Tags: 14-19 education | Assistant headteacher | Deputy Headteacher | Equality | Headteacher | Inclusion | Inspection | School Business Manager | School Governance | School Governor | SEN – Special Educational Needs | SEN provision | SENCO

Apart from its specific recommendations for SENCOs the new Education and Inspections Act has other features of considerable relevance to provision for pupils with special educational needs.

The parts of the new act with which SENCOs are most likely to be involved concern school behaviour policies, the new role of local authorities, admissions and fair access to schools. Changes in these areas are summarised below.

Behaviour, discipline and exclusion

Because of their involvement in supporting pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, SENCOs should be aware of Part 7 of the act which will give effect to some of the key recommendations of the recent Steer report. It will create, for the first time, a clear statutory right for school staff to discipline pupils. It will extend the scope of parenting orders and contracts and will improve provision for excluded pupils, with parents taking responsibility for excluded pupils in their first five days of an exclusion. Governing bodies and local authorities will be required to provide full-time alternative provision from the sixth day of an exclusion.

Schools will be required to have a behaviour policy. All staff in lawful charge of pupils will have a new statutory power to discipline pupils for inappropriate behaviour or for not following instructions. This will provide greater clarity for schools, pupils and parents on the extent of school staff’s power to discipline pupils, including when they are off school premises. The act re-enacts provisions around the use of force and section, and replaces existing provisions on detention with new powers giving schools greater scope and flexibility to employ this sanction. It also provides a defence for school staff in confiscating inappropriate items.

Local authorities

The schools white paper set out a vision for a new local authority role, as champion of parents and pupils. SENCOs will also be aware of the closer links between education and other children’s services as part of the Every Child Matters agenda. Part 1 of the act gives local authorities some new legal responsibilities as part of this new role with duties to promote choice, diversity, high standards and, for the first time, the fulfilment of every child’s educational potential.

Parents will be given more say in the provision of schools in their area and there is a new duty on local authorities to make arrangements to identify children of compulsory school age missing education in their area. Local authorities will appoint accredited school improvement partners for maintained schools who will provide the governing body and the headteacher with challenge and support, helping them to focus on priorities and targets for school improvement. This is intended to be a crucial step in raising standards and closing educational achievement gaps.

Part of the local authority’s new strategic role is to plan local school provision, including making decisions about the establishment, alteration and closure of any maintained mainstream, special and nursery schools.

Local authorities will also have extended powers (under section 19) to propose the enlargement of the premises, the addition of SEN provision or the addition of a sixth form to any foundation, foundation special or voluntary school.

There will be a duty on local authorities in England to promote the wellbeing of persons aged 13-19 (and up to 25 for persons with learning difficulties) by securing access to educational and recreational leisure-time activities and facilities.

Fair access

The act places a duty on local authorities in England to promote fair access to educational opportunity and tightens the admissions framework. SENCOs will be aware that this will affect arrangements for pupils with special educational needs. As well as reaffirming the ban on new selection by ability, the act will outlaw interviewing; create a new power for admission forums to produce an annual report and to refer objections to the schools adjudicator; make the adjudicator’s decisions binding for three years; and strengthen the status of the School Admissions Code.

The new code will prohibit over subscription criteria that seek to select by stealth (such as the use of supplementary application forms) and provide clear guidelines on uniform and transport policies that might undermine a fair admission system and disadvantage children from poorer families.
Fair access will also be supported by an extended duty on local authorities to provide free transport for the most disadvantaged families and by a new duty to provide advice and assistance to parents in expressing a preference for a school for their child.

Inspectorate reform

Part 8 of the act provides for the enlargement of Ofsted to create a new single inspectorate for children and learners as the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, still to be known as Ofsted. This will merge several existing inspectorates to bring all learning issues within one body that covers the full range of services for children and young people, as well as lifelong learning.

Trust schools

The act will empower schools by devolving as much decision-making to them as possible, while giving local authorities an enhanced strategic role as the champion of pupils and parents. All schools will be able to become trust schools by forming links with external partners who will be able, should the school choose, to appoint the majority of the governing body.

Curriculum and entitlements for 14 -19

Part 5 of the act gives effect to important reforms of curriculum and qualifications since the introduction of the National Curriculum. Central to this is the introduction of 14 new specialised diplomas, available to every young person aged 14-19, wherever they are in the country – and offering a route to success for young people who want to learn through practical experience.

The act has further provisions relating to school meals and access throughout the day to good quality food and drink and local authority responsibility for improving youth services.

For futher informationand to view the government’s implementation chart, go to: www.dfes.gov.org.uk/publications/educationandinspectionsact

This article first appeared in SENCO Update – Dec 2006

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