Secretary of State for Children and Families Edward Timpson has announced a series of reforms for special educational needs (SEN) in schools to be implemented by September 2014.
In a letter to the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) the minister outlines his plans for moving to the new legal system, and explains the date to be the “beginning of a gradual and orderly transition to full implementation” rather than a clean break between the old to new systems.
SEN statements will be substituted for a new package of co-ordinated support for children and young people across agencies and Local Areas (LA).
Changes are challenging but to benefit families
The restructurings are expected to be tough to implement and Timpson stated that the pathfinder sites trailing the system have found the process “challenging”.
Timpson wrote: “We are thinking how to manage the changeover to a new legal system. We want children and young people with SEN to benefit from the changes as soon as possible; however, it is not proposed to move wholesale to the new system from September next year.”
He also added that he is grateful to the CDC as the department’s reform partner on SEN and disability for their early thinking of implementation.
The reforms are being introduced through the Children and Families Bill and will affect a wide range of audiences- including children, young people, parent-carers, schools and colleges among others.
A spokesperson for DFE said: “As the biggest overhaul of the system of the last thirty years, it is essential that the changes are introduced in a way that is achievable for local authorities while making sure that families can benefit as quickly as possible from them.
“We are talking to families, providers and councils about how to manage the move from the current system to the new one and we will be consulting on the details in autumn.”
Reforms will not change schools’ and LA’s responsibility
These changes will also be applied alongside the introduction of single education, health care plans for new applicants but notably the funding changes will not change the schools’ and LA’s responsibility for children with special needs.
CDC Director Christine Lenehan supports the modifications and said: “We would expect to see children and young people at key stages of transition to be the first groups to receive the new plans.
"We would like the implementation process to have a sharp focus on the need for the reforms to bring about a change in culture. Changing paperwork alone will not be enough."
Earlier this year, at the Association of the Directors of Children’s Services’ Conference, the minister announced a £9m fund for local areas to prepare for the new transitions.