This year and next new reforms will overhaul how the needs of children with special educational needs (SEN) are assessed and met.
This December the new Additional Learning needs Bill was presented to the Welsh Assembly and pass through several stages before becoming Law next Autumn. This will begin several years of replacing SEN statements with Individual Development Plans. Changes to assessment are designed to place the child and their family at the centre of consultations with Schools and local authorities (LAs)and make the whole process more integrated, collaborative which should facilitate early, timely and effective support
A fair and transparent system of resolving concerns
Many families have concerns that LAs as pre-destined to deny families the provision they want or feel their child needs, and cast statutory assessment as a fight of David versus Goliath proportions. Perhaps inevitably, battle-lines get drawn in some minds before they even approach the LA. The new process will hopefully change this ‘fight’.
SNAP Cymru has always provided measured guidance for parents who are dissatisfied with school or LA’s responses and our intention has always been to help families avoid the prospect of legal action or costly, stressful disputes over what ought to be a collaborative process between families and professionals based on the best interest of the child.
The new Bill and code of practice (which will follow next Spring/summer), suggests a move away from the widespread default model. It emphasises the significance of “high quality teaching” and high aspirations for children as part of a ‘transformation programme’ and workforce development. http://gov.wales/topics/educationandskills/schoolshome/pupilsupport/additoinal-learning-needs-reform/?lang=en
When the English reforms took place from 2014 onward, and statements were changed to Education and Health Care plans the English government announced a £30m scheme to train “independent supporters to assist parents through the SEN process and their request for an EHCP. No such money on the horizon here just innovation funding for LA’s to plan for the process.
The Welsh Government Law will describe a fair and transparent system for providing information and advice, and for resolving disagreements, although there are concerns that Local Authorities may take this opportunity to reject independent support and advice preferring to take services ‘in -house’ as happened in Pembrokeshire. Whilst these service are informative (many appoint ex SNAP Cymru staff) it can never offer a reliable independent perspective.
For the time being, local authorities and all those who work with children and young people with SEN, must ensure that they continue to comply with the duties placed upon them by the Education Act 1996. They must also continue to have regard to the SEN Code of Practice for Wales, (The SEN Code of Practice can be accessed on our website) and must continue to accept requests for Statutory assessments and write and maintain Statements of Special Educational Needs.
You could help shape this Bill
SNAP Cymru will be supporting the Welsh Government Children, Young People and Education Committee to ‘hear’ parent’s voices to assist them with the scrutiny of the Bill. If you are a parent of a child with SEN, informed about the reform so far, passionate and have a real interest in sharing your perspective with the AMs on this committee – give us a call or send us an email- we may be able to offer you place to have your views heard.
You can also contact your local AM who can feed your views into the process.
If you’ve received a great service from SNAP Cymru and are concerned about the potential loss of Independent support and Parent partnership from the Bill and COP or the way in which this could be weakened- let your AMs know.
There is an exciting time ahead for SEN, moving from one system to another and replacing statements with IDPs could be great news, but it also has the potential to cause anxiety for lots of parents. SNAP Cymru is here to support family concerns through this process. If you are worried or have any questions, please contact us through our helpline 0845 1203730 helpline @snapcymru.org or directly to firstname.lastname@example.org or 01554778288.