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What Does the SEND Code of Practice Mean for Schools?

On the 19th April 2020, the DfE released their SEND risk assessment guidance in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with a view towards establishing whether children with SEND will be able to have their needs met at home and be safer there than attending an educational setting.

Underpinning this guidance is the SEND Code of Practice statutory guidance. Here we take a further look at just what the SEND Code of Practice actually means for schools.

What is the SEND Code of Practice?

The SEND Code of Practice is statutory guidance for organisations that work with and support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

It is a set of guidelines that the DfE say local authorities and schools should follow. It is not a legal document, but it does contain legal requirements and statutory guidelines as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014, the Equality Act 2010, and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014.

The current code of practice was introduced in 2015 following a few revisions and additions to the Code of Practice 2014.

Who does the SEND Code of Practice apply to?

The Code of Practice applies equally to maintained schools, academies, and free schools.

It is relevant to head teachers and principals, governing bodies, school and college staff, special educational needs (SEN) coordinators, early education providers, local authorities and health and social services staff.

Why is it important?

A Code of Practice ensures a consistent approach which means that all children with SEND are being given the same consideration and therefore reduces any kind of ‘postcode lottery’.

When drafting the Children and Families Act 2014, parents complained that their voice hadn’t been listened to and that their children were not having their needs met effectively. The statutory nature of the Code of Practice ensures that everyone is aware of their legal obligations and can be held accountable if they are not being followed.

What are the four main areas of the SEND Code of Practice?

The Code of Practice 2015 defines SEND as:

‘A child or young person has SEN if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for them. A child of compulsory school age or a young person has a learning difficulty or disability if they: (a) have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age; or (b) have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions’.

Areas of SEND can be considered as falling under four broad areas.

1. Communication and interaction

That is, children that find communicating and understanding language difficult. This may be due to a specific language difficulty or conditions such as autism, pragmatic difficulties or sensory processing disorder.

2. Cognition and learning

That is, children that have learning difficulties that mean they are not able to learn basic numeracy or literacy skills. A child or young person with a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) may have difficulty with one or more aspects of learning.

This includes a range of conditions such as dyslexia (difficulties with reading and spelling); dyscalculia (maths); dyspraxia (co-ordination) and dysgraphia (writing). Children with severe learning difficulties may also have difficulties in acquiring basic skills in any area and this may also impede their physical development.

3. Social, mental and emotional health

That is, children that have severe difficulties in managing their emotions or behaviour. They can include low mood (anxiety or depression), problems of conduct (oppositional problems and more severe conduct problems including aggression), self-harming, substance abuse or eating disorders.

Some children and young people may have other recognised disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), attachment disorder, anxiety disorder, or, more rarely, psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar. Children with ASD can have comorbidities of social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

4. Sensory and/or physical

That is, children with physical or sensory disabilities which affect their ability to access the environment or learning. This may include visual or hearing impairment, cerebral palsy or congenital conditions, injury or disease.

The above definitions are termed ‘broad’ areas as some children may have difficulties in one of more areas or it may not be clear which area their difficulty falls under. However, most children’s needs will come under one of the above.

What is an Education Health Care Plan (EHC)?

A major change that was introduced in the current Code of Practice was the introduction of Education Health Care plans to replace the old ‘statements of SEN’.

Under the Code of Practice, local authorities have a responsibility to provide an EHC plan for a child with SEND if it feels those needs mean that the child will be at a disadvantage without additional support. An EHC plan explains the child’s difficulties and sets out long-term and short-term outcomes for the child. The local authority and the educational provider will then work towards those outcomes.

What is a SEND Policy?

The Code of Practice states that all educational providers need to publish a SEND report. There is no expectation that schools need to have a SEND Policy, although most schools do, as good practice.

The Code of Practice states that schools need to publish their SEND report on their website and that it needs to be reviewed annually. The Information Report must include information for identifying, assessing and making provision for pupils with SEN and for the admission of disabled pupils. The requirements are set out in legislation (the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014).

What schools need to know

The current Code of Practice sets out a few things that schools must adhere to and that any provider for SEND children should be familiar with and ensure is happening in their provision. These include:

  • All children with SEN should be identified on a SEN register and schools should have clear provision mapping in place.
  • Wherever possible, SEND children should be taught alongside their peers.
  • In terms of staffing, schools need to have a designated person responsible for coordinating SEN and have a designated governor for SEN.
  • Staff need to be trained to identify and support children with SEND in order for early identification of need and to be able to provide the best possible outcomes for the child.

How can you deliver outstanding SEND provision through The National College SEND Lead Membership?

Our 'Annual SEND Lead' Membership has been developed in line with current DfE statutory requirements and the latest Ofsted guidance.

As a SEND Lead member, you will have unrivalled access to our suite of SEND related webinars, resources and training courses delivered by practicing subject matter experts.

To find out how you can gain the practical knowledge, tools and strategic vision to confidently support your school in delivering outstanding SEND related policy and practice, click here.