Transfers from primary to secondary school can be a worrying time for parents. More so when their children have special educational needs (‘SEN’).
One of the principles behind the government’s new statutory framework for SEN is to promote integrated services across by local authorities, smoothing the transitions between educational settings.
All children with Statements of SEN under the old law (the Education Act 1996) must be converted to the new system of Education Health and Care Plans (‘EHCPs’) after consultation with parents / young persons and schools or colleges. Strict deadlines apply in most cases. The Department for Education’s policy guidance on the transition (now in its third edition since being published in September 2014) sets out the timetable for transferring different groups (at Annex A). It also provides that local authorities can transfer individuals to EHCPs earlier, where appropriate.
Which is why it’s all rather disappointing when an entire city council fails to adequately prepare 426 SEN children for secondary transfer by providing them with EHCPs under the new law. The Birmingham Post reports:
Birmingham’s failure to meet the deadline was uncovered by specialist education lawyers at Simpson Millar through a freedom of information request.
Imogen Jolley, Head of Education at the law firm, said: “The sheer scale of the shortfall in this regard is staggering and hugely worrying.
“From the number of calls we have had from parents, we knew there was a problem with the deadline.”
The Council says the figure represents 5 per cent of the total number of SEN children it is dealing with and that it has completed EHCPs for all the other children in good time.
This can hardly be re-assuring. It suggests that despite being fully aware of the changes in the law and the transfer timetable, the Council was unacceptably behind schedule due to its workload. As under-resourced local authorities grapple with the implementation of the new law, it is possible that this may not be an isolated incident.
This Thursday, the Education team at 36 Bedford Row will be presenting a seminar on the rights and duties under the new legal framework and recent developments in the case law. If you would like to know more, please contact me.