Tag Archives: school action

SEN Reform Aspirations – You Decide!

19 May

So, yesterday, I appeared alongside little man, in one of our local newspapers! This was for two reasons, #1 in celebration of my success at becoming a Mad Blog Awards finalist for the Second year running, and #2 the governments (Department of Education) update on its pending plans for Special educational needs (SEN) known as the “Green Paper – Support and Aspirations”

It’s this I wish to expand on, here on the blog today!

OK, the government published it’s progress report on the above paper, earlier this week. Reading the report I still find myself worried on a number of different levels.

Now, although I’m up for the whole idea of children with a disability or SEN receiving support up until their early adult years (25 years of age) the overall majority of this progress report still strikes me as worrying.

Excuse me but I can’t seem to shrug this niggling feeling I have at the back of my mind, that this is either some kind of money-saving tactic, a way of shrugging a degree of responsibility on to somebody else, or just an ill thought out process! What’s more it’s in my opinion that some of the most important issues remain unresolved or somewhat unclear let alone progressed!

Actually it would seem that some of these proposed changes, are anything other than changes at all!

For example: section 2 giving parents control!

“parents will have a clear Choice of school with equal rights to express a preference for any state funded school”

Ok, so we can make our preference known and the local authority has a duty to meet those preferences… Right?

Hang on a minute… That is unless

#A It’s unsuitable to the child age, aptitude, ability or sen

#B Incompatible with the education of other children of whom the child would be educated

and lastly… the all important factor, the get out of jail free card…

#C An insufficient use of resources

Mmm… Isn’t that how the system is meant to be working already?

Does this system actually get families anywhere currently? No

That’s why I thought we were meant to be changing it!

Scanning through the entire proposal, it seems a lot of the stuff we need changing isn’t actually changing at all, wheres the things we don’t want changing (just slightly amending) are being scrapped altogether!

These seem to be the things us parents cling to when trying to obtain efficient education for our children (remember the law states efficient is all our children require)!

A great example of this would be the graduated approach (School action & action plus) which is all set to be removed leaving parents of unstatemented children quaking in their boots, and rightly so!

So, why has the government made such a decision? This is due to their worries concerning labelling or should I say “Over labelling” Although to some degree, I agree that this is a problem to some extent, I’m also worried that this will stigmatise those that have a genuine need for additional support, support that only that of a statement can offer.

Yes we’re hearing about extra funding to train sencos and teachers but is this really enough assurance for the parent of the unstatemented child, the one that has no legal rights if support is offered or not?

We just can’t categorise these children, it’s not one size fits all! Regardless of a child’s disability, special educational needs or even attainment, every child is different! Not every child with autism requires SALT, not every child with dyslexia requires extra TA support. I remember my son always being compared to a fellow child with Aspergers in his “then” mainstream school! My child badly needed extra support with speech and language mainly due to his literal understanding of language, but because the other boy didn’t require such help, I was told little man didn’t either! I fear many will be over looked just as they are today with the scrapping of school action and school action plus. Both needed to be amended, as to allow the parents more confidence in the system, but this… I cannot see the benefits to the parents, just the governments budgets as the numbers of children with statements (soon to be EHCP) falls the piggy bank belonging to the government will fill up nicely!

I remember what it was like fighting for that statement, it was tough, I really don’t see much in the way of making that fight any easier when reading this proposal.

Looking at how the government has so far messed up in nearly every other area, it looks like its gonna be a bumpy ride ahead, so hold on tight parents, you can’t afford to let go.

Stages of SEN, Is my child receiving the right support

23 Oct

STAGES OF SEN

 Is my child receiving the right support?

 The stages of SEN are known as the ‘Graduated response’ that all maintained educational settings must abide.

 Some children will receive a statement even before starting full time education. This would only happen if the child in question had such needs that would undoubtedly require extensive provision to be made when the child was to start at school. Sometimes this maybe due to the child having a severe learning difficulty or disability, one that is discovered in the foundation stages of education, between the ages of 3-5 or even before this.

 However, many children go into full-time education (primary years) having either no medical diagnosis or any obvious learning difficulties (this is especially true for the child who has ADHD or high functioning autism).

 All maintained schools must by law publish a SEN policy that should be made available for all to see. The special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) along with the head-teacher and class teacher are normally a concerned parents first point of call. The SENCO’s key role and responsibility is to ensure that the SEN policy is being applied and its content remains efficient in how it applies to the school and the children in it. (though it is also the duty of the governing body and head teacher to ensure all policies remain up to date) The SENCO will also have the role of  ensuring the provision that is made for each individual child who is placed on the school’s sen register, making sure this is effective and the child is therefore achieving. This is where the Graduated response comes into play!

 Note: Although the SENCO will be expected to provide such duties as those above, it is the school as a whole (head-teachers, class teachers, governing body , etc.) who must together ensure a child is given the appropriate support to ensure that educational progress  is made while social & emotional needs are met. 

 On entry to a maintained Primary School

 Note

On access to primary education all children should be assessed to establish their attainment levels and individual learning style.

 A child who is starting primary school and is noted as having special educational needs, will be assessed using the curricular and baseline assessment process, therefore identifying the level of need the child requires.

 The child should then be placed on the SEN register and staff (teacher, senco etc.), should work with the parents to develop a suitable learning programme.

 Parents should be kept fully informed on their child’s progress and schools have a legal duty to inform parents when their child has been identified as having special educational needs and are placed on the SEN register.

 What is the Graduated response?

 This is basically an array of different strategies that need to be but into place to enable children identified as having SEN a way to progress both academically and emotionally. These strategies are broken up and divided into groups. It is only when all these strategies have been tried yet failed can a school claim to have used all its own resources in trying to meet a child’s individual educational needs. It is at this point that a school will claim that it cannot meet the child’s needs within its own resources. This is the point a statutory assessment and possible statement is needed (however I will touch on this in the next post, ‘Request for a statutory assessment’)

 Note: Remember, there are times when exceptions have to be made meaning a child could go from school action right to the assessment process as the child’s needs have changed so much, even resulting in a managed move to a special school for the period of assessment (I will touch on this more in the next post, as above). 

 The stages of SEN

 Stage 1

 School Action:

  This is the first stage, when a child is identified as a child with Special educational needs (SEN). They are then placed on the SEN register and the parent should at this point be notified. Teacher, teaching assistants and Senior staff and of course the SENCO, must work closely together with the parent putting a number of strategies in place to ensure the child makes good progress. These strategies may not involve anything huge and in many cases work set out for the child is just slightly differentiated from the work of their peers. Many children progress well and eventually are removed from the register needing no further assistance. 

 What, if it’s the other way around and your child doesn’t make progress?

 This is when we move on to the next stage.

 Stage 2 

 School Action +

 When the child in question fails to progress on school action they will move to school action plus. This is often when the child’s needs require a much higher level of support. It is common step for the child who have social, emotional difficulties or those on the autism spectrum. It is also common for a child with such difficulties, to move from school action to action plus pretty quickly (however it’s the step after this that’s one of the biggest and hardest to reach). 

 What happens on school action plus?

 The SENCO will at this point have the use of external services if need. Everything needs to be fully documented, as the school will need to show the LEA that they are not wasting school resources (funding) when other courses of action could be taken. The child’s targets will be recorded on an Individual education plan (IEP) the IEP will state the child’s short term targets and the provision that will be provided as to allow the child to succeeded in meeting the targets described. There will also be space for recording the outcome  (whether the child meet the targets) and the date/term in which the IEP commenced as well as the date it will be reviewed. Parents should also have a hand in the issuing of the IEP giving some parental input. 

 It is at this point the school can apply to the LEA for additional funding for services that operate outside the school. External services could include, visiting services or the provision to appoint support stuff on an individual basis. It has been known for a child at school action plus to receive 1-1 provision throughout the whole of the school day, including break-times! However, it should be noted that the school cannot usually continue with this level of support and should have usually applied for the process of a Statutory assessment from the LEA (which is something a parent can also apply for)

 This is where I finish and will continue this within the next post, ‘Request for a Statutory Assessment’ which will follow soon.

 This post will be available to download from GoogleDocs for your own personal use. 

Please note that you will need to wait for a period of 24 hours before it is available on GoogleDocs 

Claire Louise 

Aspirations Or Clever Financial Alterations! You Decide

12 Mar

We waited and waited and on the 9th, March 2011 we finally got to see  what the Coalition had in store for us in way of the ‘Green Paper’ titled ‘Support and aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability’


Talking as a parent i’m pleased to see that the  proposed education, health and social care plans (EHSCP) that are planed to replace statements of special educational needs will still give parents the same legal protection that a statement brings. The proposed plan would be aimed at 0-25 year olds not just school aged children. The plans will also involve support in the areas of health and social care as well as education, something that has been missing for too long! However I do wonder how this will affect those already with statements especially in terms of funding and the talk of allocated key-workers. Surely the statements will be reviewed in the same way as the EHSCP and so forth! The statements will therefore need to be maintained in-till the child reaches 25 and be amended to include the health and social care aspect.

Another proposal I welcome is the prospect of being given more choice on where our children are educated. I know many will accuse the coalition of  creating barriers to inclusive education in mainstream schools, but I am a firm believer that mainstream is not always the right way. People must remember that all children are different regardless of their special educational needs or disability, Just because society thinks that every child with sen/disability should learn beside their peers, In reality this isn’t easy for some (My son included) I believe that mainstream was seriously affecting his mental health which is the case for many children. I’m also very interested to hear more on the proposal of individualised budgets with greater parental control giving us a voice that allows us to express views on what services and provision such funding should provide. This is proposed to come into action by the year 2014. In till such date I will remain completely open mind. My mother used to tell me, “If something seems to good to be true, then it probably is.” For that reason I dare to get my hopes up.

Some maybe shaking there heads branding me a pessimist! Well, they would be correct, I’m just that!  Sadly it’s true but myself like many others have been made to feel this way when it comes to SEN & education. It’s my opinion that things will never be easy and we are used to battling for every thing our children need. I for one would be a little shocked to discover that I actually had some time on my hands to do other things instead of battling the system by way of phone calls, meetings, emailing, letter writing, campaigning and so on…  I really struggle to get my head around the idea that parents will be able to have an active part in the decision process surrounding their child’s provision & funding. We have to drag the local authority by the arse all the way to the tribunal just to get a little TA time or use of a laptop! So if this does plan out I for one will fill a little strange being suddenly heard and valued (Well, valued maybe pushing it a tad to far!).

Though some of the proposals look good on paper, I’ve been asking myself , “Are these just words being sugar-coated to look sweeter then they really are?” I mean, let’s not forget that the government are in the process of making huge cuts which will affect many of the services that have a role to play within this very paper. How will they be able to provide what is expected of them? Another important question to ask is, “How much are the Coalition planing to save through the implementation of the green paper?”

I’ve also been thinking about the legal side of things. Given the position I’m currently in (Advising parents on their appeal rights on LEAs sen decisions) I see a lot of re-training heading my way if the green paper is fully implemented. The law would need to under go a radical overview, with large areas, especially section 26 and 27 of the Ed act 96,  needing to be rewritten from scratch and the publication of a new code of practice.

But one of the biggest concerns for me is the proposal of a “single, multi-agency assessment” on the same day, rather than separate assessments on separate days. As much as I welcome a speeder assessment process then that of the current statutory assessment (10 week assessment, with the overall process from start to finish taking 26 weeks) but to propose just ‘one single assessment’ with the involvement of all professionals (and possibly even voluntary agencies) is quite honestly barbaric!

The paper has empathised that those children considered to have the most complex needs, will be the children assessed and issued with an education, health and social care plan, therefore how do they propose to assess a child with such complex needs in one single assessment? Children on the autism spectrum will be just one group of  many children who’s needs may be completely missed due to the child’s particular mood, environment, behaviour, anxiety , etc., on the chosen day of the assessment. I know that my own child would not cope with such an assessment, what with all them eyes on him and questions fired at him! What would it even involve? Are we talking about sending an autistic child (or any child for that matter) into a room with a large number of professionals sat with inquisitive prying eyes, clip boards, and a list of questions as long as their arm? If yes, I guess they can expect a shock at the response they get! It just isn’t going to happen… Surely complex means ‘COMPLEX!’ my definition of  such a word would be, “A complex issue or range of problems that take time to fully resolve” The government is forever banging on about children being placed on the sen register at the drop of a hat, well, I can see a situation being created leading to children dropping of it just as quick!  My son can just about cope with an assessment with one or two professional, any more then this rather than being chucked off the register, he will likely be labelled as a child who is dangerous because he will likely hit out as an attempt to escape the highly stressful situation that he has been placed in. Although I agree it’s not ideal him or any other child with sen having to undergo a range of assessments over a course of time, the one day method wont make things any better but a great deal worse!

Let’s be honest would you or I enjoy being sat in a room with a range of people staring at you like some caged animal reporting your every-more?

26 weeks is way too long but one day! Seriously there is no in-between with this government. I mean do the they really have the child’s best interest at heart?

We have to ask ourselves, has the green paper been created with the  ambition of improving the life chances open to children with sen, and  to offer better support for family members, or is it really their ambition to do away with essential services and provisions with little uproar, while at the same time attempting to reduce the number of  children that are placed on the SEN register?

It’s those children considered to have less complex needs that I’m  seriously worried for!  What defines less complex needs? I’ve spoken to many parents hundreds in-fact that have battled in the past  and present with both schools & local authorities to prove just how complex their child’s needs actually are! I know from past experience that schools won’t except this in-till your child is pushed to the point of self-destruction or has become a complete failure at everything due to the stress they have been placed under. Parents of children with Aspergers or high functioning autism find this to be the case a huge proportion of the time. School’s and LEAs say the same thing over and over again, “Your child isn’t an underachiever, therefore warrants no provision to be made for him/her!” Yet there they are whacking their heads against Walls with the frustration of the work load or noise levels in the classroom, they are always running into social difficulties, becoming isolated from their peers and even excluded on a daily/weekly  basis. It’s ludicrous!

By doing away with school action and school action plus I fear these children will suffer a great deal more than they are currently made too already! What with schools being able to commission the services and put the provision in place that these children are said to need, in this current financial climate is like playing with fire. Much more detail and reassurance is needed and although I know that we are once more welcome to give our views on the paper, I just feel given the length of delay in publishing the paper, including some finer details within in it as to make things a little clearer would have been most welcome!

Ministers have to give the public more information in regard to the finer details that make up the aspirations of the green paper. Including the legal aspects, cost (including how much this new system will put back in to the governments pocket in way of savings) and very importantly the statutory duties of those involve

To some parents this paper means nothing! To others it’s the prospect of a better further for their child in both the early years and that of early adult life. Making provision for children aged 0-25 in all areas of education, health and social care is long awaited. Will this be the start of something promising or just another unfulfilled promise by another Government?…. Only time will tell!

 

Training with a passion

10 Nov

As many of you already know, I’ve been training to become a tribunal support adviser. I’ve never known what  I really wanted to do in life in-till now and this is something I’m sure on. I am seriously hoping to succeed in this chosen path I’ve now taken.

Autism awareness is something I’m passionate about, and as many will already know, either from their own experiences or somebody else’s… autism and the Sendist first tier tribunal seem to go hand in hand with one another here in the UK. I acknowledge that not all children on the autism spectrum have Special educational needs (Sen) but a good chunk of them do and It’s then that many families are faced with problems and a good proportion of the time are faced with the prospect of a fight that eventually ends up in the hands of the tribunal to try and resolve! Ok some are lucky and school’s and LEAs have no problems providing the adequate education for the child! But in my opinion it’s a very small percentage that do.

It’s “funny” how one day everything is rosy in the land of education, but then before you know it, it’s all changed! It could come along and take any parent/career by surprise! It happened to me and it could happen to you!

When I discovered little man had Aspergers I didn’t know the first thing about Sen. The thing is as far as I was aware my child wasn’t on the sen register at school. As many fail to understand… “Having a child with an autism spectrum disorder don’t necessary mean they have special educational needs” I suppose the fact little man refused to even attend school most days, meant the extent of his problems were not seen within his school environment. Well, my point is… I had a great deal to learn back then!

Of course now we are in a completely different situation! Yes, my little man does have problems in school, considerably so that at present his going through the statutory assessment process, is currently part-time schooling and we have a pending DDA tribunal case in the near future. I suddenly had to learn everything from IEPs to exclusion.. all things I’ve never needed to think about before. It’s bloody hard when it goes from being told your child has no issues within school to issues so bad and complex your child now awaits the decision of an emergency “Special school placement” Because their level of need is now so high they cannot cope within the mainstream environment they currently with-side. You hear all this mind-boggling jargon and all you wanna do is SCREAM…”WHAT IN GODS NAME ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” School action, school action+, statutory assessments and statements.. “WHAT?” So much time is spent trying to work out what you as the parent needs to be doing to make sure your child is getting the very best education available that you have little time for anything else. I know when I first stepped into the world of autism and special ed I didn’t have a clue! Much of my day was spent running back and forth to and from school only later  spending hours trailing the net for answers or calling autism/education advice lines.

It was from then I armed myself with a hardback copy of the  Sen code and got myself a tool kit. I  also started reading the Education Act (Mainly schedules 26 & 27)  & The Education (Special Educational Needs) (Information) (England) Regulations. With this I began to gradually feel more confident in dealing with little mans special educational needs. The loneliness you feel when your child is diagnosed and when autism and Sen come together is immense. I thank all those that were there advising me along the way, making me strong! If it wasn’t for the likes of .…NAS, Ace, Ipsea and other organisations of this kind I would not have been this strong, I would have likely gone insane! I certainly would not have chosen this route (advising others on their rights within the education system) But that’s just it! By going through it I discovered that I wanted/needed to do more. I cannot thank those that have helped me enough, now this is my way of giving something back.

There was many reasons that made this chosen position feel right for me! The prospect that I will help other parents that like me had no clue where to turn, not knowing when and if they have a right to appeal, deadlines looming while all the time their child is failing or worse still being failed. This was my biggest reason! If my work helps just one family then all this training was worth it!

So… finally here’s the good news!. I passed the distance learning modules (All ten of them) These modules covered a great deal. I swear I’ve read the entire Ed act on Sen, followed by the Cop. I got the email in the middle of last week confirming my place on the two training weekends in Canary Wharf in the Clifford Chance Law offices. The trainers, managers and co-ordinator of the TSS service are fantastic and made us all feel relaxed and very welcome. The first day (Saturday) after a really long training session 10-5:30 p.m. (Ok it’s been a while since I did anything other then be mummy) me and the other trainees were taken out for dinner in this lovely Italian restaurant situated right below one of the tallest buildings, not far from the water. It was a wonderful evening and although I had just met everybody that day I was really comfortable in their company. Sundays training was very practical.. Yes I worried half the night I would mess this one up but it went pretty well.

Well, I’m back for my last bit of training on the last weekend of this Month, and yep I’m looking forward to seeing everybody again and getting stuck in! After that… It’s for real, I’m on my own!! As well as being on the front-line I will also undertake casework, and to be honest I can’t wait!!!

Canary Wharf London




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