In this update you will find sections entitled:
As I always say, I know how busy everyone is, so please feel free to just read the sections that are of interest to you, or read everything; the choice is always yours.
(To ensure you never miss one, you can get my updates by email, by completing your details at the bottom of this page or by using our Social Media links)
WHERE DO I START? (THE NEW SEN FRAMEWORK)
Hopefully, it’s now beginning to make sense isn’t it – this new SEN framework?
In my last update, at the beginning of the Spring Term, my first section was entitled ‘Still Getting to Grips with Things’, but the first section in this update is entitled: ‘Where Do I Start?’ This is because there are now so many new issues that we are having to learn to deal with, that I do not really know where to begin.
I have decided that I want to talk to you about the following issues in the first section of this update:
But, rather than me trying to set everything out here, as the information I want to share with you is quite detailed, if any of these issues are of interest to you, then please click here to read a fuller version of this update.
Of course, if any of these issues currently concern you and you may need specialist advice, then please Contact Us as soon as possible.
SEND & HUMAN RIGHTS
I was fortunate to be invited recently to a seminar put on by the Council for Disabled Children/Special Educational Consortium where my good friend and colleague, David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers, gave a talk entitled: ‘Special Educational Needs & Disability – a Human Rights Perspective’.
David remarked that, when most people think of human rights, they think of the Human Rights Act; but he pointed out to us that there were also a number of other pieces of legislation that could be used to further the educational rights of children with SEND.
In particular, David pointed out that the UK had ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UK signed the UNCRC in 1990 and ratified it in 1991 and it includes things like:
David said that the bad news was that, in the UK, international obligations have to be formally incorporated into domestic law, before the courts are obliged to follow them directly. However, he then pointed out that Parliament is expected to legislate in accordance with international human rights law and that the courts have also said that, where there are two possible ways of interpreting legislation, the interpretation that should be followed is that which is consistent with the international obligations found in the UNCRC.
He also said that statutory guidance has been issued to LAs about the UNCRC, which means that they must have regard to it and, if they decide to depart from it, they need to have clear reasons for doing so, otherwise they can be challenged.
David ended his presentation by pointing out that, now that we had a new SEN framework, we should be encouraging LAs and Tribunals to take the UNCRC into account into their decision making, as we are effectively now starting with a blank sheet of paper.
Interesting, isn’t it?
LOOKING FOR ‘EXPERTS’
Doing the kind of cases that I do, I often have a need to instruct various ‘experts’ to do assessments/prepare reports. This can be at any point in the SEN process, from conducting an assessment on a child or young person to see if he or she has difficulties in a particular area, to appearing as a witness on their behalf at a SEND Tribunal.
I normally instruct Educational Psychologists (EPs), Speech and Language Therapists (SaLTs), Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Physiotherapists (PTs) (and also occasionally instruct Teachers of children with a Hearing Impairment (THIs) or a Visual Impairment (TVIs).
Although I sometimes meet/use new people, every few years I like to widen/update my ‘expert’ list. So, if you are one of the above working in independent practice and would like to work with me, then I would be grateful if you would email me directly with information about yourself, together with a copy of an anonymised report that you have prepared (preferably for a SEND Tribunal appeal) and a list of your Terms & Conditions (e.g. charges etc.). I will then be in touch with you after considering everything.
Even if this is not you, if you would like to recommend an ‘expert’ to me (e.g. you are a parent of a child with SEN and have used somebody who impressed you, or you have worked with someone professionally and think that I should know about them), then please also email me directly with their name (and details if you have them) and I will contact them myself.
My thanks in advance for your taking the time to help me do this.
RECENT/FORTHCOMING SEN EVENTS (AND TRAINING)
During the last couple of months, although I have attended a couple of seminars to do with SEN or disability, these have been primarily for my work as a legal practitioner in this area.
But I want to highlight the following forthcoming events in this update:
As I also know that many people who read my updates are involved with a child or young person with autism, I would also like to highlight the fact that it is World Autism Awareness Week 2015 from 27 March to 2 April 2015.
I have been asked to highlight in this update the fact that I will be speaking at the Jordan’s 20th Annual SEN Conference (this will be my 11th time speaking for Jordan’s) together with David Wolfe QC; Jane McConnell (the Chief Executive of IPSEA); Tribunal Judge Meleri Tudur (the Judicial Head of the SEND Tribunal); and His Honour Judge Simon Oliver (who has a wealth of experience in SEN).
Whilst most of the day will focus on the implementation of the new SEN Framework and what has changed/is changing (including with the Tribunal), and David will give a caselaw update, I am delivering a paper this year called ‘There’s A Difference Between Being ‘Clever’ And Being ‘Wise’’. This includes a section teasingly entitled ‘How To Tell If Someone Is Lying!’, which will hopefully come in handy, not only with legal cases, but to help people generally in life.
I have spent a lot of time recently, both in and out of my offices, delivering my now popular CPD accredited training on the new SEN framework and/or advising people about how best to avoid/resolve disputes, either for a half day (entitled ‘What You Need To Know (The New SEN Framework)’ or a full day, which includes the half day, entitled ‘Turning Theory into Practice’).
Please note that I now only have two dates (11 and 19 March 2015) left for the Spring Term and I am not planning on doing any more training until Autumn 2015. So, if you do want to attend one still, please book yourself a place soon as places are always allocated on a first come, first served basis – you can find out more information/download a flyer here.
‘NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN TOO!’
As you may already know, I am myself physically disabled due to a rare and progressive neurological condition called Cerebellar Ataxia. As I use a wheelchair to get around, I am always easily identifiable (although if I am in a crowd where there are lots of people around, it is very easy not to see me).
What most people don’t realise though, is that my condition also affects my eyesight, so although people can often see me, I do not always see them properly. As such, I have become a master of ‘bluff’ over the years and can now identify people or things by their shapes, sounds or voices. I like to say that I can do this because I know that people cannot see what I can see!
In recent years, this has led to some funny situations. For example, I may end up waving back at somebody who I thought was waving to me, only then to find out later that they were not waving to me at all; or, even more embarrassingly, I may sometimes ignore someone who is waving at me because I haven't seen them and then, when I do find out later, I have to apologise to them and explain my difficulty.
However, the funniest thing about my eyesight problems is that I have now developed a ‘startle response’, so that if someone comes up to me too quickly (usually from the side) I overreact and flinch away, which looks as though I do not really want to see them. This happens to me from time to time but people usually understand when I then explain my problem.
But this happened to me again recently and the person who approached me took my over-reaction in an amusing way and quickly said, when I backed away:
“Nice to see you again too!”
We always need to keep our sense of humour, even if things take us by surprise sometimes.
With good wishes
by Douglas Silas, specialist SEN Solicitor