The DfES is currently undertaking a consultation about the development of quality standards for SEN support and outreach services with a strong focus on strengthening inclusion.

They would not have the force of law but would be a central point of reference for services, designed to improve consistency. All SENCOs will be aware of the importance of the help and advice given by these services and will mostly find that the proposals describe existing good practice rather than new demands.

However, particularly as functions of local authorities are under review in the light of the recent white paper, it is opportune to formally establish standards, which would apply to all SEN advisory and support services, however they are provided, including outreach provided by special and mainstream schools. The standards could also be used for evaluating voluntary sector services.

Responses to the consultation document* are required by 27 January 2006. The results of this consultation will be published on the Teachernet SEN website and in the SEN update. The draft standards are set out under four headings.

The service has a clear purpose, which takes into account other provisions in the area and the needs of particular schools and pupils:

  • services are commissioned to undertake specific types of work by the LA (Local Authority), expectations are clear and include arrangements for transparent communication, access to services, response times and accountability
  • written agreements are in place about what services are provided to all those involved.

The service has suitable staff to deliver a high quality service.

Supporting criteria:
Teachers and other staff:

  • understand the nature of pupils’ difficulties and are able to provide new insights to overcome difficulties
  • understand the school systems that best promote the achievement and inclusion of pupils with SEN
  • have a good understanding of the curriculum modifications and adaptations that secure broad, balanced and relevant opportunities for pupils with SEN
  • promote strategies which can be used in mainstream classrooms
  • have an understanding of pupils’ learning styles and how they can be accommodated in the school
  • have good interpersonal skills and can promote change within a school.

Services are led and managed to promote change within schools.
Supporting criteria:

  • principles of inclusion are embedded in working practices
  • funding arrangements ensure that services can plan over at least a three-year period
  • the management of the service gathers information systematically about the outcomes for pupils, including their achievement, learning, participation and enjoyment
  • information is used to target resources efficiently in line with strategic priorities identified in the LA’s long term plans and they evaluate the impact of their work
  • the progress of particular groups of pupils continues to be monitored after support is finished, especially at important transition times between classes and schools.

Pupils and parents are fully involved in the development of services.
Supporting criteria:

  • pupils’ and parents’ (taken to include all those with parental responsibility including corporate parents and carers) views are sought in evaluating the service and when changes are proposed
  • representatives of parents are involved in providing advice to service managers
  • parents and pupils are aware of the purposes of the service
  • parents and pupils receive a swift response to concerns.

Copies of this consultation and further details are available to download at: www.dfes.gsi.gov.uk/consultations.