Report from the National Conference for Parent Carer Forums
This was the first time that this national conference for Parent Carer Forums, hosted by the National Network for Parent Carer Forums and the disability charity ‘Contact’, had been held as an in person event since 2019. Sarah Thomas and Zara Bowden attended to represent PACC.
The day included presentations from Ofsted about the new SEND Local Area Inspection Framework, which looks at how effective an area is in meeting the needs of their SEND community and the Department For Education leading a workshop on the proposed National Standards, which will introduce an ‘ordinarily available offer’ for SEND children and young people. The conference also included an address by Claire Coutinho MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children, Families and Wellbeing.
Amanda Batten opened the conference reflecting on the past 12 months for Parent Carer participation. The number of parent carers connected to their local Forums has continued to grow, now passing 110,000 and the number of parent carers directly involved in running Parent Carer Forums has doubled.
Dr Tina Pagett, Ofsted Inspector, shared the key points of the new SEND Local Area Inspection Framework, confirming the Parent Carer Forums and the voice of parent carers will continue to be central to the inspection process. There will be a greater focus on considering how social care is integrated into the SEND system, along with increased consideration of the quality and quantity of Alternative Provision offered by Local Authorities
The new inspections will be implemented on a 5-year cycle with each local area being visited at least once during that period. There will be three distinct judgements possible at the end of the inspection, and inspectors will be looking for evidence of how statutory duties are being met, the quality of strategic plans and how they know they are improving lives of children and young people with SEND and families. You can read more about the new SEND Inspection Framework here.
Mrunal Sisodia, the co-chair of the NNPCF spoke about what the future might hold for SEND with the imminent publication of the SEND and alternative provision improvement plan. The proposed introduction of ‘National Standards’ is welcomed by the NNPCF with the hope that they will provide clarity on how needs are identified and met at every stage of a child’s journey. It is important that these standards do not become a cap on services and the principle of meeting individual need must be retained. National Standards should be a minimum offer, ensuring clarity about what is ordinarily available in a mainstream school, they should provide clarity around who pays for what and increase early intervention. There is ongoing concern by the NNPCF about the possibility of the introduction of a ‘tailored list of settings’ as part of the EHCP process, which could reduce choice and the idea of national bandings and tariffs, which could potentially cap funding inappropriately.
The workshop led by the Department For Education followed the NNPCF presentation and further information was provided about the proposed ‘National Standards’. The Department For Education plans to establish a national steering group, which will include parent care representation to oversee the development of the Standards, with testing of this new approach taking place in 2024 and guidance for implementation published in 2025. The Department For Education confirmed that the intention is that ‘National Standards’ will provide clarity about what should ordinarily be available for SEND students in a mainstream education setting, ensuring that the move to specialist support will only happen when appropriate.
Since the conference the ‘SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan’ has now been published by the Department For Education, click here to read it.
A number of national SEND organisations have published responses to the Plan, which you can read on the links below
National Autistic Society https://www.autism.org.uk/what-we-do/news/long-awaited-send-improvement-plan-released
SEND Minister Claire Coutinho MP setting out DfE SEND Improvement vision in letter to Common Public Accounts Committee
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