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Implementing the revised SEND code of practice – easy as 1 2 3?

No, that’s the number of days until it becomes statutory guidance! (As of 1 May 2014)

Jessica Nash, Head of Special Schools Network and Special Education Needs SSAT, writes…

Although we don’t yet have the final version of the revised SEND Code, it’s clear that the DfE is still working to the timeline of implementation from September 2014 so work in schools is gaining pace in preparation for the changes.

The SEND Code sets out statutory guidance and recommended approaches: some describe aspects of excellence in practice which many schools already have in place (e.g. aspirational learning and development targets), others require significant planning for change (e.g. introduction of a graduated approach, the Education, Care and Health Plan).

The clear message since the publication of the scene setting ‘Support and Aspiration’ is that our SEND systems need to be less bureaucratic, and staff time and energies need to focus on supporting pupils to be ambitious and realise their goals whatever their level of SEN and/or Disability. And now we have a clear mandate to ensure that these pupils:

• achieve their best
• become confident individuals living fulfilling lives, and
• make a successful transition into adulthood, whether into employment, further or higher education or training.

That’s encouraging because, after all, isn’t increasing access for all pupils to learning and personal development the reason anyone specialises in SEND – whether in a mainstream or special school? Recognising that resourcing and wider social inclusion can present barriers which have to be broken through or worked around, this Code is definitely a lever, with its stronger focus on high aspiration and expectation of professional collaboration in all settings.

But it’s mistaken to think 1st September is the magical date when we will pull down all the barriers for low achievers, or those with more complex needs whose progress is often significant but rarely discernible in standardised data sets. The starting point is that it’s key to be able to demonstrate through policy, implementation and delivery:

• How children, parents and young people are involved in decision making
• Accurate and early identification of needs
• SEND provision is of high quality and interventions are timely to meet needs
• Collaboration between education, health and social care services to provide support
• Greater choice and control for young people and parents over their support
• A focus on inclusive practice and increasing access to learning and personal development
• Successful preparation for adulthood, including independent living and employment

These non-negotiables run through the SEND Code – they more than likely resonate with your own school’s statement of aims. That’s helpful, because at least the specific system changes you may need to plan depending on current practice will be a stronger demonstration of school’s overall purpose and mission.

It’s also useful that there’s significant correlation between the SEND statutory guidance and the current Ofsted handbook; useful, because it means that the collective responsibility for implementing the SEND changes actually relies on existing accountabilities we recognise from school self-evaluation and inspection. We might think that ‘best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need’ is open to interpretation but there’s absolute clarity in ‘high quality teaching, differentiated for individual pupils’ (6.34). And for those pupils with high levels of need, the SEND Code is equally as clear: ‘EHC plans must focus on how best to achieve the outcomes sought … outcomes in EHC Plans should be SMART’ (9.59).

The considerable detail set out in the chapters for early years, schools and further education providers articulates the expectations for those pupils with EHC Plans. Quick cross referencing highlights corresponding references between the current version of the SEND Code and Ofsted guidance when considering some of the key elements of the SEND Code. These characteristics of effective practice underpin both mainstream and special school provision: Early identification; Graduated approach; Record of support; Clear expected outcomes: academic and developmental, stretching and relevant; Progress tracking and systematic review; Active engagement of SEN learner and their family.

• Quality of teaching (Ofsted inspection handbook 104 & 106, SEND Code 6.34)
• Pupil assessment and tracking processes are integrated – identification of low achievers (Ofsted subsidiary guidance 52, SEND Code 6.69)
• Accurate identification of additional needs – criteria for entry/exit to intervention programmes (Ofsted subsidiary guidance 55, SEND Code 6.11)
• Impact of intervention – information sharing and re-enforcing strategies beyond the intervention sessions (Ofsted subsidiary guidance 56)
Staff performance management reflecting whole school priorities, informing staff development planning (Ofsted inspection handbook 62, SEND Code 6.4)
• Resource allocation driven by evidence based whole school priorities (Ofsted inspection handbook 109, SEND Code 6.76)
• Participation of individual pupil and their family / advocate (Ofsted inspection handbook 51 & 52, Ofsted subsidiary guidance 204 & 205, Ofsted SEND Code 9.21)

In addition, these parallels are expanded for the Special school sector:

• Quality and appropriateness of educational provision (Ofsted subsidiary guidance 207 & 209, SEND Code 8.32, 9.4 & 9.77)
• Specialist educational resourcing and intervention (Ofsted subsidiary guidance 90 & 203, SEND Code 9.66)
• Impact of educational provision and specialist interventions (Ofsted subsidiary guidance 52 & 57, SEND Code 9.64, 9.127, 9.168 & 9.172)

So, implementing the SEND Code is integral to the business of whole school improvement. Rather than being overwhelmed by its 242 pages, the Code can be used as a tool for developing and enhancing the provision within your school. It’s naïve to suggest that it can be ‘in place’ for the dawn of 1 September but as with the process of school performance planning there are some actions requiring immediate attention and some which will be part of on-going development.

It’s essential to take a whole school perspective as this will ensure the most effective implementation and as the quick referencing above indicates, there are many issues which are central to school performance.

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