcomes etc. rather than the focus being solely on attainment, attendance and behaviour.
To what extent do you agree or disagree that a statutory framework for pupil movements will improve oversight and transparency of placements into and out of alternative provision? Strongly agree
We agree that this is necessary as it will provide a clear picture of pupil movement and will help to show difficulties with particular schools, however this will only be beneficial if there is a clear accountability framework making sure that schools are held accountable for children and young people’s inclusion. The data must also include managed moves, temporary placements, off-rolling and must be shared with Local Authority education, social care and health partners.
What are the key metrics we should capture and use to measure local and national performance? Please explain why you have selected these.
Metrics must include all settings including independent schools and early years provisions. Metrics must cover education, health and social care. Metrics must look at progress not just attainment, of the seven indicators, only one considers holistic needs. The metrics must be qualitative as well as quantitative. There need to be metrics to establish quality, there is no point complying with timescales if they are poor quality. There should be metrics looking at how schools spend their SEN funding both for notional budgets and EHCPs and the impact of the expenditure.
How can we best develop a national framework for funding bands and tariffs to achieve our objectives and mitigate unintended consequences and risks?
There needs to be clarity around the use of the SEND notional budget and this should be ring fenced to be used purely for SEND. There must also be sufficient money given to Local Authorities to meet finding bands and tariffs. Any funding bands need to be linked to national standard and funding bands must be flexible as all children are different. There must be a focus on joint commissioning and SEND provision being jointly funded by health and social care as well as by education.
How can the National SEND Delivery Board work most effectively with local partnerships to ensure the proposals are implemented successfully?’
The National SEND Delivery Board must have the ability to work between local partnerships and the DfE, NHSEI and others to remove barriers and disseminate good practice. It must include parent carer and children and young people representatives. Communication, partnership working and inclusion will be key. There is not yet have sufficient clarity on how powers, responsibilities, accountability, and regulatory oversight will be organised across Local Authorities, schools, DfE regional directors and health systems. The National Board will need to understand differences in context and environment of local areas so variations can be supported around how they respond flexibility to implement nationally determined standards or processes within local systems and processes. The National SEND Delivery Board must help local partnerships to operate in an environment that will be determined by the Schools White Paper, the outcome of the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care and the Health and Care Act. The Board must ensure that the system created for children and young people with SEND is coherent across all of these areas of policy development.
What will make the biggest difference to successful implementation of these proposals? What do you see as the barriers to and enablers of success?
The biggest difference will be clear accountability for education, health and social care and guidance regarding reasonable adjustments and the graduated approach. A focus on inclusion and accountability for schools that are not inclusive. The voice of the child, young person and family will be clear in all the proposals and in the implementation. Barriers to success include lack of accountability, lack of consistency across schools and services both in the local area and nationally, lack of training within the workforce, too much focus on attainment, attendance and behaviour and not enough focus on the holistic needs of the child/young person or early identification of need and early intervention. The enables of success are education, health and social care working together and coproducing the implementation with parent carers and children and young people.
What support do local systems and delivery partners need to successfully transition and deliver the new national system?
There needs to be clear timescales for the implementation of a new national system. There also is the need for clear accountability, mandatory workforce training and sufficient resources (including funding). Clear timescales for the implementation of a new national system. There must be a willingness and commitment from all to work together to implement change to support children and young people achieve their full potential.
Is there anything else you would like to say about the proposals in the green paper?
This Green Paper is very focused on education for those of statutory school age there is not enough emphasis on Early Years or those aged 16-25. There also needs to be a real focus on the early identification of needs and early support. There is not enough focus on Health and Social care with little information on health and care providers and commissioners. If we are to create a joined-up system, we must have clarity on what is expected from other key sectors. There is a lack of clarity on how any of these proposals are going to be funded especially in a SEND system that is already struggling with enormous deficits. There needs to be sufficient provision and sufficient funding in place to support the SEND system. The Green Paper focusses very heavily on educational and employment outcomes. Whilst we welcome the ambition, we must recognise there is a proportion of young people with SEND for whom that is not the right outcome (e.g. those with complex needs). The proposals need to provide the right outcomes (e.g. independent or supported living) for this group. There needs to be a focus on children in care and adopted children with SEND, these children and young people can find it very difficult to have their needs identified as too often it is assumed that needs are because of being in care or being adopted and not considering that they may also have SEND needs. In order for any of these proposals to make a difference to children and young people there needs to be a real increase in transparency and accountability in the system and there needs to be a significant focus on training of staff- whether in schools, local authorities or health.