A Summary of the activity by the SENDac executive in the past year

Activities Report April 2014-September 2015
SENDac is an active member of Special Educational. Consortium (SEC), an influential group comprised of over 30 organisations with strong links to SEND. SEC meets monthly to scrutinise proposed legislation and guidance which will have a direct impact on children and young people with SEND. Wherever there is a consensus of view across all these organisations, SEC will lobby government; this is particularly important during passages of Bills, or where guidance from DfE has been amended without necessary consultation. As the organisations represent disparate views, it is sometimes difficult to achieve a consensus. But where a consensus is achievable SEC has a very powerful voice in the shaping of legislation.
Our first representative to SEC was Niki Elliot who, in December 2013, was elected Chair, at which point Diana Robinson took the SENDac seat on the Steering Group while John Keever has contributed to the work of SEC's parliamentary group. The Parliamentary Group works with members of the Commons and Lords providing briefings and submitting amendments on specific issues relating to SEND. Through SEC, SENDac has influenced the following:
Ensuring the SEND Code of Practice was fit for purpose:
In its response to the draft Code of Practice published for consultation, SEC issued a public statement stating that the draft was not fit for purpose. SEC subsequently secured significant improvements to the way legal duties were explained and to the clarity of the guidance. Niki led discussions with the DFE throughout the process of drafting the Code. SENDac made its own response to the consultation process. SENDac was represented at consultative meetings held with the DfE looking at drafts of the revised SEND Code and Regulations and influenced the re-wording of key sections.
The creation of a new inspection framework for SEN and disability:
Following a long-running SEC campaign to have SEN and disability provision inspected at local authority level, DfE have recently announced the creation of a new inspection framework. Inspection will be led by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission. OFSTED's proposals were presented to SEC by Charlie Henry HMI and discussed. Diana Robinson was able to feedback her experiences of a pilot Local Area Inspection to SEC. SENDac is currently completing its response to the consultation.
Safeguarding specialist SEN services during academy expansion:
Due to SEC’s work on school funding reform and a successful SEC amendment voted into the Academies Act by the House of Lords, DfE accepted that funding for SEN specialist services should be retained by local authorities rather that delegated to individual academies This victory provided a source of stability for the children and families using these services at a time of major change in the system.
New legal rights for parents to request an SEN expert:
During the passage of the Education Act 2011, SEC secured a new legal right for parents to request an SEN expert to advise a review panel if their child is permanently excluded. The expert advises the review panel on whether a school did enough to identify or address a pupil's SEN before they were excluded. SENDac members who undertake this role have seen exclusion decisions reversed.
Ensuring safeguards are in place for children at risk from permanent exclusion:
During the passage of the Education Act 2011, SEC secured commitments that statutory guidance on exclusions would be explicit about the need to take unmet special educational needs into account when considering a decision to exclude. When DfE re-issued this guidance in 2015, lowering the threshold for when a pupil could be permanently excluded, SEC worked with lawyers to persuade DfE to withdraw the new guidance and re-instate the original guidance.

Current work:
SENDac continues to bring an LA and School Improvement perspective to SEC's deliberations around its strategic priorities which currently include: curriculum and assessment; admissions and exclusions; SEND funding; quality and governance; and an on- going watching brief regarding the implementation of the Children and Families Act.
Recently SEC has put down amendments to:
- the Welfare Reform and Work Bill requiring reporting of information about the number of people with special educational needs and/or disabilities entering into apprenticeships
- the Childcare Bill to establish the role of SENCO or area SENCO in early years settings.
In response to concern about Local Authorities' capacity at a strategic level to engage with the SEND reforms and in response to Local Area inspection proposals, SENDac has convened a group to consider how a local area will be able to judge the ongoing effectiveness of the new procedures/provisions and arrangements for SEND. We are developing a dynamic tool that supports an evaluative approach to the strategic planning process in Local Areas.

Sue Woodgate President, Niki Elliot Vice President & Chair SEC,
Diana Robinson SEC Representative, John Keever Treasurer SEC Parliamentary Group.