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This Education Update comments on:
- Implementing the new SEN system: duties and timescales
- Mental health and behaviour - schools guidance
- Consultation: Changes to the School Admissions Code
- Court dismisses JR challenge to forced Academy Order
- DfE guidance: Promoting the education of looked-after children
- Amendments to those entitled to free EYFS provision
Implementing the new SEN system: duties and timescales
Further to the approval of the SEN Code last month, the DfE issued non-statutory guidance 'Implementing a new 0 to 25 special needs system: LA's and partners. Duties and timescales - what you must do and when', which aims to help local authorities and health partners with the practicalities of implementing the SEN reforms. In particular it sets out which elements must be in place by 1 September, and those parts which can be implemented over time. It also provides an overview of the transitional arrangements for those currently on school action/school action plus and those with statements and Learning Disability Assessments.
The guidance can be viewed here:
Mental health and behaviour - schools guidance
The DfE has issued advice: 'Mental Health and behaviour in schools', emphasising the need for schools to identify pupils who may have mental health conditions, and suggesting strategies of intervention when such issues are identified.
The guidance highlights the overlap between certain mental health conditions and behaviour at school, exclusions and safeguarding. It will therefore be helpful to consider whether the applicable school policies are consistent with this guidance, and to have regard to it when dealing with related issues.
The guidance also includes a section on referral and commissioning, which looks at ways of engaging schools in defining local services.
Consultation: Changes to the School Admissions Code
The DfE has launched a consultation: 'Changes to the School Admissions Code', which proposes various changes including:
- Maintained sector schools to give priority to children eligible for pupil premium or service premium funding.
- Primary school admissions authorities to give priority to children eligible for the early years pupil premium, pupil premium or service premium who attend a nursery that is part of the school.
- Bringing forward dates for admission authorities to consult locally on their arrangements and reduce the length of the consultation from 8 to 6 weeks.
- Where the School's Adjudicator rules admission arrangements unlawful, authorities to amend their arrangements within two months of the ruling.
- Clarification on the provisions relating to the admission of summer born children.
- Ensuring the highest priority for admission applies to all children who have been adopted from local authority care.
The consultation closes on 29 September 2014, and responses can be made here:
Court dismisses JR challenge to forced Academy Order
In July, the High Court dismissed a Judicial Review challenge to a forced academisation in the case of R (Governing Body of the Warren Comprehensive School and another) v Secretary of State for Education  EWHC 2252 (Admin) (10 July 2014). The claimants, who wanted a federation solution, argued that:
a) the decisions to convert the school into an academy and to appoint an IEB were flawed, on the basis that they were based on a material error of fact (namely that evidence shows that sponsored academies are more likely than maintained schools to deliver improvement progress in schools in special measures); and
b) that the decision failed to take account the level of disruption involved in the academy process, or was otherwise premature of irrational.
These arguments failed. The Court ruled that the Secretary of State was entitled to find that steps should be taken without delay to bring about sustainable improvement to the school due to the persistent under-performance.
It appears from this judgment that there is a reluctance on the part of the courts to become involved in the Secretary of State's decisions to make academy orders.
DfE guidance: Promoting the education of looked-after children
In July the DfE issued guidance that details local authorities' duties to promote the educational achievement of the looked-after and eligible children for whom they are responsible. Every local authority is required to appoint a "Virtual School Head" ("VSH") whose role it would be to ensure that the authority properly discharges this duty.
The new guidance must be followed unless there are exceptional circumstances that justify departing from it. It replaces the March 2010 guidance and makes the following amendments:
- Reflect the statutory nature of the VSH role.
- Include a requirement for social workers, VSHs, Independent Reviewing Officers, school admission officers and special educational needs departments to work together to ensure that appropriate education provisions for children are arranged at the same time as care placements (except in an emergency).
- Requires that the Personal Education Plan of all looked-after children should now include the contact details of the VSH of the authority that looks after the child.
Amendments to those entitled to free EYFS provision
The Local Authority (Duty to Secure Early Years Provision Free of Charge) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/1705), which amend the 2013 Regulations, come into force on 1st September. These amend the 2013 regulations and include in the description of children who are entitled to free early years provision, children who have an Education, Health and Care plan and children who are no longer looked after as a result of a child arrangements order.