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The abolition of School Action and School Action plus may leave many children with SEN without the support they need, says Amelia Roberts

As the Children and Families Bill works its way through Parliament, there are a number of unanswered questions on what future SEN provision will look like. This is particularly true for children who don’t need the new combined education, health and care plan (EHCP), but will still require focused intervention in school. Many of these children are likely to be on School Action or School Action Plus at the moment, both of which are to be abolished. Individual education plans will also go, while the SEN Code of Practice will be revised. This reflects the coalition’s stance that SEN is over identified in schools.

Currently, School Action is used when a child is not making progress at school and there is a need for action to be taken. It can include the involvement of extra teachers and may also require the use of different learning materials, special equipment or a different teaching strategy. School Action Plus is used where School Action has not been able to help the child make adequate progress. The school may seek external advice from appropriate support services, such as a speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or specialist autism advisory service. Provision may also include one-to-one support and the involvement of an educational psychologist.

Gaps in provision

Under the new arrangements, School Action and School Action Plus will be replaced by the combined EHCP. Children who have a combined plan will have the same level of statutory protection as they did under the previous statement of SEN. Where this gets less clear, however, is how this will affect children who aren’t eligible for a combined plan, but would have previously been on School Action or School Action plus. There may be distinct geographical differences, too, as local authorities will be publishing a “local offer” of provision available to children with SEN, which will vary from region to region.

The National Association for Head Teachers (NAHT) describes the changes thus: “The Green Paper says current practice harms children who do not have SEN but are identified as such. It says: ‘This problem of over-identification sustains a culture of low expectations for these children and can mean that they do not get the right help. It can distract teachers away from their main priority of teaching pupils, assessing where they are in their learning and ensuring they get the right help where needed.’
“Instead, the government wants to embed the approach of the Achievement for All project, change statutory guidance on how SEN should be identified and enforce ‘sharper accountability.’

  • “The SEN Code of Practice will be shorter and clearer for professionals, including those in early years settings
  • There will be new measures in performance tables on the progress of disadvantaged pupils and those in the lowest-attaining 20 per cent.”

To support schools during this transition, government proposals include:

  • increased emphasis on managing SEN in school as part of initial teacher training
  • increased emphasis on continuous professional development and on-going training
  • increased focus by Ofsted on ways in which SEN is identified and the progression of the lowest attaining 20 per cent.

Although there is still some way to go before the Bill becomes legislation, all indicators suggest that the majority of these changes will go ahead. The aspiration of managing a diverse range of children’s needs within the school setting is laudable, but what will this look like at the chalk face?  What support and resources will teachers have at their fingertips to turn these aspirations into a vibrant and dynamic reality? This is a crucial time as no-one quite knows what will replace School Action and School Action Plus in terms of “real life” provision, particularly for those children who fall just short of accessing the combined EHCP.

Further information

Dr Amelia Roberts is Project Researcher for The Literacy and Dyslexia-SpLD Professional Development Framework:


#6 Sue 2013-01-08 16:12
Parents need to educate themselves on the EHCP as there is a real possibility that young people who currently have statements will not qualify for an EHCP. It is unclear on the level of need in each area to qualify and as many of us know from experience children with ASD/ADHD/Dyslex ia/Dyspraxia/ML D may not present with health problems and unless there is recognition of the impact that thier LD has on thier development they will continue to be failed by this so called improved system> Majority of mainstream schools do not have the skills to teach our children and they get away with it because they are not measured on our childrens progress. They are interested only in GCSE results. Its a disgrace our children deserve to be taught by qualified teachers with the skills needed to help them progress and not left to languish with an unqualified TA. It is even worse when you start to look at what colleges have to offer.
#5 Christina 2013-01-05 11:15
t would have been better to rectify the failings in it rather than go ahead with a totally new system. Neither system will help my son, we need more recogition of austism and at the moment I can't see thee new system doing this. I am hoping my daughter will get an EHC plan as she already has a statement, but from what I have heard they will be reducing these anes. but from what I have heard they will be reducing these and it seems as if they will be limited to children who are in special schools and/or have severe disabilities.
#4 Christina 2013-01-05 11:00
I have 2 children both with different SEN. My 14yr old son has Asperger Syndrome, he did not g et diagnosed until year 6, and the deputy head said that there was nothing wrong with him he was just disorganised when I told her what CAHMS said. He had a terrible time moving on to high school, he was bullied and ran away from school, also had incidents of self harm. I have just moved him to another school where there is less bullying but you can see school is a daily struggle for him. I have never been able to get help for him at any of the schools he attended as he is very bright and it is social skills and emotional problems he has. My daughter however is in year 6 (in the same primary school) and sh e has a rare genetic condition which means she has delays in growth speech and learning. She was diagnosed age 3.5 but it was only after a battle with school that she got a statement and an SSA at the end of year 2.
#3 Debbie 2013-01-03 16:28
My autistic son languished on school action plus for years. Unfortuntely the school did not recognise autism even though we kept raising our concerns about his development and learning. Eventually we obtained a NHS diagnosis via our GP and paediatrician but even then the school did not respond to the recommendations within it. A few months later he experienced significant mental health problems and became a school refuser. At that point we initiated our own request for an assessment for a statement which we eventually got and moved him to a special school. Even at this stage, his school didn't want to know.

In my opinion the graduated approach worked to a point as it showed the difficulties my son was having and the intevention he was getting. Unfortunately it was the school's disinterest in autism and their anti statementing attitude that ultimately impacted on my sons health.
#2 Sharon Gerrard 2013-01-03 16:22
Ashleigh - our eldest son has dyspraxia. He was diagnosed when he was 7. We also got a private diagnosis as the NHS waiting list was so long. He now has a statement (full provision) which includes an LSA working with him and Occupational Therapy in school once a week. I'm not sure where you're based as it may vary by local authority but we were definitely able to get a statement for our son based on his dyspraxic needs. Good luck in getting the right support for your son.
#1 Ashleigh Harrison 2013-01-03 14:05
My 7 year old son has recently and privately been diagnosed with dyspraxia after years of struggling within school. Only now are we beginning to see progress in his work because we have the appropriate bespoke things in class to help his learning methods. We had him privately assessed (costing £350) because dyspraxia is not a label recognized in schools. He is therefore not eligible for a statement. What will happen to his support now?!!

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