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A new era for SEN provision beckons for all educators…

The implementation date for the revised SEN Code of Practice is set for 01 September 2014. Jessica Nash, SSAT’s Head of Special Schools and SEN, assesses the far-reaching implications of the draft code.

The revised code makes clear the inextricable link between increasing achievement for all learners and school performance. This is good because it provides a helpful lever for SENCos, though it’s not without challenge given the complexity of whole school co-ordination.

The revised code really does test school policy and practice in relation to students who experience barriers within their learning. More than ever before, SENCos need to call on the wider leadership team and reinforce the collective responsibility of all teaching staff in order to implement SEN reform. It’s a positive but possibly unsettling message for some – but identifying the issue of underachieving pupils in school-wide priorities such as curriculum reform and assessment models means you can start building a tangible response to the SEN reforms.

It signals a need to raise awareness of the implications amongst all staff and governors. The changes drive the need for a school-wide response, building capacity at every level of the teaching staff in order to ensure the knowledge, skills and expertise to deliver personalised teaching for all pupils. Leadership teams have to understand and reflect this in policy, and management activities have to model it.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for discrete SEN change planning however: for the first time the SEN Code will cover the 0-25 years age range. This is a big change for colleges in particular. The ‘golden thread’ running through chapter 6 is ‘improving educational outcomes for all pupils’. This is the significant shift. The key theme – that every teacher in every school has responsibility for the achievement of every pupil – is at the heart of SSAT’s Redesigning Schooling agenda.

The SEN Code talks clearly, if in somewhat general terms, about the quality of universal provision, building learner / family participation, identifying individual need, and evaluating the impact of planned interventions which will also extend to further education organisations. This means that the SENCo needs to be the voice which promotes, and the professional who collaborates, to ensure that:

  • the evidence of the quality of teaching does link into professional development
  • pupil tracking and assessment data does influence curriculum planning
  • the staff performance framework and its opportunity for objective setting and professional development expectations reflects priorities drawn from analyses of teaching quality and pupil achievement
  • budget allocation is directly informed by priority pupil groups based on achievement data and is used to build expertise across the workforce.

It’s probably this final bullet point which will present the greatest challenge. It may well be recognised that it is more effective to enhance the quality of teaching and learning to better meet low-level needs than to allocate these pupils into more costly targeted interventions; this revised SEN Code expects a wider generalisation of skills and strategies to ensure consistent approaches. So resourcing and planning staff development for some SEN / low-level needs will be integral to improving teaching and learning – this means unpicking the main budget, and certainly the wider leadership will want to be involved then!

SSAT is holding SENCo conferences on 25 and 27 March that will give you the chance to work with colleagues nationwide to address the challenges  of implementing the new code.

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