Further to Tania’s post last week on our initial views on the new draft Code of Practice, we’re still analyzing the changes in some detail but we wanted to highlight a few points which have jumped out.
In the original draft in October, there was a whole lovely section entitled “A Family Centred system”. The inclusion of the words “family-centred” gave us a glimmer of hope that although the changes were not of the aspirational level that the Green Paper initially offered, that at least, the Government were still making good on making the system easier for families. However, here we are less than six months later and the word “family-centred” doesn’t appear in the new Code at all. The section has disappeared and my favourite paragraph within the introduction of this section “Parents are often the main carers for young people with SEN, and their views and opinions are important and valid during assessment, planning and reviewing" has disappeared too.
In the previous draft, in the section “involving children, young people and parents in decision making”, it talked about person-centred planning
“This approach is often referred to as ‘person-centred planning’. Using this approach within a family context, educational settings, professionals and local authorities can ensure that parents, children and young people are genuinely involved in all aspects of planning and decision making."
Person-centred Planning is now only referred to in Section 3.38 (Personal budgets with a EHC Plan) and Section 9 (EHC needs assessments and plans), so for those who don’t have a plan, well, obviously good practice says person-centred planning will happen but unfortunately guidance doesn’t say it has to.
One Page Profiles
One Page Profiles (and we know how many parents love these) have also disappeared from the revised Code. In the previous draft, after the glowing paragraph on person-centred planning, there was another popular paragraph with parents:
Drawing up a one-page profile of the child or young person can help to ensure that those working with them and their parents have an accessible summary of the information about them, ensuring that EHC plans are developed with the child, young person and parents and reflect aspirational and achievable outcomes.
Why has this disappeared? To quote from the previous draft, One Page Profiles can help to ensure that those working with the child or young person and their parents have an accessible summary of the information about them, ensuring that EHC plans are developed with the child, young person and parents and reflect aspirational and achievable outcomes.
The new draft states that the assessment and planning process should
- be easy for children, young people and their parents or carers to understand, and use clear ordinary language and images rather than professional jargon .
- highlight the child or young person’s strengths and capabilities
- enable the child or young person, and those that know them best to say what they have done, what they are interested in and what outcomes they are seeking in the future
So, let me think. What is already available that is easy for everyone to understand, uses clear language rather than jargon, highlights strengths and capabilities and also enables the child or young person (and those who know them best) to say what they are interested in and what outcomes they are seeking in the future. If I was on the American game show Jeopardy, I would be shouting “What is a One Page Profile?” In fact, as I read through the Code of Practice, I found myself shouting “one page profile” a lot. In 9.65, it even talks the same language as one page profiles – what is important to the child/young person and what is important for them.
So, can we have One Page Profiles back please? We know that in a world of good practice, we could suggest they are used and everyone would oblige, but in the real world of "good practice is a goal not a requirement", it would help to show Governmental support for them as a concept. Parents, Teachers, SENCOs and most frontline staff actually like them and find useful. Can we try a little bit more of that family-centred approach mentioned in the previous draft please?
Now the word “outcomes” is mentioned 97 times in the new Code so it is obviously of some importance - and rightly so. However, within the code, there are very few definitions of what an outcome is. There is a whole section under the "Education, Health and Care needs, assessment and plans" about Outcomes but there really does need to be more specific guidance for those children without a Plan. If this school based category is to work for families, we need more detail from the Government so that local interpretations are not used to reduce the current provision.
We will be writing about Section 6 of the revised Code in another post next week. This section will have such a huge impact on so many families - those with SEN but no Plan, those with no Plan but in a Special Academy and those with a Plan in a Special School. To be honest, this section is a very weak point of the revised Code. The whole chapter needs to be much more specific. For example, in the last draft Code, it specified that schools must meet with parents at least termly to set clear goals etc but in the current draft, this is now “schools should meet with parents at least three times a year”. It’s not the same thing. You could have three meetings before Christmas if your child was experiencing difficulties and each time, you could review the support and activities. Does this mean, under the new system, the school could then say “you’ve had your quota, sorry”. Yes, we know that a lot of schools won’t do that, but there are, unfortunately, schools who will do exactly as it says on the tin and not one iota more.
Ending on a positive – The Local Offer
One slight improvement in the Local Offer is the addition of “In setting out what they ‘expect to be available’, local authorities should include provision which they believe will actually be available.” This is still not perfect and still allows local authorities to say “oh we believed this would be available but it’s not”, and as we've said before, you cannot challenge an expectation or even a belief. However, at least the Government do seem to be aware of this.
Will it help? Only time will tell.
If the new system is to work better for families (and for schools, teachers, senco's, TA's and all the other front line staff we work with daily) then the revised Code needs to ensure that person-centred planning is strong throughout, not just for those who have a plan. There needs to be more detail to avoid local policy detracting from the Government's hoped for outcomes. We also need the Government's support in changing the culture of them/us; this can only be achieved if we have a Code of Practice with SMART outcomes.
Ask Jane from IPSEA
If you have questions about the revised Code of Practice or the new Children and Families Act, don't forget you can ask Jane McConnell from IPSEA on the Bringing Us Together's web chat on Thursday (24th April) at 1pm.
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