The Children and Families Bill - FLSE Response
On Tuesday 5th March the FLSE National Executive met at Fairfield School in Batley. It was most unfortunate that having been invited there by Yorkshire and Humber Regional Representative Richard Ware he was unwell. However, we were well looked after and were joined by the new rep. for the region Sue Garland-Grimes from Frederick Holmes School in Hull.
We were also joined for the first time by incoming North West Regional Representative Jonathan Parkes from Springfield School in Knowsley. We decided to meet at our next FLSE Exec at Jonathan's School – it's a good way of getting out to the regions and hearing the 'local voice'.
The full minutes of the meeting will be posted for members to view on the website in due course. In the meantime I just wanted to bring you all up to date with our discussion regarding the Children and Families Bill which has just received its second reading.
We went through Part 3 on the SEN Reforms in detail and the points we agreed on are as follows (in this list you'll see the paragraph referred to and the title and then the FLSE comment/position):
19 Local authority functions: supporting and involving children and young people
FLSE: If authorities are going to properly support children and families with SEN they need to consider very carefully advocacy services. The declining role of LAs would seem to mitigate against their ability to be advocates and pro-active in supporting children and young people and to monitor the effectiveness and application of any legislation.
25 Promoting integration
The FLSE view nationwide is that the integration of education, health and social care services in support of children with SEN has historically been poor in specialist provisions and even worse in mainstream provisions. It is FLSE’s view that LAs must be held accountable under this new legislation for improving integration and the quality of SEN provision to properly serve the needs of SEN children. In so doing it should take account of the expertise existing in special schools and listen to voice of experienced leaders; providing a greater local role for special schools as part of their local communities. We recommend the setting up of local partnership boards in which special schools play a leading role.
26 Joint commissioning arrangements
FLSE: Are we absolutely clear about what constitutes health or care? eg. is gastrostomy feeding health or care and who can reasonably be expected to provide it? The fundamental issue in special schools is the availability of ready access to appropriate health and social services and the development of their role as commissioners of these services. Whichever way this plays out therapy services in special schools across the country need to improve and this must be seen as the absolute goal of joint commissioning.
27 Duty to keep education and care provision under review
FLSE believes there should be a duty placed on LAs not just to ‘review’ but to ‘improve’ education and care provision. We also believe there should be clarity for all about the data which will be collected to inform review (what data? from where?) and the process of review.
30 Local offer for children and young people with special educational needs
FLSE expects to see all maintained, non-maintained and independent provisions included in local offer publications.
31 Co-operating in specific cases: local authority functions
FLSE believes 31(2) is too broad and allows the bodies stated in 31(1) to opt out of co-operation too easily.
34 Children and young people with special educational needs but no EHC plan
FLSE supports the role of special schools in providing assessment of a child’s SEN prior to admission in either a mainstream or special setting and this assessment provision should be funded accordingly.
36 Assessment of education, health and care needs
FLSE strongly supports the inclusion of the young person’s right to request an EHC assessment (and believes this right should be extended to a child’s advocate).
37 Education, health and care plans
37(2) FLSE welcomes the specification of provision in the EHC and believes that the EHC should additionally specify who is required to provide the specified provision and who has a duty to monitor the implementation of that provision.
40 Finalising EHC plans: no request for particular school or other institution
FLSE supports greater flexibility in the system of ‘naming’ providers. In the modern educational landscape there is an increasing pattern of partnership working involving trusts and federations. It should be possible to name the trust, the federation or the partnership as a provider rather than an individual institution (although it would be advisable to name one institution as lead provider).
44 Reviews and re-assessments
FLSE believes this section should be strengthened to hold all other providers of provision in the EHC accountable for delivery by requiring their attendance at the annual meeting for review and re-assessment of the EHC.
The FLSE represents our members and now we shall take forward these responses to the Education Selection Committee and other Members of Parliament.
We urge you to write to your local MP with your views about the proposed bill and its implications for your work in special schools using the above where you see fit.
We would also appreciate any feedback from you on our comments above and anything you would wish us to add for our forthcoming meetings. I shall be writing up the notes above in a more 'user friendly' format but knew you would appreciate early sight of them.
Please also find attached an outline to Part 3 of the bill which you may find helpful. This can be downloaded here .
Best wishes to all.