When I hear of a tribunal appeal that is for ‘placement only’, I let out a sigh and my heart sinks just a little bit more. Even though statements have been around now for two complete generations, it’s still obvious that precious few professionals involved in the system have taken the time & trouble to actually explain the statement’s purpose to the family involved. We now have EHCPs and still, few people seem to understand its purpose.
Way too often, the piece of paper is seen to be the end-goal, or if you have that piece of paper, the school itself becomes the end-goal. Without explanation, parents are set to repeat the same games of ping-pong that the generation before them have, and schools/LAs will let them (I am generalising here, as wonderful schools for inclusion remain few & far between).
The purpose of an EHCP is quite, quite simple. It is a legal document that sets out exactly what the student needs that is in addition to, or different from, that generally made for typically developing peers of the same age in mainstream. The only ‘extra bit’ to add on here is that once it has been determined that the student requires something additional or different, all of the student’s SEND must be set out, regardless of whether provision is of the type generally found in mainstream for peers of the same age.
Some LAs will try to argue that 6k must first be spent, or that ‘assess, plan, do, review’ must first have been carried out. Not true, as a) the additional or different is value-free, the test is against ‘generally made for a typically developing peer of the same age’ and b) the test is against ‘generally made for a typically developing peer of the same age’. Ok, so I repeated myself there, but for some children, it’s obvious that their SEND is not connected to their exposure to good quality teaching. I still can’t quite believe it when parents tell me the LA wants to take a ‘wait and see’ approach to their child with Down’s syndrome, or insist on a graduated approach first – or even try and force the parents or school to provide an EP report!!!
I am often asked if I can point people in the direction of a ‘good EHCP for ASD/DS/CP/SpLD’ etc. Erm, no. To do so is akin to suggesting that all children with X, Y or Z are exactly the same, that they do not have unique personalities or live with different life opportunities, and that their ‘condition’ is completely static. No, every child is unique, there is no generic EHCP.
The place to start with an EHCP is always section K, the reports. It is the reports that establish the needs (B), which drives the provision (F), which informs the outcomes (E). Anyone who tries to argue that you take an alphabetical approach has clearly not understood the C&F Act, the SENCoP or SEN Regulations. I’m not going to go into the other sections as only sections B, F and I are appealable through tribunal.
At this point I’m going to throw another oft-heard quote into the mix – my child’s statement/EHCP was written for mainstream/special. Again, this shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of the statement/EHCP. It is written for the child, no discussion about type of school can or should take place until parts B and F are complete. After all, the assumption is always for mainstream, the test being ‘generally made…. within mainstream’
You always need reports, because it is from those reports that you establish a child’s needs. Remember, without identifying what a child’s needs are, you can’t establish what they need that is in addition to, or different from’. So, reports in hand, needs can be set out. Next comes the provision, what interventions/adaptations etc are required, in order for the child to a) attend school and b) access the curriculum. Note there are two parts here, you can’t access the curriculum or achieve if you can’t get in the door/classroom etc. It is this ‘disability’ part that LAs often neglect. Yes, the student may well be an A* student, but they are currently locked in their bedroom with the curtains drawn…..
When section B is complete, section F is underway. F is all those bits that are ‘in addition to or different from’. Please, don’t agree to ‘a programme to improve A/B/C…’ That does not set out anything. ‘A programme of literacy’ may as well say ‘will be doing GCSE English’. A colleague asked for an Upper Tier tribunal citation a couple of days ago, which clarifies the situation where vague descriptions are concerned http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/uk/cases/UKUT/AAC/2016/9.html&query=(SEN)
If you launch an appeal for school only, what will that school actually be providing? School-only is fine if you want a like-for-like swap, e.g. you wanted the mainstream school 5 minutes up the road & the LA gave you the one 5 minutes down the road, and both schools are equal. If the local schools each have 2000 pupils, 30 per class and your child can’t function in groups of more than, say, 12, section B is going to have to identify this need and section F will have to state ‘groups of no more than 12’, because that is part of in addition to, or different from. Arguing that a specialist school (maintained or independent) is required without any supporting evidence in B&F is unlikely to end well. Or, let me put it another way, is getting the physical environment enough if there are zero interventions? Just because the school has a SaLT or OT does not mean that your child will access SaLT or OT if it is not in section F. It will not matter if the school is state-funded or private.
I’m going to prattle on a bit more about B/F/I in my next Special Needs Jungle post in a few week’s time.
By the way of a P.S., I was given a copy of the government’s survey into how well the EHCP process is going. I have some thoughts:
- Given what I have written above, do you think that all parents understand the EHCP document & its purpose?
- Do you think that parents with learning difficulties will be able to access the survey?
- If parents with LD use an advocate, does the first bullet point come back into play again?
- What is it with ‘feelings’? Are they a SMART target?
- Like a game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ how many examples of examining legal compliance/accountability did you find?
Just a few thoughts there……