Over the coming months, a number of test areas across the country will be trialling some of the key changes set out in the government’s SEND and AP Improvement Plan. Alongside other reforms, each local area participating in this ‘change programme’ will be tasked with establishing a ‘SEND and AP partnership’ which will be responsible for developing and implementing a ‘local area inclusion plan’ or LAIP. The Department for Education (DfE) is currently busy working on guidance, benchmarking tools and templates to help set the course for these change programme areas.
Much of the focus of the SEND and AP Improvement Plan is on sorting out issues affecting children aged 5–16 and schools, so there was always a substantial risk that young people and further education would have only a walk-on part in this critical testing phase. That’s why Natspec, along with the Association of Colleges (AoC) and other FE and skills stakeholders, have been lobbying hard to ensure that the DfE’s guidance for the change programme participants requires them to pay due attention to the needs of 16–25 year olds when planning local (and regional) SEND provision. We’ve proposed that the DfE requires all local areas to have an FE and Skills provider sub-group, the chair of which should be on the SEND and AP partnership board to ensure post-school providers are represented at this top decision-making level. We’ve also suggested that at least one strategic objective with an explicit focus on 16–25 provision is included in every LAIP.
Planning and commissioning post-16 provision for young people with SEND is a relatively new responsibility for local authorities. It is not surprising, therefore, that many feel less confident about it than they do in ensuring the needs of school-aged children are being met. That’s why we have also offered to help the participating SEND and AP partnerships to review and plan improvements to their 16–25 provision. We want to be critical friends supporting them in the ambitious work that they are taking on – not critics watching on and sniping from the sidelines.
Clearly we do not have the capacity to act as advisor to each and every one of the 31 local areas involved in the change programme. Instead, we are focusing on providing them with tools and resources to help them familiarise themselves with the FE providers and provision in their area (and in neighbouring areas), make informed judgements about its sufficiency and quality, and plan for improvements so that they are better able to meet the needs of current and future 16–25 year olds.
Our first offer will be a set of prompt questions to help change programme areas to develop a sound understanding of their current offer. This will then act as a baseline from which they can build. It will be a challenging piece of work – and one which will undoubtedly benefit from the participation of all the different stakeholders with an interest in 16–25 provision in the local area or sub-region. So, whether you’re a local authority official in the SEND team or within adult services, a health official, chair of a parent/carer network, specialist FE college principal, or SEND leader in a mainstream FE setting, we would encourage you to work together to find the answers to the questions we’re posing. And to think about what others you could be asking in order to create a comprehensive picture of your 16–25 provision and identify where improvements are needed.
The change programme is an important opportunity to test out how the government’s SEND and AP Improvement Plan can be made to deliver for 16–25 year olds – and what further actions that go beyond this schools-driven agenda may be necessary. It is absolutely vital that the DfE sets high expectations of the change programme areas in terms of their inclusion of children and young people of all ages and provision at all stages of the 0–25 SEND system in this test phase. It is equally important that the local areas embrace this opportunity to make a positive difference for young people with SEND. Natspec will do all it can to support them in this endeavour. We are calling on everyone with an interest in improving 16–25 provision in their local area to do the same.
Here are a few questions that you could start to chew over.
Members only content
This content is for Natspec members only. Please log in to access it.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.