‘SEND Review: right support, right place, right time’.
For these 3 ‘rights’ to be in place, monumental changes are needed.
What does this mean for SENDCOs?
Though we are yet to see guarantees, these are some of the potential implications:
1. The SEND NPQ
The ‘Leadership SENCO NPQ’, as it is referred to, will replace the NASENCO Award as the statutory qualification for new SENDCOs (needless to say, you won’t have to do the new one if you’ve already got the old one!). Those new to the SENDCO role will need to be ‘in the process of obtaining the qualification when taking on the role’, rather than having 3 years in which to complete it (and a window in which not to commence it initially, if desired). The new qualification promises to ‘improve SENDCOs’ leadership expertise’ and to be evidence-informed.
2. A new SEND Code of Practice
We don’t quite know the edits yet – though we can second-guess many of them based on the content of the Green Paper – but there will be a new Code of Practice to get used to.
3. Alternative Provision as more of a focus
With the Government wishing to bring more systems around AP into the SEND fold, SENDCOs can expect AP to creep in as something they oversee in their school, even if they don’t already.
4. A standardised and digitised EHCP process
No more learning the paperwork expectations of a range of local authorities, for any SENDCOs working across several LA borders. One system. Let’s just hope it’s a good one, a concise one, and one that reduces the time and effort it takes for SENDCOs, while also ensuring a high quality of EHCP. The Green Paper acknowledges the problems in practice of having a 40 page EHCP, making me hopeful of a little brevity. The challenge will be not cutting the parents’ and children’s right to be heard, while also keeping it as a workable document for professionals. This standardised process will be linked to a national framework for banding (i.e. funding) EHCPs, hopefully bringing greater fairness into the system in terms of what resource schools are given in order to meet need.
5. No more responding to consultations
I write about some of the legal complexities of receiving an EHCP consultation in my book, The Lone SENDCO. However, in the new system, parents will ‘express an informed preference for a suitable placement’; the local authority will ‘allocate the first available place in order of the parent’s or carer’s preference and this school will be named in the child’s EHCP’. No more 14 days to respond; instead, a move to considering how to meet needs, rather than whether needs can be met.
6. Fewer tribunals, more mediations
With mandatory mediation, this may mean the balance shifts towards SENDCOs being a part of the mediation process, rather than the perhaps more nerve-wracking invitation to attend a tribunal.
7. MAT support
Academies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. That said, I see many examples where the existence of a MAT supports SENDCOs, through bringing them together with one strong SENDCO or SEND lead, reducing the potential isolation of the role. Though in some areas, local authorities fulfil this role of bringing SENDCOs together, it will be interesting to see how a national rollout of academisation affects SENDCO retention, SENDCO workload and ultimately outcomes for young people with SEND.
8. National Standards
It should be easier now to understand what warrants a child’s placement on, continuation on or removal from a SEND register. Though it will always take a degree of subjectivity, a greater focus on all SENDCOs asking themselves the same questions, and responding in the same way to the answers, is surely a good thing.
The National Standards will also aim to articulate what ‘ordinarily available provision’ should consist of. Presumably written as a document for SENDCOs to soak up and share appropriately, it should make the process of supporting teachers more transparent – though we can’t expect it to outline the lower-incidence needs that will always require a bespoke approach and will sometimes require specific, localised training. There is promise of ‘training and development’ to ensure the successful implementation of this ordinarily available provision.
It also outlines National Standards for such things as transition and co-production with children and parents, which we will wait to see the detail of.
9. Guidance on how to use and deploy TAs
Though it seems unlikely that this will differ significantly from the widely-known principles of effective TA practice, the Green Paper promises ‘clear guidance’ on such effective deployment.
This isn’t comprehensive of course – and it doesn’t cover the current unknowns. Some SENDCOs may take on additional responsibility as a result of the Green Paper, perhaps helping to formulate their ‘local inclusion plan’. SENDCOs may find it easier to be evidence-informed through the Government’s ‘what works evidence programme’, benefiting from the Government’s promise to ‘invest in new research on SEND classroom-based practice’ though the detail here isn’t clear yet. Though the Green Paper recommends ‘sufficient protected time’ and ‘dedicated administrative support’, the language here largely echoes the current SEND Code of Practice language, so it seems a challenge to see how this will bring wholesale changes.
There are some things in the Green Paper that won’t make a direct difference to mainstream SENDCOs – some things that inevitably will be watered down/changed over time (the Green Paper is just a consultation, after all); other things that are very much aimed at local authorities rather than schools.
It’s undoubtedly an interesting time to be in the SEND system – to see if the mission of ‘right support, right place, right time’ can be reached in reality.