The requirements on schools to support pupils with SEN
What are a school’s duties regarding SEN provision?
According to the SEN and disabilities Code of Practice (CoP), every school is required to identify and address the SEN of the pupils that they support. Maintained mainstream schools, which include academies and pupil referral units (PRUs), must:
- use their best endeavours (do everything they can) to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support they need
- ensure children and young people with SEN engage in the activities of the school alongside pupils who do not have SEN
- designate a teacher to be responsible for coordinating SEN provision
- inform parents when they are making special educational provision for a child
- prepare an SEN information report and accessibility plan.
Are there any curriculum stipulations?
All pupils should have access to a broad and balanced curriculum. The National Curriculum Inclusion Statement says that teachers should have high expectations for every pupil, whatever their prior attainment. Teachers should use appropriate assessment to set targets which are deliberately ambitious. Potential areas of difficulty should be identified and addressed at the outset.
What are the areas of SEN that they need to identify?
The CoP states that there are four broad areas of needs that should be planned for:
- communication and interaction
- cognition and learning
- social, emotional and mental health difficulties
- sensory and/or physical needs.
It adds that the purpose of identification is to work out what action the school needs to take, not to fit a pupil into a category. In practice, children or young people often have needs that cut across all these areas, and needs may change over time. For example, speech, language and communication needs can also be a feature of a number of other areas of SEN, and children and young people with an autistic spectrum disorder may have needs across all areas, including particular sensory requirements.
How do schools assess needs?
The CoP advises that class/subject teachers, supported by the senior leadership team, should make regular assessments of progress for all pupils and try to identify pupils making less than expected progress which:
- is significantly slower than that of their peers starting from the same baseline
- fails to match or better the child’s previous rate of progress
- fails to close the attainment gap between the child and their peers
- widens the attainment gap.
Also, it can include progress in areas other than attainment, such as where a pupil needs to make additional progress with wider development or social needs. Whilst some children with SEN can be identified at an early age, other children and young people’s difficulties only become evident as they develop, so teachers should be alert to emerging difficulties and respond early. The CoP recognises that parents also know their children best and it is important that all professionals listen and understand when parents express concerns about a child’s development.
What is SEN support?
SEN support should take the form of a four-part cycle known as a “graduated approach”, which draws on more detailed approaches, more frequent review and more specialist expertise in successive cycles.
The four stages are: assess, plan, do and review. They can be summarised as follows:
The class/subject teacher, working with the SENCO, should carry out a clear analysis of the pupil’s needs. They should also draw on:
- other subject teachers’ assessments
- the individual’s development in comparison to their peers and national data
- the views and experience of parents
- the pupil’s own views
- advice from external support services (if relevant)
- any concerns raised by a parent.
Where it is decided to provide a pupil with SEN support, the parents must be formally notified and the teacher and the SENCO should agree with the parent and the pupil on the adjustments, interventions and support to be put in place, as well as the expected impact on progress, development or behaviour, along with a clear date for review. All teachers and support staff who work with the pupil should also be made aware of their needs and it should be recorded on the school’s information system.
The class/subject teacher remains responsible for working with the child on a daily basis, but interventions may involve group or one-to-one activities, so they should work closely with any teaching assistants or specialist staff involved, to plan and assess the impact of support and interventions and how they can be linked to classroom teaching. The SENCO should support them in the further assessment of the pupil’s strengths and weaknesses and advising on the effective implementation of support.
The effectiveness of support/interventions and their impact on progress should be reviewed in line with the agreed date.
What funding is available to schools?
The CoP states that all mainstream schools (including local academies) are provided with resources to support those with additional needs and are usually determined by a local funding formula. School and academy sixth-forms receive an allocation based on a national funding formula. Schools have an amount identified within their overall budget, called the notional SEN budget. This is not a ring-fenced amount, and it is for schools to determine their approach to using their resources to support pupils with SEN, including any resources targeted at particular groups, such as the pupil premium. The responsible local authority should provide additional top-up funding where the cost of the special educational provision required to meet the needs of an individual pupil exceeds the nationally prescribed threshold.
What is the role of the SENCO in schools?
The SENCO has day-to-day responsibility for the operation of SEN policy and coordination of specific provision made to support individual pupils with SEN. The SENCO also provides professional guidance to colleagues and will work closely with staff, parents and other agencies.
The key responsibilities of the SENCO may include:
- overseeing the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy
- co-ordinating provision for children with SEN
- liaising with the relevant designated teacher where a looked-after pupil has SEN
- advising on the graduated approach to providing SEN support
- advising on the deployment of the school’s delegated budget and other resources
- liaising with parents of pupils with SEN
- liaising with professionals from outside agencies, including early years providers, other schools, educational psychologists, and health and social care professionals
- being a key point of contact with external agencies, especially the local authority and its support services
- liaising with the potential next providers of education for the pupil to ensure the child or young person and their family are informed about options, and a smooth transition
- working with the Headteacher and governors to ensure that the school meets its responsibilities under the Equality Act (2010) with regard to reasonable adjustments and access arrangements
- ensuring the school keeps the records of all pupils with SEN up to date.
What are the school’s equality and inclusion duties (including medical conditions)?
Schools must have regard to general duties to promote disability equality. All schools have duties under the Equality Act 2010 towards individual disabled children/young people. They must make reasonable adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services for disabled children, to prevent them being put at a substantial disadvantage. These duties are anticipatory. Schools also have wider duties to prevent discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and foster good relations.
There is also a duty on maintained schools and academies to make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions. Individual healthcare plans will normally specify the type and level of support required to meet medical needs of such pupils. Where children and young people also have SEN, their provision should be planned and delivered in a coordinated way with the healthcare plan. Schools are required to have regard to statutory guidance entitled: Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions.
What are schools’ duties in respect of use of data and record keeping?
Schools already use information systems to monitor progress/development of all pupils. Details of SEN, outcomes, teaching strategies and involvement of specialists should be recorded as part of this overall approach. Provision made for pupils with SEN should be recorded accurately and kept up to date, particularly for any Ofsted inspection, which will expect to see evidence of pupil progress, a focus on outcomes and a rigorous approach to the monitoring and evaluation of any SEN support provided. Schools should record details of additional/different provision made under SEN support and share this information with parents. Provision maps are an efficient way of showing all provision that the school makes which is additional to/different from the school’s curriculum.
Do schools have any requirements to publish SEN information?
The governing bodies of maintained schools and proprietors of academy schools must publish information on their websites about the implementation of their SEN policy, which should be updated annually. Schools should ensure that the information is easily accessible by young people and parents and is set out in clear, straightforward language. It should also give details of the school’s contribution to the local authority’s local offer and must include information about:
- the kinds of SEN that are provided for
- policies for identifying children and young people with SEN and assessing their needs, including the name and contact details of the SENCO (mainstream schools)
- arrangements for consulting parents of children with SEN and involving them in their child’s education
- arrangements for consulting young people with SEN and involving them in their education
- arrangements for assessing and reviewing children/young people’s progress towards outcomes
- arrangements for supporting children/young people in moving between phases of education and in preparing for adulthood
- the approach to teaching children and young people with SEN
- how adaptations are made to the curriculum and the learning environment of children/young people with SEN
- the expertise/training of staff to support children/young people with SEN, including how specialist expertise will be secured
- evaluating the effectiveness of the provision made for children and young people with SEN
- how children/young people with SEN are enabled to engage in activities available with children and young people in the school who do not have SEN
- support for improving emotional and social development. This should include extra pastoral support arrangements for listening to the views of children and young people with SEN and measures to prevent bullying
- how the school involves other bodies, including health and social care bodies, local authority support services and voluntary sector organisations, in meeting children and young people’s SEN and supporting their families
- arrangements for handling complaints from parents of children with SEN about the provision made at the school.
Data collected through the School Census, is also required to produce the national SEN information report.
Douglas Silas is the Principal of Douglas Silas Solicitors and runs the website: www.SpecialEducationalNeeds.co.uk. He is also the author of A Guide To The SEND Code of Practice [updated for 2016/17], which is available for all eBook readers: www.AGuideToTheSENDCodeOfPractice.co.uk
The advice provided here is of a general nature and Douglas Silas Solicitors cannot be held responsible for any loss caused by reliance placed upon it.