The new Children and Families Act will offer simpler, improved and consistent help for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
As well as protecting the schools budget, it will extend provision from birth to 25 years of age. This will give families greater choice in decisions and ensure needs are properly met.
The new system will extend rights and protection to young people by introducing a new education, health and care plan. Professionals will also provide more tailored support to families, giving them the help and assistance they need.
Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:
Today is a landmark moment in improving the lives of children with SEND and their families. These reforms put children and parents at the heart of the system.
For too long, families have found themselves battling against a complex and fragmented system. These reforms ensure support fits in with their needs and not the other way round - they will result in a simpler and more joined up system that focuses on children achieving their best.
This is the beginning of a journey, and the vast majority of local authorities have told us they are ready and parents have been supportive over the changes.
In England 1 in 5 children has SEN or disability, ranging from dyslexia to a physical impairment. These reforms, outlined in the code of practice, will enable them and their parents to have a role in shaping the support they receive.
The code of practice advises local education authorities, maintained schools, early education settings and others on carrying out statutory duties for children’s special educational needs.
‘Pathfinder’ families in 31 areas* around the country have taken part in pilots for the change. Their feedback has shown that they believe the reforms help to place them at the centre of the system.
Minister Timpson celebrated the first day of the reforms by meeting children and parents who will benefit from the new code at the Phoenix Children’s Resource Centre in Bromley.
The reforms were developed in partnership with parent groups, including the National Network of Parent Carer Forum, Contact a Family and Special Needs Jungle.
Support for the reforms has also come from television presenter Carrie Grant, who is the mother of 4 children with SEND. She believes that the reforms will help improve dialogues between schools and the parents of children with SEND.
Carrie Grant said:
We may not know the ins and outs of how that works in a classroom situation but what we do know is we know our child, and we know what they need, and we know how they may respond if their needs are not met properly.
Working together with the teachers hopefully will mean that the relationship that can be built up will ultimately mean that the child is right at the centre - the child is the one that matters. We want the right outcomes for our children.
We want to know that when our children go to school, of course they are taken care of, looked after, kept safe - but we also want to know that they can do everything that they could possibly do to reach their full potential, whatever that potential may ultimately be. That they are thought of not as a burden, but our children are thought of as an asset.
The reforms support that. The reforms actually help the parent to be brought in, understood hopefully by the school, listened to and together - working together - to make sure that that child’s school experience is the best that it can possibly be.
*20 pathfinder sites, comprising of 31 local areas, were commissioned to run from October 2011 to March 2013. The sites were:
- Bromley and Bexley consortium
- Cornwall and Isles of Scilly consortium
- Hartlepool and Darlington consortium
- Northamptonshire and Leicester City
- North Yorkshire
- Oldham and Rochdale consortium
- SE7 consortium (Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Medway, Surrey and West Sussex)