Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Nasen (CF 48)


Nasen is the leading UK professional association embracing all special and additional educational needs and disabilities. The organisation promotes the education, training, development and support of all those working within the special and additional educational needs and disabilities sector. nasen contributes greatly and has a strong influence on policy and practice in the area of special educational needs through consultation and joint projects with other professional bodies.

As a membership organisation nasen is able to consult with its members as well as gaining relevant information from the increasing number of practitioners it works with. In the last two years nasen has training 5000 SENCOs and has gained a great deal of knowledge and insight into the challenges that schools are facing in regard to the more complex needs that many children and young people are now exhibiting.

Nasen and the Children and Families Bill

Nasen welcomes the government’s commitment to supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people and are hopeful that this Bill will offer an opportunity for a more steam-lined, transparent system that schools can manage and that children and families have confidence in.

We were very pleased with the changes that were introduced to the Bill from the recommendations from the Education Select Committee Pre-Legislative Scrutiny.

We were also delighted with Edward Timpson’s announcement on the first day of the Bill Committee sessions where he outlined a new duty which would mean that clinical commissioning groups would by law have to secure services in education, health and care plans for children and young adults. We look forward to seeing the finer detail of this duty and the implications for children, young people and their families.

Nasen’s members feel that there are a great many questions still to be answered in terms of the processes that will support many of the policy objectives. It also needs to be acknowledged that this Bill is being introduced alongside the most radical reform of the education system that many have seen. The Academy and Free School agenda, national funding reform, national curriculum and assessment changes including the introduction of the phonics check, distribution of Pupil Premium, significant changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage and the introduction of two Ofsted frameworks in one year all need to be considered alongside these SEND legislative changes.

Consideration also needs to be taken in regard to the lack of central services at local authority level as well as the major, radical changes currently being undertaken across the health service.

Nasen would like to see the following addressed by the Children and Families Public Bill Committee

1. Clearer guidance on the processes that will need to be in place so that schools can implement the legislative changes especially in regard to the move to a single assessment process (removal of school action and school action plus) that ensures that all children and young people continue to get the support they need.

2. The regulations in the Code of Practice being robust enough to ensure that schools carry out the necessary processes using a staged approach with expectation of identify, intervene, monitor, evaluate and measure progress.

3. We would like to see a National Framework for the Local Offer which would underpin the expectation that every local authority must include certain criteria in their offer – this can then be localized and be clear and transparent for parents and families.

4. We also believe that there should be a school offer. What does this school offer every child, every-day. This would include a commitment to nasen’s Every Teacher Campaign – Every teacher is responsible and accountable for all pupils in their class wherever or with whoever the pupils are working.

This would ensure a whole school understanding of Quality First Teaching.

5. We would also like to see a National Framework for an Education, Health and Care Plan again containing set criteria that are common across every local authority – localized information can be added to the framework. This will help reduce the current "postcode lottery" that exists.

6. We would wish to see the removal of "hours of support" and the introduction of outcomes for children and young people. There is a culture of expectation about 1-1 hours of support that may not bring about the best outcome for the young people. Parents and families expect hours and teachers expect hours and therefore the person providing the hours is left teaching the young person. This may be the least qualified person in a school.

7. We are still very concerned about the legal duties on health and social care and their participation in both assessments and the delivery of services. The aspiration of the Green Paper was that this would be an integrated plan but it is still very much an Education plan with health and social care opting in where necessary. There are concerns about those young people who currently do not have educational needs because they are receiving input from health/social care but without this may have educational needs.

8. We would ask the committee to re-consider the inclusion of disabled children with health and social care needs, but no significant educational needs within this Bill as currently it is highly unlikely that they will be able to access an Education, Health and Care Plan in the future.

9. Consideration needs to be given to the radical changes that are currently taking place within the health service and although the new duties to plan and commission services jointly are welcomed there are a number of discrepancies between current Children’s Trusts and Health and Well Being Boards.

10. We were delighted with the extension of entitlements to young people up to the age of 25. There needs to be assurances that all young people up to 25 who need the support given from an EHC plan are able to access one and that the provision to enable them to be in education, employment and/or training is available to them and funded appropriately.

11. It is a concern that universities have been left out of the Bill.

12. We welcome the emphasis on the engagement of parents and young people but

w ould seek further clarification on how local authorities are going to engage with those families and young people who may be difficult to engage with when they are looking at their review of the local offer and the services they are providing.

13. The role of the SENCO is going to be crucial in ensuring that all of the new legislation is embedded in school practice, especially with the reduced support from local authorities. How can we ensure that all schools have appointed a qualified teacher to the role of SENCO and that they are undertaking the NASENCo Award? It would be helpful if we knew if there was continued funding for this and that a review of current providers takes place before September 2013.

14. Nasen would also advocate that the SENCO should be a member of the Senior Leadership Team and be given the time and resource to undertake the role effectively.

15. We have welcomed the SEND Pathfinder Programme Report and congratulate the Pathfinders on the progress they have achieved so far. However, we are concerned about the small numbers of children, young people and their families who are actually benefiting from this excellent work. For example - Is it going to be possible to replicate some of the Personal Budget initiatives when rolled out across thousands of families?

16. There needs to be greater clarity in regard to the transition at 25 from being a young person to an adult and the support and services they can expect from adult services.

In conclusion, nasen welcomed the opportunity to give oral evidence on 5th March and supply this written evidence with our further comments. The key message from us as we move forward is that no matter what the final Bill includes we need to ensure that there is very clear communication to Early Years Providers, schools and colleges about the implementation and impact of the Bill. This needs to be part of all initial educational training whether for Early Years staff, teachers, non-teaching staff, health and social care professionals and equally there needs to be a clear message to schools about the importance of continuing to ensure that all educational practitioners have a comprehensive understanding of the new legislation and the requirements on them to deliver and enable them to identify and intervene quickly when difficulties occur.

Edward Timpson during the Children and Families Bill session on March 5th stated

the Bill has to help create the framework for the culture change needed on the ground – to recalibrate the way that professionals work and their behavior around each other, so it is much more co-ordinated and parents are much more involved in the process from the start.

This will demand a significant amount of effort in bringing education, health and care professionals together to ensure each has a complete understanding of the others roles and responsibilities to deliver the very best outcomes for our most vulnerable children, young people and their families.

March 2013

Prepared 20th March 2013