Friday, 15 November 2013

The new SEN Code of Practice



Quite often, people commenting here say things like, ‘I’ve never even heard of these people who you say are so important’. Just because you have not heard of them, doesn’t mean that what they are doing won’t affect you. Take the new SEN Code of Practice that some of you probably know about. Who wrote it, in conjunction with the Department for Education? Step forward, Fiona Nicholson! What, you weren’t aware of this? Perhaps that’s because, as Fiona herself said, ‘well I haven't told home educators as they'll make a thing out of it’.  Come, come, all you home educators out there. I’m sure you wouldn’t really make a thing out  of it, would you? A little thing like this which will only  affect everybody whose child has a special educational need? Oh, you fusspots!

51 comments:

  1. Are you sure she 'wrote' it, Simon? Are we talking about the whole code, or just the bit that applies to home educators? And if she did supply the wording, then why does her website have a long document giving all the amendments she wants to it?

    It has been talked about on lists which deal with SEN so I knew about her involvement months back and have read the code because it'll have a big impact on my children. As far as HE goes I think it's an improvement on what we've got (or at least it will be if anyone takes any notice of it!) Yes, it needs some amendments, but I've put my response in to the consultation just like anyone else can, and imagine it'll prop up a wonky desk somewhere quite nicely.

    If it hasn't made it to the mainstream lists then that doesn't surprise me, because very little about SEN does, any more than it does anywhere else in the non-SEN world.

    There is a substantial SEN contingent in the HE world, to which I'm proud to belong, but there's a much, much bigger non SEN cohort who aren't interested and there's no reason why they should be.

    They probably don't know that any child with a Statement of special educational needs already has to have an annual review and is therefore known to the authorities, so some of us have been living with monitoring and regulation our whole HE careers. And yes, it can be a real pain, but they do back down when you stand your ground, and it is possible to go from thinking of your LA as 'spawn of Satan' to 'irrelevant but a necessary nuisance to be dealt with once a year in return for knowing the children have a safety net if they ever wanted or had to go back to school' because I've done it.

    Atb
    Anne

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    1. 'Are you sure she 'wrote' it, Simon? Are we talking about the whole code, or just the bit that applies to home educators? '

      I meant of course to suggest that Fiona wrote some of this and not the whole! One of those fascinated yesterday with my personal appearance and general attributes was Janet Mackay. I am sure that she will not object to my publishing an email exchange which she had with Fiona on this subject;

      From: Fiona Nicholson
      To: Janet Mackay
      Sent: Mon, 9 Sep 2013 20:46
      Subject: Re: Dfe

      that's my guilty conscience being furtive about the SEN code of practice, immediately assumed that's what you meant!

      On Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 8:45 PM, Fiona Nicholson wrote:

      Oh right no that's fine about DfE and college!!! We're fine to talk about anything from the APPG meetings. I thought you meant DfE and the new SEN Code of Practice, that's the thing where HE-Special would get upset and read too much into it I think.

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Fiona Nicholson
      To: Janet Mackay
      Sent: Mon, 9 Sep 2013 20:21
      Subject: Re: Dfe

      well I haven't told home educators as they'll make a thing out of it, there should be a public consultation any time now on the SEN stuff, hopefully

      On Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 12:09 PM, Janet Mackay wrote:

      Do you want/mind if people know you are in discussions with the Dfe ?


      As to why Fiona feels that she needs to be, 'furtive' about this and conceal it from HE Special, well your guess is as good as mine!

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    2. 'If it hasn't made it to the mainstream lists then that doesn't surprise me, because very little about SEN does, any more than it does anywhere else in the non-SEN world. '

      It wasn't only the mainstream lists that were intended to be kept in the dark about this, Anne. As you will see, Fiona said, 'I thought you meant DfE and the new SEN Code of Practice, that's the thing where HE-Special would get upset and read too much into it I think.' The aim was to conceal her involvement from home education lists for parents of children with special needs as well. Why she had what she describes as a, 'guilty conscience' about this is beyond me. Does anybody here have an explanation for this?

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    3. But it was posted on HE Special months back that she was talking about it with the DofE, so I'm not sure how that works, Simon.

      It looks to me like a storm in a teacup, because the actual code is what matters, not who said what to whom when they were thinking about what to write.

      Lobbying happens in all sectors and she's as entitled to her view as anyone else is to theirs. The consultation is open so all anyone who doesn't agree with her needs to do is submit a response. If the overwhelming majority don't agree then that'll show up in the responses and may or may not be taken into consideration, but it's perfectly easy to have a say.

      More importantly, have you read it? My big beef is that there's no minimum standard for the local offer and I can see the commissioning process being taken over by whichever local SEN group has the most effective lobbyist so if your child has the 'right' problem you'll get help and otherwise you'll be invisible. (No real change, I know, but I don't like seeing the process formalised.)

      (Which reminds me. I must go and brush up my lobbying skills. )

      Anne

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    4. Let me try and explain what the concern of some people amounts to, Anne. When, talking of the APPG, Graham Stuart says that, 'the most recent group meeting and the one in February will be by invitation', we ask ourselves who will be in charge of issuing those invitations? The answer is, the secretariat; ie Fiona Nicholson and Jane Lowe. This means that it whether you are in the loop or out of it will depend upon these two women, neither of whom were elected to the post. Similarly, when Fiona talks of being furtive about the SEN Code of Practice, it is quite reasonable to ask what precisely her role in the business amounts to. Some people feel that there were enough secret deals being struck between Alison Sauer and Graham Stuart and that we don't really want anything which might look like re-run of the secret guidelines debacle a few years ago!

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    5. Maybe I'm being thick, but this isn't secret guidelines but a draft code that's been published so anyone who wants to see it can download it from the internet.

      If you're having a deep dark conspiracy then shouldn't it be a bit deeper and darker?

      As for the APPG meeting, I'd rather details of it were published so we knew it had happened and think about counter-arguments to the obvious questions they'll raise (registration, regulation, maybe even extermination (or is that because I'm so close to Doctor Who anniversary weekend that our house is dominated by Daleks?) than politicians meeting LA's without us knowing.

      Just out of interest, if it's an official meeting would it be covered by the FOI? Not that I'd suggest anyone doing anything naughty like requesting details if it was, of course.

      Anne

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    6. Remember, everyone: NEVER send an email to Janet MacKay. It'll end up being copied to all and sundry.

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    7. Thank goodness for that eh? Now we know the real story.

      Another lesson, never pay Fiona to help with an LA because once she is in she will be working for them and the locals will be barred from the process. I learned that from some emails Janet hasn't published yet

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    8. Publish or perish. Open the allegations for scrutiny and rebuttal, otherwise you sound like Sheeman with his wooly remarks about HE being the next scandal.

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  2. I think FN is a saint and we should be grateful for all she does. I think all LAs she visits should pay her and that HEors should contribute to her regularly through her donate button.

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  3. And if she has held anything back it is for our own good. We just are not capable of rising to her level of understanding.

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  4. She does have two degrees from Cambridge.

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  5. Ah, I did wonder what all the cryptic comments about Fiona and the SEN code was, so thanks for explaining that.

    As one of the few people to post here under my own name, I think it is unwise to try and conceal anything from the HE population at large - because it always ends in tears so to speak; but on the other hand some of the posts I have read elsewhere about the APPG verge on hysteria.

    But then I am stupid _ I failed to realise that I was only at the APPG by special invitation - careful inspection of my inbox doesn't have anything labelled "invitation" although I was sent a briefing document. And of course I turned up with my uninvited husband.......

    Should home educators be paid for their work on HE policy etc - I have my doubts there too...because there is bound to be the feeling that the LAs want certain outcomes.... however I can't see that it is likely to end in riches for anyone!

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    1. I didn't get it either, Julie, and I love the idea of you turning up at this 'secret, restricted' meeting with your husband and going in unchallenged. Really, as conspiracies go, it's not a very well organised one, is it?

      I'd also totally agree with the rest of your comments

      Atb, from someone else who uses her name and is now wondering if you're the same Julie I met at the Select Committee. And if so, how on earth did it take me so long to make the connection? I must be in an entirely different league of stupid...

      Anne

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    2. 'is now wondering if you're the same Julie I met at the Select Committee. '

      Of course she is! I thought that the two of your looked like sisters, but maybe that was just all that long straight hair.

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    3. If you think the last meeting was not be invitation then you need to take that up with Graham Stewart who thinks it was. However, if you and the others who attended were the only people who received receiving a briefing document, and I suspect that is the case, then that was the invitation.

      Did anyone else receive a briefing document in their email before the last APPG meeting? Did it go out on any lists?

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    4. Well, as I said, I am obviously just plain stupid - because it appears that we were only told it was a closed meeting after the event (GS tweet was several weeks after the meeting!)

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    5. Do you think GS is wrong and it was actually an open meeting?

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    6. No idea - as I said I turned up with my dh because I thought it was! Nobody checked us off on a list or anything....

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    7. I asked to go and was refused. It was by invitation only. You were obviously invited as I did get accepted for an invite and I did not get a briefing paper. You were invited, you are just too humble to think you were and that is quite refreshing.

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    8. That should have said did not get accepted.

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    9. "
      Should home educators be paid for their work on HE policy etc - I have my doubts there too...because there is bound to be the feeling that the LAs want certain outcomes.... however I can't see that it is likely to end in riches for anyone!"

      It's not about riches it's about ethics.

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    10. 'It's not about riches it's about ethics.'
      Discuss.
      You have 3 hours for this exam question.

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  6. Maybe we're clones, Simon. After all, you said at the time that we were all frighteningly similar...

    And there's a whole new conspiracy theory. Can you find any more suspiciously long haired home educators? Wait! Fiona Nicholson has long hair too...

    Oops, must take this more seriously
    Anne

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  7. I think I am somewhat greyer than you - Anne - so that should unconfuse everybody..

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  8. You are all doing such a good job of putting people off from accepting any invitations Fiona now sends out. Future APPG meetings will likely be composed solely of a few MPs and LA officers.

    Terrific. Well done, everyone.

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  9. I don't know anyone who would refuse an invitation. I cannot imagine what you mean. I don't think anyone but her usual cronies will be getting one in any case, so it's rather a moot point.

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  10. Not a moot point. Not just 'cronies'.

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  11. If " her" is FN.....what constitutes a crony? I am pretty sure I have only met her 5 times in my entire life; since it appears that I was "invited" to the APPG ( without even me knowing that it was an invite) I suppose it was a) because I had given evidence on the subject of exams to the Select Committee last year and b) it is a subject which I know a great deal about - and which is currently occupying a lot of my conscious thoughts! ( Anyone who has ever read the rules about opening an exam centre will know exactly what I mean!!)

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    1. Who invited you to speak to the select committee? How did they acquire your name from dozens of names of people who have worked very hard for HE children and parents over many years? Many HEers know a great deal about exams for HE children, why you?
      I am not saying it shouldn't have been you, I am trying to find out who put your name forward.

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    2. I don't suppose we'll ever know who thinks of people to attend Select Committees. Simon was invited once, wasn't he?

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    3. 'Simon was invited once, wasn't he?'

      For Heaven's sake don't bring me into it Julie! The conspiracy theories about my being summoned to give evidence to the select committee in 2009 have only just died down; don't go stoking up those particular fires again.

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    4. Those chosen ( well for the 2nd panel - I don't know who chose the experts) were chosen because of what we wrote in our submissions to the committee about the whole issue of exams and support. I did ask the civil servant who rang me up why I had been chosen and he said they chose people with a range of interesting things to report- in my case it was the success of getting HCC to fund exam and the attempt ( then unsuccessful - but they rolled over the day before I appeared at the committee) of getting Southampton to support their home educators in the same way.

      I have absolutely no regrets about appearing before the Select Comm or going to two APPGs. the home educating families with whom I spend my time aren't interested in doing down the LA... since most of the local ones don't actually have an EHE dept left (cutbacks) or don't want to do home visits anyway. Everyone is much more concerned by practical issues - exams/funding are just 2 of them. If any of my few minutes in the spotlight have helped make life easier for those families, then I am pleased.

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    5. Can I second that, Julie? I put in a submission to the consultation and my first response when they asked me to give evidence was to check they hadn't got me mixed up with Anne Rix of EO.


      I suspect I was chosen because I do Admin on a forum for structured home educators. I also hope I made it clear then, as I will again now, that I think kids are all different so the way they learn is bound to be different. Mine like structure so we use it. Other kids learn better in other ways and I wouldn't want or have the arrogance to tell anyone 'how to do it' when I don't know their children.

      I think the other reason I was there may well have been that I've always been open that I have 2 autistic children for whom home education has made all the difference in the world and of whom I am incredibly proud. That's why I'll fight to keep it as flexible as I can, because those of us who've been blessed with kids who don't fit the system desperately need that flexibility.

      Anne

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    6. 'I suspect I was chosen because I do Admin on a forum for structured home educators.'

      There might be more to it than that. I seem to recall somebody connected with the select committee describing you as being from, 'the sensible wing of home education'...

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    7. It's not that you should not have gone Julie, it's that others would like a chance to be heard too.

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    8. That all depends on how you define sensible. I've always suspected it means 'agrees with me' and I have the Mercutio approach to politics so I'm not taking it as a compliment.

      Anne

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    9. Anne and Julie it seems that you both fall into that group much loved by the authorities known as the 'right' kind of home educator.

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    10. But what is the right kind of home educator? Yes, I was fairly structured - but I too have an autistic dd so that was essential for her sanity (and therefore mine). I never had a home visit etc though, so that should give me some Brownie points, and anyone who has ever read any of FN stuff will know that her sons education was entirely autonomous, yet she still manages to get on alright with the powers that be.

      How many people actually responded by sending in evidence to the Select Comm? Off to check...but if people don't choose to participate they can't be surprised when the ones who did get chosen don't include themselves?

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    11. 15 written evidence used ( including Anne's and mine) which resulted in us being called to the Select Comm, 60 not apparently resulting in an appearance . This includes evidence from LAs and organisations. So 15 out of 75 20% chance of being summoned.

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    12. Anonymous, you were almost responsible for me wrecking my computer keyboard because I was drinking coffee when I read that and spluttered with laughter.

      I complained about my LA every year for 4 years (and all the complaints were upheld and the last one ended with an apology from the Head of Children's Services because I got so fed up that I made a real fuss.) I stopped having visits or attending the Annual Reviews that are compulsory for children with Statements of Special Educational Need, refused to let them set targets and made them rewrite all their SEN paperwork.

      Apart from them thinking I was a school, things went a lot better this year, but I can practically guarantee that I am not the 'right kind of home educator' as far as they're concerned.

      BUT, my LA is a small unitary apology, and one of the lowest funded. It's SEN team have very limited expertise because posts keep being cut, and I'd been falling out with them before we started HE because I had the effrontery to expect them to provide what was in my children's Statements of Special Educational Need so I've always been firmly in the awkward squad as far as they were concerned.

      In hindsight, I suspect that was because the SEN side is so varied and they have so little control over it that they get the wool pulled over their eyes by schools. Also, they only ever get contacted by parents when things are going wrong, so they always deal with upset people which means that a school who's had practice can paint the parent as the over-protective and unreasonable baddie.

      Similarly, the HE side is bolted on to other jobs and changes regularly so there is no expertise for people to draw on and people tend to assume that it's got to be just like school.

      While they infuriate me, I don't think they're necessarily out to get anyone.

      Anne

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    13. Actually - those of you which feel under represented - have you read the gathered evidence - used and unused?
      Several of the unused statements are from individuals frequently named here (by Simon!), who appear to be acting as individuals yet give many examples of different LAs around England who break the law. I have no doubt that the LAs are probably in the wrong, but it is a bit odd for an individual to criticize so many LAs; probably best left to a "national organisation" Many of the others are either about wanting exam access or not wanting any support from the LA at all. I suspect I was chosen because I actually had something positive to report!

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    14. You misunderstand my comment about you being the 'right' kind of home educator. That was a comment aimed at the perception of the authorities, not at your actual style of home educating. I have been told by my own LA in meetings that I am the 'right' kind of home educator which I hate although it does amuse me.

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    15. "I suspect I was chosen because I actually had something positive to report!"

      I sincerely hope that is not the reason because I would find that very worrying.

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    16. Yes Julie, how silly. We all know that governments aren't looking to engage with people who have stories that don't suit their agenda and since you were that positive story they were looking for you were chosen. How could anyone think they would be chosen when all they wanted was to alert the powers that be of their shortcomings and possibly ask some tough questions. We can't have that. Foolish people. Congratulations for being the chosen one.

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    17. Tough questions were asked, foolish commenter.

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    18. Well whoever you are... if you actually had read the evidence I submitted in the first place, you would have seen that working with the LA to secure exam funding was managed without any need to agree to anything that might be considered damaging for rest of the home educators in the counties I am taking about. No home visits etc - in fact securing the exam funding meant cut backs elsewhere, so somehow getting what we wanted aided everyone.

      As for the actual Select Comm - there were still plenty of criticisms of LAs, and the odd MP still said daft things, but that wasn't the purpose of this Select Comm, which was about support for home ed.

      As I have no idea who I am talking to, I am not sure of your agenda, but it is obvious that there are some of you out there who don't want anything form teh LA but to go away. That is fair enough ( and I did state that in my evidence - read it) but the several hundred families in my local group on whose behalf I was speaking wanted more- and have got it.

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  12. Maybe Julie was having an illicit affair with Barry Sheerman? Simon is the secret lovechild of Graham Stuart and Fiona Nicholson?

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  13. Funnily enough when I saw the tweet from Barry S I went and looked to see if he was the annoying man on the Select Comm I had crossed swords with over his bright idea of having HE children assessed by "proper teachers" before they entered exams... that turned out to be another one of the same party - Alex Cunningham

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