I always find it amazing how quickly the year always seems to go by!
For example, we are already now over two thirds of the way through the academic year and over one third through the chronological year (I’m afraid that I always think in academic years).
In this Update you will find sections entitled:
As I always say, I know how busy everyone is, so please feel free to read just the sections that are of interest to you or read everything; the choice is always yours.
Don’t forget, to ensure that you never miss out on one, you can get my SEN updates personally by completing your email details below, using our App ‘SEN.fyi’, or by following me on one of the Social Media platforms that I use, at the bottom of this page.
You can also easily share this update with others (please only do so if it may be relevant to them) by using one of the icons to the right of this page (if on a computer), at the top of this page (if on a mobile device), or on our 'SEN.fyi' App (by using the ‘share’ feature at the bottom of the page).
SEE, THEY LISTEN SOMETIMES
You may recall from one of my earlier updates, that the SEND Tribunal has undertaken a pilot project in recent years in 17 Local Authority (LA) areas where, when making educational decisions, it could also then make recommendations in relation to health and social care sections of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.
Well, following the publication of a report entitled: ‘Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, Discrimination Resolution Arrangements in England’ published on 29th March 2017, following research undertaken by the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR), the Government has decided to now extend the powers of the SEND Tribunal Pilot for a 2-year national trial (in England only I’m afraid).
The Report itself runs to over 300 pages but the Government's response paper is just 30 pages and is split into 8 sections covering, amongst other things, ‘EHC needs assessment and plan development processes’, ‘mediation’, ‘disagreement resolution services’ and ‘appeals to the First-tier Tribunal (SEND)’.
Just in case you do not have time to read it through yourself the first section is entitled: ‘Executive Summary’ and says:
‘The CEDAR Review had 6 objectives:
(Do you, like me, only count 5 objectives?)
The Report goes on to state:
'Evidence suggests that where local areas have a person-centred approach (Information, Advice and Support Services) (IASS), this helps to reduce the number of disagreements and resolves them early. Evidence also suggests that mediation is effective in reducing the number of appeals to the First-tier Tribunal SEND and overall costs, especially to families. Evidence on the pilot enabling the First-tier Tribunal SEND to consider health and social care issues and make non-binding recommendations is limited, but early findings suggest that a Tribunal power improves joint working between education, health and social care partners.
This Review also highlights issues with the varied LA implementation of the SEND reforms, variation in IASS, accessibility, lower usage of Disagreement Resolution Services (DRS), variation in the quality of SEND mediation and, in some cases, ineffective local complaint procedures.’
The Government then sets out its response as follows:
‘We are already providing financial and practical help to local areas to implement the SEND reforms. In addition to these, this Report sets out new steps we intend to take, including:
I couldn’t find too much information about the response to the Government’s announcement on the internet, although I did come across a news briefing from the National Autistic Society (NAS) which stated that:
‘This announcement of a national trial for the next 2 years is a step in the right direction.’
I also came across one from the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) which pointed out that of the 40,952 decision[s] from 109 local authorities, only 7% were appealed.’
It also added:
‘where families did raise complaints the top 3 main concerns reported by interviewees were; complaints being ignored, complaints taking too long, and responses that did not help put right the issue complained about.’
Speaking for myself, I also believe that this is a step in the right direction.
It is very important to always look holistically at a child or a young person when deciding about their placement/provision and this should not only be restricted to looking at things through the prism of education, but should also see things in terms of health and social care.
See, they listen sometimes …
LET’S GO OVER THAT AGAIN, SHALL WE? (SEN LAW)
It is hard to keep up with SEN law isn’t it? Even I, as someone who only practises in this area of law, find it hard sometimes to keep up with everything that is going on.
Well, I am glad to say that both my and many people’s life has just been made easier. This is because, my good friend (both professionally and personally), the barrister, David Wolfe Q.C. (of Matrix) ably assisted this time by another barrister, Leon Glenister (of Landmark), has kindly allowed us to (again) reproduce their detailed analysis of SEN caselaw on our website called: ‘Special Educational Needs (and a bit more) (The Noddy Guide)’.
It was launched in March 2017 and could be only downloaded as a PDF version previously. However, I am pleased to say that, with the assistance from one of my team (George Carey) I have now managed to put a copy of the text of everything also on our website, now also with hyperlinks on it to many of the written judgments in the cases referred to, which allows you to easily find that case that their analysis is talking about.
You can find it here:
‘Special Educational Needs (and a bit more) (The Noddy Guide)’
(Please note though that the law is constantly changing as a result of new cases bringing brought so always bear in mind that the position may have changed by the time you read it).
DON’T KEEP IT TO YOURSELF (SEN.fyi APP SHARING FEATURE)
You may recall that in my Autumn ‘SEN Update’ in September 2016, I launched a (free) App called ‘SEN.fyi’, which has 6 sections entitled:
The section was entitled ‘There’s an App for That!’
In my Autumn (Half) Term update, I also highlighted the ‘News’ section entitled: ‘When I Need You’.
Well, in this ‘SEN Update’, I want to highlight another feature that you may need, but which is a bit hidden, I’m afraid, but extremely useful.
In addition to the six sections which I have referred to above, there is also a section (on the ‘Home;’ page) entitled ‘Alerts’, which is basically a sort of ‘timeline’ feature where it collects everything together that has been added to the App in chronological order (mainly ‘News’).
You can then easily search through everything and also filter it. This means that you can see everything and ‘favourite’ what is of interest to you (by putting a highlight on each thing you need to), or only look at the things that you have not seen yet (you can even look at the things you may have already deleted, if you do like I do and sometimes delete things that you want to go back to!)
Most importantly though, there is an arrow next to each bit of information which allows you to easily ‘share’ with other people any information that you have come across which may interest them (e.g. via email, text, other messaging applications, or like me, just easily record it for myself as a note, in my task/applications or, because I have a visual impairment, send it to one of the text-to speech applications that I use on my phone, so that I can listen to the information easily.
I must say that I find this feature extremely useful, especially as I am constantly very busy and can therefore just favourite things I come across and store them so that I can read them later.
Hopefully, you will find this useful. So if you have not already already done so, please download SEN.fyi (for free) through the Apple or Android stores by clicking on the relevant image below.
As always, I would be very grateful if you would not only download it for yourself, but also recommend it to others whom you think may benefit from having it.
Remember, it’s free!
RECENT/FORTHCOMING SEN EVENTS
In my last update I highlighted three events coming up, two of which have already passed, including the SEN Education Law and Practice Conference 2017 from Lexis Nexis (where I spoke) and the forthcoming 2017. At the Lexis event (commonly still referred to as ‘Jordans’) there were also presentations from others, including David Wolfe Q.C. about recent caselaw.
In terms of forthcoming SEN events, this is the time of year when I remind people of the following:
I hope to be at the Autism Show in London, so if you see me there, please stop me and say ‘hello’ if you can.
I want to end this ‘SEN Update’ by telling you about something that happened to me once as a physically disabled person, which I believe illustrates the sense of frustration I feel sometimes in a very real way. It is simply about my just going up and down the stairs.
I live with my family in a regular semi-detached home, with an upstairs and a downstairs. I sometimes work at home by myself when no-one else is home.
Once, I was working upstairs by myself in my study with no one else in the house, but then heard the doorbell ring unexpectedly. Although I use a wheelchair most of the time, I still can ‘furniture-walk’ around my home (by holding onto things and passing from one thing supporting me to another (like ‘Tarzan’ swinging from vine to vine!).
I therefore rose very slowly from my chair and carefully walked my way to the door of the study, across our landing, down the flights of stairs (being very careful to not fall, by holding the bannister and a rail put up on the wall-side). After reaching the bottom, I then manoeuvred my way a few paces through the hall and eventually reached and opened the front door.
But when I opened it, there was now no one there! I still looked outside both ways, as best I could (remember I have a visual impairment), to see if I could spot the person who had just rung the doorbell, as they were perhaps still nearby, but I couldn’t see anyone.
So, after a few minutes, I closed the door and slowly made my way up the stairs again and back to my study and sat myself down ready to work again. However, as soon as I did so, the doorbell rang again.
I therefore had to get up again and slowly do everything one again that I have just described, in order to go all the way downstairs once more to open the door.
But, you’ve guessed it, when I got there, I again found that there was nobody there, so I therefore had to make my way up again.
And you probably won’t believe this but, as soon as I got back to my study and sat down again at my desk, the same thing happened once again just as I sat down (i.e. the doorbell rang). Fortunately, this time, by the time I got downstairs, (I was totally exhausted by this stage) and opened the door I found there to be someone there. But they were just someone trying to sell things door to door, which I wasn’t interested in. They had probably been knocking on the doors of other houses in the street and speaking to people, when I opened the door, so I had not seen them, but they had then spotted that I was ‘home’ and made their way back to try again, but then found that the door wasn’t opened, so made their way to the door of another house in the street, where I couldn’t see them when I opened the door and looked out, but they had seen me again and came back for another go.
If only I’d have known though that it was just someone trying to sell me something that I didn’t need in the first place when the doorbell rang the first time, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to try and answer the door.
I am glad to say though now that I have learned my lesson from this and now try to always switch the downstairs lights on and off from the upstairs switch to indicate to a person outside that there is someone in the house so that they will wait. But I’m afraid that, this still does not always work, so I am now hoping to install a doorbell that will allow me to answer and speak to the person through my phone.
Talk about frustrating!
With best wishes
by Douglas Silas, specialist SEN Solicitor