It is the SENCO’s responsibility to be informed about statutory and regulatory frameworks that may affect children with SEN and disabilities within their school. This issue gives an overview of the essential frameworks to be aware of, providing links to helpful information

We set out in the last issue the core aims of the new SENCO training and our intention to help you keep up to date with your own professional standards if you are not part of this programme. In this issue, we look at the SENCO’s responsibility to have an overview and understanding of statutory and regulatory frameworks. With this knowledge, you will be well placed to advise senior colleagues and governors, and fulfill a strategic role in school.

Support for SENCOs
You need to know about laws and associated guidance on SEN, including the policies and procedures set out in the SEN Code of Practice, how these are interpreted by the LA and how to put them into practice in your own setting.

Starting with the basics, the Education Act 1996 set out statutory duties for schools to ensure that the necessary provision is made for any pupil who has SEN and that:

  • staff are aware of the importance of identifying and providing for pupils who have SEN, and an individual child’s needs are made known to all who are likely to teach him/her
  • pupils with SEN are included in the activities of the school together with other pupils, so far as is reasonably practical and compatible with:
    • the child receiving the special educational provision their learning needs call for
    • the efficient education of the pupils with whom they are educated
    • the efficient use of resources
  • all parents are informed about the implementation of the school’s policy for pupils with SEN
  • parents are notified of a decision by the school that SEN provision is being made for their child.

The school must have regard to the SEN Code of Practice when carrying out its duties. As you know, this involves a graduated approach whereby increasingly specialist expertise is brought to bear on a child’s difficulties. Where a child’s difficulties are not ameliorated through the usual classroom approaches, additional or different interventions should be put in place (School Action). If little or no progress is made subsequently, you should consider seeking external support through School Action Plus, eg LA pupil support services (for sensory difficulties, learning difficulties, autism etc); speech and language therapy; occupational therapy (dyspraxia); behaviour management and advice/support. If a child continues to make unsatisfactory progress, the school should consider asking the local authority to undertake a statutory assessment of the child’s SEN. This may result in a statement of SEN being issued for the child.

If an LA does not agree to undertaking a statutory assessment, the parents have a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), formerly SENDIST. Similarly, parents also have a right of appeal if a decision is made not to provide a statement, following a statutory assessment. Special Educational Needs and Disability now sits in the Health, Education and Social Care (HESC) Chamber of the First-Tier Tribunal. Appeals against the panel’s decisions now go to the Upper Tribunal instead of to the High Court.

An SEN Toolkit (non-statutory), has been produced to complement the Code of Practice. It provides additional information on SEN issues and suggests different kinds of action that schools might take to support children with SEN as well as providing guidance on decision-making in relation to school placement of children with SEN.

SEN Code of Practice DCSF 581/2001

You should also be familiar with laws and associated guidance on disability equality. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 and the Disability Equality Duty set out requirements for schools:

  • not to treat disabled pupils ‘less favourably’
  • to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled pupils are not at a substantial disadvantage compared to their peers
  • to draw up plans to show how, over time, they will increase access to education for disabled pupils (accessibility plans).

As SENCO, you may have access to sensitive and confidential information about children, so make sure that you are complying with the Data Protection Act 1998 and following the eight enforceable principles of good practice. Data must be:

  • fairly and lawfully processed
  • processed for limited purposes
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • accurate
  • not kept longer than necessary
  • processed in accordance with the data subject’s rights
  • secure
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.

The new approach is that a single, short and easily understandable Privacy Notice can be provided to learners and staff by the school or LA at the same time as other communications are sent. For example, a child receiving social care services or a looked after child, might receive their Privacy Notice as part of other information about the services that they are being offered.

It is anticipated that young people over the age of 12 with the maturity to make their own decisions should generally be able to request to see their personal information themselves. For children under 12, their parents will act on their behalf.

Over and above the school’s general health and safety policy, you will need to ensure that there is a policy for managing any medicines that children need to take while in school. Managing Medicines in Schools and Early-years Settings (DfES/Department of Health, 2005) explains various roles and responsibilities, provides guidance on drawing up a health-are plan for a pupil, and advises on confidentiality, record keeping and the storage, access and disposal of medicines. Medical Conditions at School: A Policy Resource Pack has been compiled by the Medical Conditions at School Group to complement the guidance.

In common with colleagues, your work as SENCO will be influenced by the principles of Every Child Matters and how the school can help pupils with SEN and/or disabilities to achieve the five outcomes:

  • being healthy
  • staying safe
  • enjoying and achieving
  • making a positive contribution, and
  • achieving economic wellbeing.

See also the work of Rita Cheminais who is a leader in this field.

Children with SEN can be particularly vulnerable and so your procedures for safeguarding children and assisting in child protection need to be rigorous.

The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is a key part of delivering integrated services to children with SEN and disabilities. It involves a standardised approach to conducting assessments of children’s additional needs and deciding how these should be met.

This is not an exhaustive list! Other areas with a direct influence in your work are listed below, with website details for further research – visiting these sites will connect you with other relevant documentation and help to keep you up to date with what you need to know.

  • Removing Barriers to Achievement (2004)
    The government’s vision for the education of children with SEN and disabilities: early intervention, inclusion, the raising of expectations and achievement, and the development of partnership networks.
  • The Steer Report
    Presents the overall conclusions of Sir Alan Steer’s review of pupil behaviour issues and describes current provision, powers and duties.
  • Social and emotional aspects of learning 

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2010

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.