Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by The Association of National Specialist Colleges (CF 21)

Natspec evidence relating to Part 3 Children and Young People in England with Special Educational Needs

Information about The Association of National Specialist Colleges: Natspec

· Natspec is the membership association for over 60 specialist colleges in England.

· Natspec colleges provide high quality, tailored education and skills development courses for up to 3,500 students with complex learning difficulties or disabilities.

· Students follow personalised courses that help them to achieve their goals and aspirations, for example to start work or to live independently in the community.

· Natspec colleges employ skilled staff teams , whose expertise and knowledge enable them to provide individualised learning and support.

· Colleges use assistive and cutting edge technologies to promote independence and autonomy.

· Natspec colleges offer a well-rounded education and encourage students to become involved in additional activities like sport, drama, arts and crafts and volunteering opportunities.

· Student’s opinions and feedback are important, and a range of approaches are used to ensure that students have their say , including a Natspec learner survey .

· Natspec is a member of the Special Education Consortium (SEC) and works closely with the Association of Colleges ( AoC ) on matters of shared interest

The Bill

1. Natspec broadly welcomes part 3 of this bill and supports its intentions. We note the positive changes that have been made through the consultation process and the pre-legislative scrutiny. However, some concerns remain, in particular about the support that will be available to ensure genuine participation by young people, and about continuing access to education up to the age of 25 for those who require it in order to optimise their opportunities and improve their life chances as they move into adulthood.

2. Natspec also remains concerned about the impact of the funding reforms for high needs students which will be introduced in September 2013, a year ahead of the bill’s reforms. Currently these funding reforms are creating a good deal of confusion for young people and their families, and are overly bureaucratic and problematic for providers, local authorities and the EFA, with many uncertainties remaining just a few months ahead of implementation.

Involving young people

3. Clause 19: Natspec welcomes new clause 19, with its focus on involving and including young people. However, it is important to understand that doing this effectively requires skills, time and resources, so we want to ensure that young people are given appropriate support to participate. They should not be put under undue pressure to understand complex documents or procedures without such support, nor should they be expected to take on responsibilities that their non-disabled peers would not be expected to undertake.

4. We would therefore wish to see some form of monitoring of the involvement of young people and the support provided to enable this

5. Clause 22: We agree that LAs should be able to identify children and young people with learning difficulties or disabilities in their area. The significant problems in implementing the funding reforms for high needs students have shown how poor the data is currently. LAs fulfilling their duties under this clause will be essential in ensuring the effective implementation of the funding reforms and this legislation

Education, health and care provision: joint commissioning and co-operation

6. Clause 28: Natspec welcomes and supports the duty to co-operate with LAs. However, when colleges work with large number of local authorities, there may be additional administrative burdens imposed through this clause. We would therefore wish to see the development of consistent approaches and practices across local authorities, which will not only reduce such burdens for partners but will provide greater clarity for those using services.

The Local Offer

7. Clause 30: Natspec welcomes clarification that the ‘local offer’ must also include information about provision beyond local authority boundaries. It is important that young people and parents are made aware of the full range of options that are available to them, including specialist provision that can meet the learning and support needs of those with more complex or low incidence disabilities. It neither makes sense nor offers value for money to replicate such provision in every local area. It is also part of the post-16 travel o learn patterns that young people move across boundaries; this opportunity to find the most appropriate course to meet their needs should be equally available to young people with learning difficulties or disabilities.

8. We continue to support the need for a national framework for the local offer, without which young people and parents cannot compare local offers and the range of provision and services available. We support the inclusion in such a framework of clear principles, the scope of the offer, how it is to be reviewed, the formats for publication, and how authorities will be held to account for its delivery

9. We welcome the fact that regulations will indicate how young people are to be involved in preparing the local offer, and will comment further once these regulations are published

10. Clause 32: Young people, and their parents, must receive impartial advice and accessible information if they are to be able to make choices that will be in their best interests.

Education, Health and Care plans

11. Clause 36 (also clauses 37 EHC plan, 44 reviews and re-assessments and 45 ceasing to maintain an EHC plan): Natspec has concerns about the wording of (10), which states that with regard to EHC plans, a local authoritymust have regard to’ the age of someone over 18. We have concerns that this could be used to reduce access to learning for those over 18 and may result in a perverse incentive to set educational outcomes that can be achieved by 18, in order to cease the plan at that point. Natspec’s view is that many young people with an EHC plan benefit from continuing access to education to give them sufficient time to learn, practice and retain new skills, and to become more autonomous learners. We would therefore wish to see this duty to ‘have regard to’ age deleted and for there to be a positive assumption that a plan would be continued to the age of 25 for all those who need it.

12. We note that regulations will include information about how assessments are conducted and how views can be expressed and submitted. If young people are to be effectively engaged in this, then those who undertake assessments must be suitably skilled, trained and qualified to use person centred approaches. Regulations will also include provisions about advice, guidance and support. Those providing this must be well informed, suitably qualified and above all impartial.

The inclusion of Specialist colleges

13. Clause 41: Natspec warmly welcomes the inclusion of specialist colleges in this clause, thereby improving choice and enabling young people to name these colleges in their EHC plan. We look forward to further discussions about the specific content of the regulations. Natspec member colleges are clear about and accept the duties to admit and to co-operate that this inclusion brings with it. It will be important to ensure that these section 41 colleges are included in the local offer as local, regional or national options for young people.

Code of practice

14. Clause 66: Natspec notes that the new code will apply from 0-25, and will apply to specialist colleges, and welcomes both developments. The Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA) guidance which this new code will replace included clear guidance on matters such as the engagement with young people, responsibilities within the system, the training required for those who undertake assessments, monitoring, transition planning and timescales. We would wish to see these aspects of the LDA guidance included in the revised Code of Practice.

15. Clause 67: Natspec welcomes the decision that the Code of Practice will be laid before parliament. However, we would wish to see the code put before Parliament under a positive resolution to ensure comprehensive scrutiny and debate

March 2013

Prepared 13th March 2013