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Education Law

Expert commentary, cases and guidance

12 AUG 2014

A Sea Change or Simply a Reshuffle? A Comment on the Children and Families Act 2014, Part 3

A Sea Change or Simply a Reshuffle? A Comment on the Children and Families Act 2014, Part 3
When publishing the Children and Families Bill the Government said that it wished to transform the special educational needs (SEN) system from birth to age 25. It said that it would do this by raising aspirations; putting children, young people and parents at the centre of decisions; and giving them greater choice and control over their support so that they can achieve at school and college and make a successful transition to adult life. These are very laudable aims, reflecting the influential Lamb report,[1] but does the Act achieve that? Or is it the case that the Government is long on rhetoric but short on concrete changes?

The changes have been a long time coming, being based on the Green Paper Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability published by the Department for Education on 18 March 2011, and the follow up Progress and Next Steps published 15 May 2012. There has been a lengthy consultation process which it is not possible to discuss in this brief overview.

Much of Part 3 of the Children Act 2014 (the 2014 Act), which replaces Part 4 of the Education Act 1996 (the 1996 Act), is due to come into operation along with a new Code of Practice in September 2014.[2] New regulations on assessments and plans and on appeals will also form part of the legislative framework.[3]

  What the 2014 Act Does
Some of the core provisions in the 1996 Act are retained verbatim and simply renumbered, whereas with others there are changes of substance. For example, while s 20 of the 2014 Act retains the same wording for the definition of SEN contained in s 312(2) and (3) of the 1996 Act, s 21 extends the definition of provision in s 312 to include not only special educational provision (as in s 312(4) of the 1996 Act) but also health and social care provision. Further, statements of SEN under s 324 of the 1996 Act and learning difficulty assessments made under s 139A of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 are replaced by the education, health and care (EHC) plans set out in s 37 of the new Act.

 [1] Sir B Lamb, Lamb Inquiry: Special Educational Needs and Parental Confidence (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009).
[2] Section 77 (reprising s 313 of the 1996 Act) requires the Secretary of State to issue a Code of Practice and s 78 (to replace s 314) requires there to be a draft Code which is the subject of consultation.
[3] See the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/1530).  

The full article appears in Issue 3 of 2014 of the Education Law Journal. If you subscribe to the journal please click here to read the full article.
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