An Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC plan) for age 0 - 25 year olds will replace special educational needs statements from September 2014. What follows takes you through what these changes mean and how they might affect you and your child or young person in your care.
The SEND Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years is new statutory guidance that organisations in England, including schools and colleges, have a duty to follow. This relates to changes to special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision, which are being introduced in England from September 2014. (It relates to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act (2014) and its associated regulations).
Parents of children and young people who have an EHC Plan have a right to ask for a particular school or college to be named in the Plan and for a personal budget for their support.
To make sure education, health and care services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities are jointly planned and commissioned, there will be improved co-operation between councils and health services.
So what is changing?
The actual components of your child’s documentation, how it is formulated and where it applies. The Principles underpinning this Code of Practice are that the Local Authority must have regard to:
the views, wishes and feelings of the child or young person and the child's parents
the importance of the child or the young person, and the child's parents, participating as fully as possible in decisions and being provided with the information and support necessary to enable participation in those decisions
the need to support the child or young person, and the child's parents, in order to facilitate the development of the child or young person and to help them achieve the best possible educational and other outcomes, preparing them effectively for adulthood.
There are now sections A to K to be specified in an EHC plan, added to which plans must specify the outcomes sought by the child or young person in Section E and plans can also specify wider outcomes such as positive social relationships and emotional resilience and stability. An outcome is defined as 'the benefit or difference made to an individual as a result of an intervention'. Also the code states (section 9.67) 'when agreeing outcomes, it is important to consider both what is important to the child or young person – what they themselves want to be able to achieve – and what is important for them as judged by others with the child or young person's best interests at heart'. EHC plans 'must specify the special educational provision required to meet each of the child or young person's special educational needs. The provision should enable the outcomes to be achieved' (section 9.68).
These Principles are designed to support:
the early identification of children and young people's needs and early intervention to support them
greater choice and control for young people and parents over support
collaboration between education, health and social care services to provide support
high quality provision to meet the needs of children and young people with SEN
a focus on inclusive practice and removing barriers to learning
successful preparation for adulthood, including independent living and employment
If your child has a substantial and long-term impairment which has an adverse effect on their ability to learn then they are entitled to an EHC Plan under the Equality Act 2010. Any Special Educational Needs Statement is likely to be replaced with a Plan at your child's next transitional point. For example: when moving from KS1 to KS2 or from primary to secondary.
Also, health or social care provision which educates or trains a child or young person must be treated as special educational provision and included in Section F of the EHC plan (Section 9.73). In cases where health care or social provision is to be treated as special educational provision, ultimate responsibility for ensuring that provision is made, rests with the local authority.
At the end of this document there is a brief comment on Higher Education and Further Education for the 16 - 25 age group.
Does my child need an Education Health Care plan?
Before the new law, schools supported children with mild to moderate learning difficulties, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, non verbal learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through the School Action and School Action Plus system. From September 2014, however, that system will change to a single stage called ‘SEN support in schools’, but head teachers will still need to ensure teachers deliver a similar ‘graduated approach’ using an appropriate and effective system and monitoring programme suited to the individual child’s needs and reviewed termly. ‘Teachers are responsible and accountable for the progress and development of the pupils in their class, including where pupils access support from teaching assistants or specialist staff’. (SEND Code of Practice, Ch6.36).
A Personal Budget
An EHC Plan for age 0 - 25 year olds will replace special educational needs statements and with learning difficulty assessments, will set out in one place all the support families will receive, giving parents and young people the offer of a personal budget.
Children and young people with an EHC Plan will have a new legal right to express a preference for state academies, free schools and further education colleges, as well maintained mainstream and special schools.
The ‘School Offer’
Schools and colleges will have to publish information about what support they have available (otherwise known as the ‘School Offer’) for children and young people (aged 0-25) with special educational needs and disabilities. If children and young people are unhappy with their support, they will have the right to appeal and mediation will be provided.
The ‘Local Offer’
Local authorities are to publish a ‘Local Offer’ showing the support available to all children and young people (aged 0-25) with special educational needs and disabilities in the area. This will make what is available much easier to find out about, so that children, young people and families will know what help they can get. A Local Offer will be an information service, published by the local authority, detailing special educational needs and disability provision locally and nationally. The service will be essentially web-based, but the local authority must publish its arrangements to enable people to have access to the Local Offer if they are without internet access. The Local Offer will show the available services and support for children and young people (aged 0-25) with special educational needs and disabilities in the area and elsewhere.
Local Offer checklist:
Details of how parents and young people can request an assessment for an EHC Plan. Comments concerning the Local Offer, including quality of existing provision, must be published at least annually. Arrangements for notifying parents and young people of their right to appeal to a Tribunal against a decision of the local authority not to issue an EHC Plan. To see what else should be in your Local Offer see pages 55-66 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years.
Diagnosing Learning Difficulties when?
The SEND Code of Practice (6.16) states: ‘Schools should assess each pupil’s current skills and levels of attainment on entry, building on information from previous settings and key stages where appropriate. At the same time, schools should consider evidence that a pupil may have a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and, if so, what reasonable adjustments may need to be made for them.’
For many children some learning difficulties like dyslexia and Non verbal Learning Difficulties (NvLD) only become evident as they grow older. A mainstream school’s arrangements for assessing and identifying pupils as having special educational needs should be agreed and set out as part of the Local Offer. Specific learning difficulties (SpLD), affect one or more specific aspects of learning and encompass a range of conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, NvLD, ASD, ADHD and dyspraxia. The purpose of identification is to work out what action the school needs to take, not to fit a pupil into a category. It is therefore important that all professionals listen and understand when parents express concerns about their child or young person’s development. They should also listen to and address any concerns raised by children and young people themselves.
If Learning Difficulties (SpLD) are identified what approach should be taken by the teacher?
Where Learning Difficulties are identified, early years providers, schools and colleges should put appropriate evidence-based interventions in place as part of their graduated approach, linking assessment to teaching. The approach that should be undertaken by the teacher can best be understood by the four Stages - Assess, Plan, Do and Review.
What if my child is assessed as being disabled by their Learning Difficulties?
All schools have duties under the Equality Act 2010 towards individual disabled children and young people. They must now make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services for disabled children, to prevent them being put at a substantial disadvantage. Schools also have wider duties to prevent discrimination, to promote equality of opportunity and to foster good relations.
What support will my child receive?
The SEND Code of Practice states (6.27): 'The support provided to an individual should always be based on a full understanding of their particular strengths and needs and seek to address them all using well-evidenced interventions targeted at their areas of difficulty and where necessary specialist equipment or software’.
Support for learning difficulties will be required and should be planned for (SEND Code of Practice: Ch6.27) when children and young people learn at a slower pace than their peers, even with appropriate differentiation. There is a range of information available on appropriate interventions for pupils with specific learning difficulties and associated training, which schools should use to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and expertise to use them. Where pupils make less than expected progress given their age and individual circumstances, despite responding with high quality teaching aimed at their areas of weakness, the class teacher, working with the SENCO, should assess whether the pupil has special educational needs.
What form of on-going assessment should be carried out?
The teacher should:
a) collect accurate information about your child’s attainment and progress (as soon as they enter an educational setting).
b) have arrangements in place to improve your child’s progress and help raise attainment.
c) use Quality First Teaching using a universal, targeted and/or specialist (see pages 19-21) approach and direct any additional adults in the classroom on how to adopt this approach.
d) review and accurately monitor the progress of your child on a regular basis.
What does good quality teaching look like?
A good quality graduated approach and ‘quality first teaching’ will be classed as Universal, Targeted or Specialist depending on your child’s need.
What does Universal Provision mean?
This is more generalised support and should include:
• Quality First Teaching which for example for a children with Dyslexia develops their speaking and listening skills and phonological awareness.
• Knowledgeable and sensitive teachers who understand the process of learning, the impact a learning difficulty can have and can adapt their teaching accordingly.
• The whole school ethos should respect individuals’ differences and promote good communication between teachers, parents and pupils.
• Access to additional learning programmes and resources to support development of key skills and strategies for independent learning.
What does Specialist Support mean?
The SEND Code of Practice now states: Every school ‘must use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with special educational needs gets the support they need – this means doing everything they can to meet children and young people’s special educational needs’
Staff should seek expert advice from specialists, for those not making progress because the child’s need is so specialised that they require the skills of a specialist teacher. This is for those children who require the personalised approach of a programme that is tailored to their specific, often severe, difficulties. It is usually taught as a one-to-one programme by a teacher or a member of the support staff who has undertaken some additional training for teaching children with specific learning difficulties.
The ‘notional’ SEN budget
Provision for children with special educational needs will usually be provided through the core budget and notional special educational needs budget. An extra amount of money, in addition to the general core budget, is given to schools to help with special educational needs provision. It is called the ‘notional’ SEN budget because schools have the freedom to decide how best to spend this money to meet the needs of their special educational needs children.
What is a Personal (SEN) Budget?
Only pupils or students on an EHC Plan, are likely to receive a Personal Special Educational Needs Budget. The funds can remain with the local authority or be held directly by the parent or young person, school, college or other organisation or individual and used to commission the support specified in the EHC Plan. Before deciding to make direct payments, the local authority must be satisfied on a number of points including:
• That the recipient proposes to use them to secure the agreed provision in an appropriate way.
• That the provision is in the best interests of the child or young person.
What if you are not happy with the support your child receives?
If you are not happy with the support your child receives, first speak with your child’s teacher and/or SENCO, then head teacher if necessary, to see if the plan for your child can be reviewed and revised. If you are still unhappy with the internal support/provisions offered by your school, a report from an independent Educational Psychologist or a specialist teacher and/or a teacher who holds an Assessment Practising Certificate, can offer further guidance as to the level of provision relevant to the child. Your Local Offer should also signpost additional educational services that are available locally and nationally. If you are still not satisfied then there is always the option of mediation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a free, informal, voluntary process available to help resolve disagreements between parents or young people and local authorities over any element of the EHC Plan. The mediator is impartial, does not take sides, nor puts forward suggestions or possible solutions to the dispute. The mediator is there to help to facilitate discussions and to make sure everyone is treated fairly. The value of mediation is that you can explore options and even find a resolution without going to tribunal, but even if you have pursued mediation and you then find you are unhappy with the outcome, you can still go to appeal.
Questions you can ask your child’s school
Who is the school's Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO)? What are their qualifications?
How will my child’s teacher/school know if my child has special educational needs or a disability?
What provision do they make for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities?
How do they know that specialist interventions are effective?
How does the school develop its overall teaching and adapt its curriculum for children with special
educational needs and/or disabilities?
How do they know if my child is making progress towards their targets?
How do they ensure my child has a successful transition between key stages and schools?
How does the school secure additional services and expertise?
How can you contact these services?
What additional expertise do staff have on specific learning difficulties?
What does the ‘School Offer’ look like?
• Information about schools’ special needs provision e.g. if they have a dyslexia quality kite mark which shows evidence of their dyslexia-friendly practices and commitment to inclusive practices.
• Whether the school has teachers with specialist teacher status or training, for example a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma in Dyslexia and Literacy, a British Sign Language (BSL) qualification or specialist training for working with ASD
• Schools may engage with a number of support services and resources for example the Literacy and Dyslexia-SpLD Professional Development Framework, a free, easy to use online tool that provides information needed across the education workforce, to support learners with dyslexia.
Information about additional authority-wide support and advice available from the voluntary, private and independent sectors. Examples should include: access to educational psychologists, clinical psychologists occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, social services, counsellors and medical specialists, local and national organisations, whose specialist teachers and support centres provide additional help to children, young people and their families with specific learning difficulties including dyslexia; and CReSTeD – the Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils - which categorises the levels of provision within schools to help match them to the level of pupil need.
What does Ofsted want to know?
Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) inspects all schools in England to provide information to parents,to promote improvement and to hold schools to account for the public money they receive. Ofsted requires each school to show that each individual pupil is making progress. When evaluating the achievement of pupils, inspectors will consider how well disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs have progressed since joining the school. When judging the quality of education provided in a school, inspectors must consider the extent to which the education provided by the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school, including pupils who have a disability or special educational needs.
Higher and Further Education (HE and FE)