EDUCATION

ENGLAND

The biggest education reforms in a generation for children and young people with special educational needs in England became law on Monday 1 September 2014. The new Children and Families Act was designed to offer simpler, improved and consistent help for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and extend provision from birth to 25 years of age. These reforms were intended to give families greater choice in decisions, ensure their children’s needs were properly met, and their rights and protection extended by introducing a new Education, Health & Care (EHC) plan to replace the previous system of School Action/Plus and Statements of Need.

In England it is estimated that 1 in 5 children have Special Educational Needs or Disability ranging from dyslexia to a physical impairment. The reforms outlined in the new SEN & Disability Code of Practice places children and parents at the heart of the system. This document provides guidance to local education authorities, educational settings, and others on carrying out their statutory duties and aims to ensure support fits in with needs and not the other way round resulting in a more joined up system compared with the previously complex and fragmented system.

For children and young people identified as having Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND) it has often been difficult to get the support they need to do well and taken too long for their families to find out that their child needs extra help. The new SEN & Disability Code of Practice aims to deal with the problems that prevent children and young people with SEND from getting the support and services they need. The new system should allow them to have the same opportunities and support as everyone else in order to move smoothly into adulthood. According to the Government this is a more effective, transparent and accountable system of support for children and young people with SEND.

THE LOCAL OFFER – Every Local Authority must have what is known as A Local Offer which gives children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities, and their families, information about what support services the local authority think will be available in their local area. It must also include provision outside the local area that the local authority expects is likely to be used by children and young people with SEND for whom they are responsible.The Local Offer for Lancashire can be downloaded here or, for Blackburn-with-Darwen visit their website here.

More information about the Children and Families Act, the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice, EHC plans, and Exclusions are contained in the following documents which you can download:

If you need information and/or advice about almost anything educational you should find it at one of the following websites:

WALES

The long-awaited Additional Learning Needs (ALN) reforms, which will affect one in five children, has had a “complete overhaul” of a system “no longer fit for purpose”. The ALN Code sets out how reforms to the way children and young people receive support with their learning difficulties will be delivered. The Code is an important next step in implementing The Additional Learning Needs Code for Wales 2021/

What are ALN and what’s changing?
The term “Special Educational Needs” (SEN) is changing to “Additional Learning Needs” (ALN). The current SEN framework, in place for around 25 years, is being replaced by the ALN system, which was established by the 2018 Act. The definition for ALN will essentially be the same as for SEN. This is:

  • the learner has a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age (that can’t be addressed solely through differentiated teaching); or
  • the learner has a disability (for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010) which prevents or hinders them accessing education or training that’s generally provided for others of the same age; and
  • the learning difficulty or disability calls for Additional Learning Provision (ALP).

Currently around 21% of school age children are recognised as having SEN. The Welsh Government expects these pupils to be supported with their ALN under the new system. The new ALN system will cover the 0-25 age group. This means ALN can be identified and supported from early years through to further education.
The new ALN system has three main aims:

  • Universal, statutory “Individual Development Plans” for all children and young people with ALN. This will end the current distinction between school led interventions and local authority issued statements, and integrate the separate arrangements for pupils in schools and post-16 students in colleges.
  • Better collaboration between local authorities and health boards, including a designated officer within each health board to liaise with local authorities and schools.
  • A fairer and more transparent system with greater emphasis on avoiding disagreement and resolving disputes.

A summary of the 2018 Act explains the legislation in more detail and the new system it creates.

From September 2021, all learners newly identified as having ALN will be supported through the new system of Individual Development Plans. Pupils already in the SEN system will transition over to the new ALN system during a three-year period, starting with those who have low to moderate needs. Those with more severe or complex needs (who currently have “statements” of SEN) will move to the new system later in the three-year period and the timing will depend on which year group a pupil is in.

For further information visit the following websites:
http://www.snapcymru.org/
http://edyourself.org/articles/senchangeswales.php

SCOTLAND

By law, education authorities must identify, provide and review the additional support needs of their pupils which can arise in the short or long term as a result of the learning environment, family circumstances, health, wellbeing needs or a disability.

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (“the Act”) 1 provides the legal framework for identifying and addressing the additional support needs of children and young people who face a barrier, or barriers, to learning. The Act aims to ensure that all children and young people are provided with the necessary support to help them work towards achieving their full potential. It also promotes collaborative working among all those supporting children and young people and sets out the rights of children, young people and parents within the system.

The 2000 Act requires that pupils with additional support needs learn in a mainstream school unless specific exceptions apply.

Further information can be found in the links below:
https://www.gov.scot/policies/schools/additional-support-for-learning/
https://enquire.org.uk/
https://reach.scot/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland
https://www.scotborders.gov.uk/

NORTHERN IRELAND

There are more than 67,000 children with special educational needs in Northern Ireland’s schools – around one in five of all pupils. The four main Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) areas are:

  • Communication and Interaction.
  • Cognition and Learning.
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties.
  • Physical and/or Sensory Needs.

Currently, the Department of Education is seeking to develop a new “improved and more responsive” SEN Framework. This new SEN Framework will comprise three elements:

  1. Primary legislation: Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (the SEND Act).
  2. Secondary legislation: New SEN Regulations.
  3. Guidance: A new SEN Code of Practice.

In May 2021 it was announced that Northern Ireland would receive £22m for Special Educational Needs (SEN). This significant package of funding, which is for the 2021-22 financial year follows a previous £7.5m that schools received for the period January to March 2021. The funding will be provided to schools to help them implement the new SEN Framework.

More information is available on the following websites:
https://senac.co.uk/
https://www.eani.org.uk/parents/special-educational-needs-sen
https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/articles/review-special-educational-needs-and-inclusion
https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/children-special-educational-needs

HOME SCHOOLING

Many parents and carers are deciding to home school their children. If you do decide to home school, you might be overwhelmed with questions about how to begin. The most common reasons for parents and carers choosing to home school a child are:

  • The child’s health issues, particularly mental health issues – for example, anxiety, school phobia, separation anxiety, or depression
  • Special educational needs not being met within the school system – for example, dyslexia, autism, or gifted and talented needs
  • The child being bullied (either by peers or their teachers)
  • The child’s unwillingness or inability to go to school
  • As a short-term intervention for a particular reason
  • The parent’s ideological or philosophical views – for example, they might support the concept of ‘unlearning’
  • Dissatisfaction with the school system – for example, disliking the National Curriculum, believing that children start school too early, or that the school system does not suit their child
  • Distance to a local school.

Choosing to home school is not a decision to be made lightly. Being home schooled means that the child’s parents or carers have to take sole responsibility for their child’s education including the costs of any educational resources and exam fees. There is sometimes the option for a child to do flexi-schooling. This is where you arrange for your child to receive part of their education at a school, college, or other education provider, so that they can take subjects that are difficult to teach from home. Schools and education providers don’t have to agree to doing this, but some are happy to do so.

One key benefit if you home school is that you can personalise the education that your child receives according to their interests, needs, ability, and learning style. When education is personalised, children are generally more engaged. Teaching one-to-one gives the child much more attention, and leads to less wasted time. In fact, it’s so efficient that some parents report getting a day’s worth of learning in within two hours. However one area that sometimes proves difficult to resolve is the lack of social interaction with peers that would normally occur within the school setting. Homeschool support groups, co-ops, field trip groups, and park dates all offer opportunities for your child to socialise with other children and make friends. You can search for these groups online; some groups are now on facebook, so you may want to search there as well. Download list of home school support groups here.

The efficiency of home schooling – and the fact that you don’t have to follow the national curriculum or the typical timings of a school day – leaves you with time to spend broadening your child’s learning. You can make time for play, projects, real experiments, and the arts. Real-life skill building – including cooking, cleaning, volunteering, and learning to budget – could form a part of your school day.

Below are links to websites for more information. There is a plethora of information and resources online – all you have to do is search.

https://www.educationotherwise.org/starting-out/
https://www.gov.uk/home-education
https://myonlineschooling.co.uk/community/free-homeschooling-resources/
https://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-he-770-free-home-education-resources-sample-pack
https://www.englishandmedia.co.uk/publications/free-key-stage-3-and-home-learning-pack
https://home-ed.info/