Blog on SEND Code of Practice from I CAN’s CEO, Virginia Beardshaw
This week the Department for Education published its SEND Code of Practice. Just one more round of Parliamentary scrutiny and it will be done and dusted – and not a moment to soon, since implementation of the Children and Families Act 2014 starts this September.
Working together, the children’s communication sector, led by The Communication Trust, which I CAN hosts, has had a big impact on the Code. Children’s communication, and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) feature largely in the Code because of the Trust’s efforts, which brought 40+ organisations across the sector together to influence and campaign effectively for children and young people with SLCN and their families.
This is as it should be. SLCN is the most prevalent special educational need in primary schools, and recent research found numbers have increased by 72% over a period of six years. Even then, children with SLCN remain under-identified.
So, while nothing in this world is ever certain, the new Children and Families Act definitely heralds a new world for children and young people with SEND and their families. While we welcome the publication of the Code so that schools can get ready and plan for September, we are also keen to ensure that it really does provide the guidance needed to make a difference for children and their families. Notably, the principles supporting the code are:
- the participation of children, their parents and young people in decision- making
- 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
Implementation will bring many challenges, particularly for schools, many of which – preoccupied with this year’s big changes to the curriculum – appear unsighted on the new requirements of the Act. But with the right guidance, the changes, correctly billed as the biggest change to the SEN system since the Warnock reforms of the 1970s, have the potential to bring about effective and lasting change to the provision for children with SEND and their families.
Much remains to be tested, though. What will joint commissioning between education, the NHS and social services really amount to for children, young people and their families? And at I CAN we’ve always had a worry that there will be insufficient help available for children whose needs aren’t high enough for an Education, Health and Care Plan but who still need significant assistance with their SLCN. And support up to the age of 25 remains an untested area…
But here at I CAN, we think that the architecture of the reforms are ‘good enough’ now, so what we are focussing on now is the quality of the implementation.
And, as a footnote, it is good to see I CAN and The Communication Trust mentioned in the Code as organisations that can help. Take a look !
Virginia Beardshaw, I CAN CEO.