The DfE has published the findings of, and its response to, the consultation on the special educational needs (SEN) code of practice. Interestingly the response said that the largest single category of respondents to both the autumn and spring consultation was local authorities.
Some of the concerns the Department said were frequently raised by respondents included:
• The lack of clarity on what services local authorities are expected to provide, and the need for guidance products that will tailor the Code of Practice to specific audiences as well as examples to clarify how joint commissioning arrangements will work. It also noted significant numbers of local authorities, parents, parent partnerships and voluntary organisations (identified in over 60 responses) raised issues around accountability and challenge, in particular how the requirements would affect academies, free schools and independent schools outside of local authority control.
• Whether the draft Code provided sufficient focus on the full range from 0-25. Respondents asked for more information on early years (identified in nearly 100 responses), while the largest perceived gap was around detail on post 16 onwards (identified in over 125 responses).
• The lack of information on inclusion and need for greater levels of accountability to be placed on schools in terms of schooling and learning difficulty assessments guidance.
The Department said it addressed most of the issues raised by making the following amends to the Code:
• Including a table that lays out which agency is responsible for what and their accountability structure.
• Adding a new chapter, preparing for adulthood from the earliest years, which includes post-16 content and sets out key information for all post-16 institutions and practitioners on pathways to employment, as well as guidance on the transition to adult health and social care services.
• Adding additional information on the factors that local authorities should take into account when deciding whether to undertake an EHC needs assessment and whether to issue an EHC plan.
• Extending the transition period for children and young people with statements to 1 April 2018, committing to publishing an order setting out the arrangements that will operate during this transition period, accompanied by explanatory guidance for local authorities.
Noting calls for legal duties or national minimum standards on those providing services in the local offer, the Department recalled Parliament’s opposition to this, but stated that guidance in the Code reflects the common framework for the local offer set out in regulations.