More Power for Parents of Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs

A new system for special educational needs

The Children’s and Families Bill is expected to come into force in September 2014. The bill will bring changes that will greatly improve the way that young people with special educational needs and their families are identified, assessed and supported.

The new system is underpinned by a number of principles:

  • To ensure the early identification of special education and support needs
  • The need for there to be high expectations and aspirations for what children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities can achieve
  •  A focus on the outcomes that children and young people and their families want to achieve
  • That the views and participation of children, young people and their parents/carers are central in the process
  • That Children, young people and their families have greater choice and control for their support, including a greater choice of schools and colleges, and personal budgets to tailor services to meet their individual needs
  • To ensure that there is sufficient high quality provision to meet the needs of children and young people
  • To ensure that education, health and social care partners collaborate to create the best support package possibly available
  •  To ensure that the skills knowledge and attitude of those working with children and young people are central to achieving excellent outcomes.

One of the aims of the reforms is to make sure there is a clear focus for outcomes for children and young people. There will be a new single statement called an Education Health and Care plan (EHC), which will take an all-round, longer term view than the previous statementing process, detailing the support a young person will need throughout their childhood and into adulthood. This will include things like them finding paid employment, enabling them to live independently and be part of their community.

A major aspect of the reforms is that parent’s views will carry much more weight. There will be increased choice, opportunity and control for parents and young people. This includes a greater range of schools and colleges which parents can express a preference for.

Parents are now able to request placements at specialist independent schools and post 16 institutions. These schools have existed for a number of years but under the previous system parents had less influence in the placement process which meant that most were unaware that such specialist provision existed in their local area and even if they were aware of its existence, it is was extremely difficult to get their children into this very specialist, highly resourced and highly individualised education placement. Under the new system however, the local authority will have a duty to meet the parent’s preference unless there are significant reasons for not honouring the placement.

Children and young people with an Education Health and Care plan will also be entitled to attend more than one school (dual placements) this means that they still attend their mainstream school but also spend time in more specialist provision getting the extra support they need to achieve. This will be available to children and young people in school and also post 16 provision.

In addition children and young people without an EHC can still be admitted to a special school which was not possible under the old system.

Parents will also be able to get clear, comprehensive and accessible information on all the support services and opportunities available for children and young people from 0 to 25. This will also include specialist provision outside of the immediate area, as well as health information including speech and language and other therapies, mental health and how children and young people with medical conditions can be supported.  Under the new system local authorities must ensure that parents and young people are involved in the planning and reviewing of the local services that are on offer, reviewing these services and in the process of drawing up of their own individual Education Health and Care plans.

Health agencies will also play a vital role in collaborating and supporting providers of education and care. Clinical Commissioning groups (CCG) and the NHS Commissioning board will be full partners in the new arrangements.

Brian Jones is Chief Executive Officer of the Derby based; SENAD Group which run special needs schools, transition services, community support services and adult residential homes across the UK. Local services run by the group include Alderwasley Hall School and Sixth Form near Belper, which works with children and young people with autism and speech and language difficulties and Bladon House School in Newton Solney near Burton which works with children and young people with Moderate Learning difficulties, autism and challenging behaviours. The Group also have a Community Support Team who help people of all ages to live the life they choose.

Brian said about the reforms:

“These reforms are fantastic news for children, young people and their families. Getting good quality education and support is a fundamental right and I welcome any reforms that make the process less complicated, more transparent and outcomes focussed for all those involved.  The SENAD Group and other independent providers offer fantastic, well established special needs schools, staffed by experts in the field. It makes absolute sense from both a financial and outcomes basis that these are presented in the Local Authorities ‘local offer’.  I am also pleased that the new system will involve parents, carers and young people themselves, and ensure they are placed at the centre of the system. The new system also acknowledges the expert knowledge and understanding that parents have of their child, something that seems to have been overlooked or in some cases ignored far too often in the old process.”