Who is the SEND code of practice for?
The SEND Code of Practice is statutory guidance which came into force in September 2014. It sets out the duties, policies and procedures following on from legislation set out in the Children and Families Act 2014. Local Authorities (Education and Social Care), headteachers, early years providers, SENCOs, NHS Trusts, First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) and others as listed in the Code, must have regard to this guidance.
The Code of Practice is an in-depth document, which provides statutory guidance on matters including, but not limited to, identification of needs, the special educational provision in schools/preparing for adulthood, EHCP plans, reviews and appeals to the First-Tier Tribunal.
What do parents need to know about the SEND Code of Practice?
When a decision is made by a school, or others as listed in the SEND Code of Practice, about children and young people with special educational needs and/or a disability, it is the Code that must be considered because it relates to legislation – the law. Those making decisions must fulfil their statutory duties.
As a parent, it is helpful for you to know that the Code of Practice defines special educational needs in four broad areas of need and support:
Communication and Interaction
Children can often find understanding language and communicating difficult. This could be because of a difficulty with language or a condition such as autism, auditory processing disorder, speech/language disorder or delay, or pragmatic language difficulty. Children can find social communication difficult and the skills needed to manage a social situation.
Cognition and Learning
A child or young person may have a specific learning difficulty and experience problems with reading and spelling (dyslexia), mathematics (dyscalculia), coordination (dyspraxia) or writing (dysgraphia). Other difficulties may occur, for example, working memory, attention, organisation skills, problem solving, comprehension etc.
Those children with more severe learning difficulties may also experience difficulty learning basic skills, which may then affect their overall development.
Social, Emotional and Mental Health
Some children may have difficulties managing their behaviour and/or emotions. This can include self harming, low mood, problems of conduct, substance abuse or eating disorders. Some children may have recognised disorders such as attention deficit disorder, attachment disorder, or anxiety disorder.
Other children may find it difficult to interact socially with others, having not yet developed the necessary social skills, cues and understanding to work or play alongside others, to manage social situations, to take turns, to listen effectively to others, to pick up on social cues, to understand literal language, irony or implied meaning.
Sensory and/or Physical needs
Children with disabilities that affect the ability to access the environment or learn. This could include visual or hearing impairment, sensory processing disorder, physical disability, congenital conditions or a disability such as cerebral palsy.
*Important note – these all often overlap, and autism can mean a child has a sensory need, a learning need, social, emotional and mental health needs. It is rarely the case that a child falls under one category and any one difficulty can fall under several categories – so, dyspraxia, as an example, can be considered a cognition and learning need, as well as a physical need and then has an impact on social-emotional development.
Responsibilities placed on schools by the SEND Code of Practice.
- Schools should identify needs at the earliest opportunity and then respond by providing appropriate special educational provision, doing everything they can to meet the identified needs.
- Schools should not delay in providing additional support, teaching or other interventions if adequate progress is not being made by the child or young person. Planning and reviewing should be built into the delivery of the provision.
- Special educational provision in schools should include assessment of the child or young person’s needs and their progress; schools should access external agencies and professionals for more specialist assessment.
- Where a child or young person has not made the expected the progress then the school could request an Education, Health and Care needs assessment; parents also have the right to make this request at any time, even if the school does not consider it necessary.
- Parents, children and young people should be included as fully as possible in the decision-making process. To enable this to happen, local authorities must provide the necessary information, advice and support. All professionals should listen to concerns raised by parents; parents know their children best.
- Mainstream schools and academies must appoint a designated teacher as a SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator) who would be the key contact for a parent of a child or young person with special educational needs and/or a disability.
- Schools must publish their SEN Information Report on their website.
- There should be collaboration between education, health and social care services to identify need and to provide support for those needs
- School should be working to support children and young people to progress into adulthood to achieve higher education and/or employment, independent living, participate in their community and in society and to be as healthy and successful as possible in adult life.
What is an EHCP?
Schools in England must provide support to children with special educational needs (SEN) as part of their standard offer to children. This is called SEN Support. Schools are deemed to have notional funding within their existing budgets to support children at the SEN Support level.
Where a child requires additional support that goes beyond what a school, college, or nursery can typically deliver from their own budgets or staffing then they may need an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
An EHC plan is a legally-binding document outlining a child’s special educational, health, and social care needs. The document has to list all of the child’s special educational needs, provision to meet each of the needs and that provision has to be specific, detailed, and quantified. The plan names the school/setting which is to provide the provision and the plan is legally enforceable ultimately through Judicial Review.
Who needs an EHCP?
EHC plans are for those children (0-16) or young people (16-19) or adults (19-25) with special educational needs who require support beyond that which an educational setting can provide at SEN Support. A child who has educational needs may also have additional health and social care needs and those can be included in the plan so long as they relate to education. You cannot have a freestanding EHCP for health or social care reasons alone.
The EHCP application process
Below is an outline for the EHCP process from start to finish.
EHCP Assessment Application
The request can be made by:
- The parents
- The school
- An interested party
- A paediatrician
- A social worker
A written request must be sent to the Local Authority to initiate this process. The Local Authority then has 6 weeks from the date of the request to make a decision on whether to assess the child or not. Ideally, the LA will either agree or decline to make an assessment.
LA decides on issuing an EHCP
After an assessment, the Local Authority must decide whether to issue the EHCP or not.
There are two options at this point:
- The LA agrees to issue the EHCP and they then have up to 12 weeks from the date of the EHC assessment agreement to issue the Draft EHCP and a further 2 weeks to issue the final plan making 20 weeks in total.
- The LA refuses to issue the EHCP. They must inform you of this decision within 10 weeks of the date that the EHC assessment decision was made.
The Education, Health & Care Plan
Parents will receive a draft EHCP, they have 15 days to comment on and request revisions. The Draft EHCP will not name the school. The accompanying letter will normally identify the school the LA is suggesting they will name. Once any potential changes are made or comments are resolved, the EHCP is finalised.
The EHCP amendment and appeal process
Only Sections B, F, and I are appealable to the Tribunal. Appeals can be made on these sections and parental attendance will be physically required for hearings. Children under 16 are not expected to attend, whilst young people over 16 are encouraged to attend.
What does an EHC plan look like?
The physical delivery of an EHC plan will differ from local authority to local authority, but there are some essential similarities and sections that we will define below:
- Section A: the views, interests and aspirations of the child and their parents, or the young person;
- Section B: the child or young person’s special educational needs (SEN)
- Section C: the health care needs which relate to their SEN
- Section D: the social care needs which relate to their SEN or disability
- Section E: the outcomes sought for the child or young person
- Section F: the special educational provisions required to meet their SEN
- Section G: any health care provisions reasonably required by the learning difficulties or disabilities which result in the child or young person having SEN