With a new SEN Code of Practice due next year, Children’s Minister Edward Timpson outlines what we can expect, and what the Government hopes it will achieve
I’m driving forward the Children and Families Bill, and more than half of this substantial legislation is concerned with SEN. That is in itself a measure of this Government’s commitment to helping some of the country’s most vulnerable young people. An important piece of our reforms is the publication of a new Code of Practice, which we expect to come into force from autumn 2014. But we are
not waiting until then. I have seen the reforms trialled in Bromley and Bexley, and other areas in England.
The current Code of Practice sets out what councils and other public agencies have to do to support families of children who have SEN. It was published 12 years ago, is 217 pages long, and is long overdue a revamp.
The new Code of Practice, which is currently being developed, will not just apply to children and young people in school, but will go beyond that to support young people in further education, in some cases up to the
age of 25. This will give them important new rights.
It will stop the cliff-edge effect that too many young people have endured, whereby a great deal of support suddenly evaporates when they leave school and they face a completely different support system in further education. It will replace the current alphabet soup of frameworks that support those with SEN in adulthood.
The new Code of Practice will be shorter, clearer and more concise than the current Code. It will aim to set out what should be achieved for children and young people with SEN, rather than detail processes – which can lead to a one-size-fits-all “tick box” approach.
In being clearer, I hope the new Code will go a long way towards ending the frustration many parents feel when they try to get a statement of SEN. Councils will know what they have to do to support those families.
What’s new in the Code?
For the first time, further education colleges will have to follow the Code when they provide services to young people with SEN. This will help young people with SEN to undertake study programmes that will support them in achieving their aspirations. An important
part of the reforms is a focus on helping young people prepare for adult life, such as getting a job. The Code will set this out too.
It will not change the legal duties schools will face. But it will be more challenging in urging schools to improve the quality of teaching for all pupils – rather than just label “difficult” pupils as having SEN.
This is not about lower levels of financial support. It is not about lowering the numbers of young people with SEN to get a so-called “right” level.
Have your say
This Code of Practice has been a long time in gestation. We have been working with a large number of groups, such as the Council for Disabled Children, Achievement for All and Contact a Family, with an interest in this area. Later this year we will publish a full consultation when there will be another opportunity for those with an interest in SEN to have their say. I hope you will
take a close look at the consultation when it is published.
I want you to help shape our reforms so that they deliver for the families of young people who have SEN – so that
the system helps, not hinders.
Edward Timpson is a Conservative MP and the Minister for Children and Families: