A right grand SEND reform day out

Yesterday I had my yearly darn good jolly down to London to do a bit of training and to discuss what’s going on out there – most frequently urban myths which have circulated from somewhere unknown, or directly from LAs. Now, personally I would question why an LA would put in print something that has no basis in law and masquerade it as correct, but unless someone acts on it, these myths remain. I posted a bit about transport a few weeks back and the letter of response from the DfE, which is a good example of how misinformation can get corrected.

A bit of housekeeping before I go on a ramble – I do need to point out that, although I volunteer for a large charity, I do not speak for them, I am posting my own thoughts on various subjects. I need to make that quite clear. I also need to make clear that training days are exactly that, in-house training days. They are not open to the public and nor are our discussions for public consumption. Anything I blog about is a generic mix of what I hear/know from a variety of sources, and made appropriate for publication.

So, it was a jolly darn grand day out & it’s great to meet up with advocates from around the country. The day is as much about hearing their anecdotes as it is about emerging information and ‘hot topics’. Sometimes the room will erupt akin to a raucous parliamentary debate!

There are a couple of things I’m going to ramble on about, one is Statutory Assessment (SA) and the other is who carries this out.

The new law is very similar to the old law, but perhaps wider. I’ve shoved all the legal blurb down the bottom because by and large, it’s boring to have it at the beginning and while it’s totally necessary, I’m going to sum it up in a nutshell thus:

  1. Does the child/young person probably have a learning difficulty? and/or
  2. Does the child/young person probably have a disability that prevents or hinders making use of facilities generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream school/college?

If the child or young person meets these criteria, then will they probably need special educational provision, which is something in addition to, or different from, what is normally found in mainstream school/college?

Learning difficulty means a significantly greater difficulty in learning than typically developing peers of the same age. Disability is a significant difficulty carrying out day-to-day functions i.e. not trivial or minor.

That’s it. Got it? Refer to the law at the bottom if you like, but that’s it. End of – well not quiet. The thing is, you don’t have to prove it, which is why I emphasised probably. Of course when you make your request – directly to the LA, not the school – you’ll need to provide some kind of documentation that demonstrates that you’re probably telling the truth about your child or young person’s needs. I do quite like that word…. probably. Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

The next bit is what tends to make a posse of advocates erupt. The myths. It’s not always clear where these myths come from, but sometimes LAs are daft enough to publish them on their websites, so those can be traced. They will quite happily rest there and procreate, unless prodded with a stick by someone who, well, likes to rattle a cage every so often. It’s good to keep them on their toes!

I’ve created a list but I’m sure there’s far more that parents can add – and it would be great if they do. So, here goes:

  • You didn’t fill in a form
  • You didn’t fill the form in correctly
  • Your child does not meet our criteria
  • Your child missed out by 1 point
  • Your child isn’t in the bottom 2%
  • You must produce an Educational Psychology report
  • Your school must produce an Educational Psychology report
  • Your school didn’t respond quick enough
  • Your child didn’t tick enough boxes
  • Your child’s school/college can meet his/her needs from their budget
  • Your child isn’t X years behind
  • Your child doesn’t need more than X hrs of support
  • Your child doesn’t need more than X £££s of funding
  • Not our fault, the panel said no
  • Your child’s needs can be met through the Local Offer
  • Any response that suggests that tribunal will see through the parent’s wicked lies….

Is it just me, or were those NOT criteria to conduct a Statutory Assessment? The law’s at the bottom of this post, remember! FYI – a whopping 84% of LAs were shown to be in error when refusing to conduct a Statutory Assessment when challenged in tribunal. 84%!!!! You can access some stats here

Whilst being gifted isn’t a category of SEN, it doesn’t not mean that a child who is gifted doesn’t also have SEN/D…… It’s about whether provision to meet learning difficulty and/or disability might be needed. Remember, ‘provision’ and ‘generally found’. Typically developing children in mainstream generally don’t have intimate care needs/therapies/laptops/1:1….

My next bit really relates to transitioning between statements/LDAs and EHC plans, but I’m sure someone, somewhere will also at some point mention that their LA is doing this as part of an initial SA request. ‘This’ relates to the SA that is REQUIRED BY LAW when transitioning to EHC plans. Ok, so the term ‘transition’ is probably not the most accessible term here, although appropriate. ‘Transition’ to an EHC plan is a whole new Statutory Assessment. It involves educational advice, Educational Psychology advice, medical advice, social care advice, advice from any relevant person the LA thinks appropriate and any advice that the parent requests that is reasonable (and advice from a Visual Impairment professional if the child/young person is VI). Reasonable to me is a professional service that your child accesses, or ought to access.

So, schools, hands up who have been told by their LA that it is the school’s duty to do the transition? Transition planning generally takes place in tandem with the Annual Review, but it doesn’t mean that schools take on the Statutory Assessment duties, those ALWAYS remain with the LA.

I haven’t until this point considered a list of myths for this, so this is quickly off the top of my head:

  • LA has a ‘wider’ definition meaning it can delegate its duties
  • It’s for the school/college carry out the Statutory Assessment (yep, it is a Statutory Assessment)
  • The school/college has to pay for the Educational Psychologist
  • The school/college has to collect all the evidence
  • The school/college shouldn’t put forward any more children/young people as the LA has ‘too many’
  • The child/young person doesn’t need an EHC plan as they can be supported by the Local Offer
  • The SEN/D reforms mean that the child/young person doesn’t need any quantification in the EHC plan
  • The SEN/D reforms mean that the LA doesn’t have to make provision anymore
  • The SEN/D reforms mean that we can fill in the provision after the EHC plan is drafted so just sign off on it….
  • Your child’s diagnosis is over 12/24 months old so you’ll need to get a fresh one
  • The LA doesn’t need to take any new advice from anyone.
  • The LA doesn’t need to take any new advice from an EP, even though the current EP report is 15 years old (oh yes, really!)
  • The LA doesn’t need to take advice from anyone the parent reasonably requests they take advice from

Re: diagnosis – so a child/young person with Down Syndrome might not still have the condition?!?!??! **sigh**

Of course, all of the above is nonsense – not meaning that I’ve made it all up! I wish I had but the sad truth is, these are all real reasons I’ve heard from a selection of different sources – so don’t listen to this nonsense!

So, after having a jolly good day yesterday, we got to sip some Champers. We advocates rarely get rewards, so it’s really nice to have such a yearly treat. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that precious funds are taken up by providing luxuries, they aren’t. In fact, advocates often end up out-of-pocket purely and simply because we don’t like to submit small expenses! Why send an invoice for a small lunch when doing a hearing when we can take a sandwich? It all adds up to that lovely glass of fizzy bliss….

I stayed long enough to neck a couple of glasses, but I’m really not a drinker. Bubbles send the alcohol to the brain a bit quicker though & I nearly lost my footing running for the tube/train (someone topped up my glass when I was going to do a runner, so I ran late!). I also found out that alcohol and trains don’t mix when I tried to go for a pee (I just had to have a black coffee…) and nearly knocked myself out banging my head against a paper towel dispenser or whatever it was.

So I got home, knackered and yet re-energised, ready to take on the establishment once again. I still like to advise leaving the door slightly ajar, to allow LAs to back down gracefully and save everyone time and trouble. After all, I am a) impartial, b) independent and c) a tax-payer. LAs, please don’t waste my taxes defending cases that are not defendable. Have some common sense, suck it up and move on. Nearly every parent I speak to is quite, quite reasonable and thoroughly willing to engage. After all, it is our taxes that are being spent here, and we all want to see efficiency and value for money.

The legal Children & Families Act (2014) blurb:

Section 20 (1)

A child or young person has special educational needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her.

Section 20 (2)

A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she-

  • Has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
  • Has a disability which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of the facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.

Section 21 (1)

1.

  • “Special educational provision”, for a child aged two or more or a young person, means educational or training provision that is additional to, or different from, that made generally for others of the same age in
  • Mainstream schools in England,
  • Maintained nursery schools in England,
  • Mainstream post-16 institutions in England, or
  • Places in England at which relevant early years education is provided. 

2.

  • “Special educational provision”, for a child aged under two, means educational provision of any kind.
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7 thoughts on “A right grand SEND reform day out

  1. Great post, thanks. All manner of myths out there – and also fear of the process. I’d also like to quote the lovely para 9.3 of the CoP: “a local authority must conduct an assessment of education, health and care needs when it considers it may be necessary for special educational provision to be made…in accordance with an EHC plan.” Love that “may”- lots of flexibility there. Glad you had some fizz!

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    1. Yes, the thing is, they won’t know if it’s necessary if they don’t assess. The mantra of ‘we don’t do statements’ is beginning to morph into ‘we don’t do EHCPs’ (regardless of what the law tells us). If the start point is ‘we don’t do…’ then the LA will never consider it necessary to carry out a Statutory Assessment.
      There’s a myth I missed – ‘we don’t do ’em here’!

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  2. Another myth when transitioning from statement to EHC plan: Just because you are moving to a plan doesn’t mean you can choose an alternative school.

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