As usual at this time of year, let me say welcome back after the summer break.
In this SEN 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.
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SAME BUT DIFFERENT (SEN FRAMEWORK)
Things always feel more positive at the start of a new academic year, don’t they? You feel more refreshed after a break and also feel more focused again.
We should feel the same this year, knowing that we now have managed to get through the first 4 years of the new SEN framework, which was brought into effect in September 2014 with the Children and Families Act 2014 and the new SEND Code of Practice (which was updated again in 2015).
In the second section of this Update, I want to tell you about some practical changes that have come into force/are coming into force at the SEND Tribunal, which may help people (both personally and professionally), but I want to take a moment in this first section to just reflect on SEN things.
Many people tell me that, after having been involved in special educational needs issues for many years, that it still feels the same, but they know that it is different now. What I think they mean is that, although there appear to be changes around the edges, the main SEN framework appears the same as before, as it still really concentrates on education, even though Statements of SEN have been replaced by Education, Health, & Care (EHC) Plans.
Although I do understand where they are coming from, I beg to differ because there is more of a drive now towards looking at the whole needs of a child or young person with SEN (theoretically), including their health and care needs.
You may know that for many years I have been at pains to state that the education/health/care system is a huge entity and that any changes take a long while to filter down. I also like to point out that there is a need for a cultural change, which can take a long while as well.
A good analogy that I use about this is to say that it is like trying to turn a large ship. You cannot do it immediately when you want to change direction - it takes a long while for a ship to turn around, unlike when you are in a small boat which can change direction quickly.
So please don’t feel downhearted because things may have not gone smoothly. New things need time to settle down. Now that the transitions of Statements to EHC plans and the whole SEN framework has had time to bed in, I am hopeful that, even though it has been 4 years in the making, we should now see things moving forward positively.
I am also at pains to point out that people do not do things wrong deliberately or maliciously, but usually because they have made a mistake or do not know what to do.
As ever, I encourage people to always try to give other people the benefit of the doubt.
CHANGES IN THE SEND TRIBUNAL
Over the years, the number of pages of evidence submitted by a party when bringing/defending an appeal has increased. This has meant that sometimes Tribunal panels and witnesses (as well as the parties themselves), often have to read lengthy bundles, often with duplication of reports/documents submitted by both parties.
As such, the Tribunal have now issued guidance and a new appeal form, which puts a maximum limit of pages that can be submitted by a party in an appeal. I have tried to summarise things here for you, as follows:
Appeal Form Changes
The main changes are:
New Bundle Guidance
The Tribunal has produced new guidance entitled: ‘Guidance for producing a Tribunal Bundle for the First-tier Tribunal SEND’. (Applying to appeals from 1 October 2018).
There are page limits for documents submitted in an appeal, as follows:
However, these limits do not include the ‘core bundle’ of the:
Other points to note are that:
TIME FOR A REFRESH (SEN WEBSITE)
Some of you may have noticed that I have slightly refreshed our website over the summer, to try and simplify things further.
As well as the usual things now, like updating my Guide to the SEND Code of Practice for 2018/19, as I know how busy everyone usually is, I have cut things down, wherever possible, so that they can be read quickly.
One of my favourite parts now is the page entitled: ‘A Parent’s Story’ (which you can find under the section entitled: ‘What People Say’). This is where I have asked parents that we have helped to tell their own story in their own words (some are longer than others I am afraid).
This, hopefully, can give other parents hope if they find themselves in similar situations, especially where the future looks bleak sometimes. It can help them see that there is often a way out of things and their lives can change very quickly, where a child or a young person’s educational provision or placement changes.
My own particular favourites are the stories that start:
‘Raising children is a demanding job …’ and:
‘It’s not so much a path you take …’
Even if you are not the parent of a child with SEN, I encourage you to read some of these stories, because it may help you understand things better.
I will leave it up to you to read some or not...
FORTHCOMING SEN EVENTS
I am going to keep this fourth section of my update quite short this time. As to be expected at the beginning of the new academic year, there is nothing for me to report about recent SEN events that I have been to yet.
Looking ahead though, the annual SEN Conference that I am staging again with IPSEA (Independent Parental Special Educational Advice) and Matrix Chambers, is now going to be held next year on Tuesday 5 March 2019 (at a London venue, still to be determined). So best to ‘Save the Date’ and put it in your diary now. As yet, more details are still to be decided but, again, all proceeds will be given to IPSEA.
In the meantime, in terms of forthcoming SEN events, I want to highlight the following:
"I STILL CAN’T WALK PROPERLY!’
As usual, I like to end my SEN update with a personal story as a disabled person using a wheelchair. This time I want to talk to you about difficulties that I face sometimes when flying.
Usually, (still sitting in my wheelchair), I am taken separately from the terminal on an 'ambulift' to the other side of the plane, which then rises to allow me to board the plane on the entrance opposite to the one that people usually enter. I then either manage to get down to my seat by holding onto people/things (for example, the back of a seat) or am transferred into an ‘aisle wheelchair’ (which is narrower than my wheelchair, which goes into the cargo hold) and pushed to my seat.
The disadvantage of doing this is that I often am the last one to board the plane and everybody is looking at me when I arrive, so I feel that I am keeping everyone waiting. It sometimes feels as though I am doing the ‘walk’ or ‘wheel’ of shame.
However, the advantage is that I am also the last one to leave the plane and so can sit down and relax for a couple of minutes more when we land while everybody gets their bags out of the overhead compartments and rush to get off (this always seems to me to be a bit of a false economy as they then only rush to get to the baggage carousel, where they still have to wait - so they have not saved any time in reality).
Anyway, on this occasion, I stayed behind as per usual and, whilst we were waiting for the ambulift to arrive, the pilots came out of their cabin and I was talking with them and the stewards/stewardesses. I expressed surprise that all the people who had joined me on the ambulift to get onto the plane were no longer there and I would be taken to the terminal by myself.
One of the pilots smiled and said: ‘This always happens, you get a lot of people needing assistance at the beginning, but by the time we land they miraculously no longer need assistance’.
I replied: ‘I’ve got a bone to pick with you…’
They now all looked at me a bit worried.
I then continued:
‘I have been flying with you all these years and I still can’t walk properly when I arrive!’
With good wishes
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