February 2016

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

ASCL has been quoted widely in the media over the recent period on a range of issues

In an interview with BBC Online about teacher supply shortages, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman warned: Expand

In an interview with BBC Online about teacher supply shortages, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman warned: “The word ‘crisis’ is not an exaggeration.” He was interviewed on the issue on BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire show, BBC Radio 5 live, LBC Radio and BBC Breakfast. ASCL also published a top ten list of ideas to boost the number of maths and physics teachers, based on a survey of members, which was reported in TES. 

Responding to an increase in the number of exam results that had to be re-graded, ASCL said that the statistics suggested that the marking system was struggling to cope and called for action. Our comments were reported by BBC Online, TES and The Independent. 

An ASCL survey of Northern Ireland (NI) members revealed widespread concern that the NI education minister’s decision to stick with A*–G grades at GCSE, rather than move to the 9–1 system, would disadvantage students. The survey was reported by BBC Radio Ulster, UTV radio and television and The Irish News. 

WalesOnline reported on the Welsh education minister’s speech at ASCL Cymru Conference and on our calls in the Cymru blueprint for a new funding formula. The Western Mail also published a feature by new ASCL Cymru President Ravi Pawar.

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ASCL Influence

ASCL published its evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body ( Expand

STRB evidence 

ASCL published its evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) over the 2016 pay award. We warned that the government’s continued intention to limit teachers’ pay awards to 1 per cent will hamper recruitment and urged the STRB to press the DfE for fully funded pay rises above the proposed 1 per cent. 

We said that limiting the pay award to 1 per cent would compound the erosion of teachers’ pay since 2010, which has already led to a drop in excess of about 15 per cent in real terms, and that teacher shortage is one of the most significant issues affecting schools. 

We urged the STRB to press the DfE to fund fully pay rises rather than expecting them to be met from existing school budgets that are already under huge pressure. In our evidence, we also said that the pay award should be applied consistently and addressed a number of other issues including non-consolidated payments. 

For more details see ASCL’s full response online: www. ascl.org.uk/STRB26 

Funding update 

Funding Specialist Julia Harnden and Deputy General Secretary Malcolm Trobe met with members of the DfE and Education Funding Agency (EFA) Capital Funding teams to discuss the implications of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on school capital spending arrangements. There were some interesting suggestions around ‘invest to save’ and we anticipate producing guidance on this soon. 

Julia, Malcolm and Colleges Specialist Kevin Gilmartin also met with staff in the Treasury to discuss the implications of the CSR. They emphasised that schools and colleges need early information on changes for 2016, including the reduction of the education services grant that we understand will be in the region of 10 per cent in the first year. We were again able to press the concerns that we have continually voiced over the woefully inadequate level of base funding for 16–19 year-olds. 

Funding debate Graham Stuart MP quoted ASCL’s analysis of the funding gap in a Westminster Hall debate on school funding. Graham Stuart said, “The Association of School and College Leaders has calculated that this year the ten best-funded areas will receive an average schools block grant of £6,300 per pupil, compared with an average of only £4,200 per pupil in the ten most poorly funded areas. For a typical secondary school of 920 students that equates to a budget of £5.8 million in the best-funded areas and £3.9 million in the least well-funded areas – a difference of £1.9 million in a relatively small secondary school.” 

The debate was led by Sam Gyimah, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education. 

2015 summer exams 

ASCL has been continuing to discuss issues around the quality of marking and awarding with exam boards following the 2015 summer exams and we have been seeking reassurance that similar issues will not reoccur in 2016. As a result of our discussions, both Cambridge Internal Examinations (CIE) (0522 English GCSE paper) and Pearson (Edexcel maths GCSE paper) have produced papers outlining their awarding process for the summer exams and these can be found on the ASCL website: www.ascl.org.uk/2015exams 

Education and mental health 

General Secretary Brian Lightman, Deputy General Secretary Malcolm Trobe and Director of Policy Leora Cruddas attended the relaunch of the think tank Centre Forum with David Laws as its executive chair. Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan gave a speech welcoming the planned research programme that will be strongly focused on education and mental health. ASCL will be working in partnership with Centre Forum on this influential work. Role of chairs of governors 

Brian represented ASCL at the first of a programme of profession-led meetings about the role of chairs of governors. Working with a group of successful chairs, the programme will seek to capture and share best practice. DfE and Ofsted representatives attended the meeting and are following the project with interest. 

Term-time holidays 

Education Minister Nick Gibb has written a response to a letter from Brian Lightman to confirm his support on the issue of taking pupils out of school for holidays during term time. Nick Gibb said he appreciated ASCL’s support in realising the disruption caused to students’ education by taking time off during school time. He said, “Our evidence shows that missing the equivalent of just one week a year from school can mean a child is significantly less likely to achieve good GCSE grades, having a lasting effect on their life chances.” 

Joint review on education, skills and productivity 

The Education and Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committees of the House of Commons have, for the first time ever, initiated a joint review. Malcolm Trobe attended the introductory seminar, entitled ‘Education, skills and productivity’, at which he was able to put over a number of key aspects of ASCL policy including on curriculum, English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and the concerns members have over teacher supply.

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Return of primary grants

At the end of November, the Secretary of State announced the reintroduction of financial assistance to support schools and academies looking to create academy chains. Expand

At the end of November, the Secretary of State announced the reintroduction of financial assistance to support schools and academies looking to create academy chains. This had been withdrawn five months previously causing much concern among smaller schools considering creating multi-academy trusts (MATs) that were worried as to the potential strain on their finances in setting up the appropriate structure. Below is a look at the main provisions of this additional financial assistance. Outline details: 

 

  • a one-off grant of £75,000 with up to £5,000 per additional primary school (maximum total claim for a chain: £100,000) 
  • available until 31 March 2016 The grant may be offered to: 
  • three schools creating a new MAT (where the majority are primary schools) 
  • stand-alone open academies and schools converting into academies; provided they are setting up a minimum three-school MAT with at least two primaries applying to convert (not including a sponsor-led school) 

The grant is in addition to the £25,000 per school academy conversion support grant. 

It is important to look at the conditions attached to this grant. The group must intend to create a MAT structure and must include a majority of primary schools. Also, for the purposes of calculating the numbers within the MAT, any sponsored schools are not included. 

The £75,000 grant is not available to existing MATs, however groups of two or more primary schools joining an existing MAT can apply for a one-off grant of £20,000 per primary school up to a maximum of £80,000. 

A Small School Supplement is also available as follows: 

 

  • 100 pupils or less: £5,000 
  • 101 to 210 pupils: £2,000 

All the above grants are subject to availability and take into consideration other funding sources.

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UPDATE: Coasting academies

Last edition, we flagged that the DfE’s model funding agreement had been updated to empower the secretary of state to serve academies with a ’Coasting Notice’. Expand

Last edition, we flagged that the DfE’s model funding agreement had been updated to empower the secretary of state to serve academies with a ’Coasting Notice’. The government had chosen this route to enable academies to be assessed against the coasting criteria, which are to apply to maintained schools through the regulations made under the Education and Adoption Bill 2015–16. We also highlighted that many existing academies will have funding agreements that do not include these new provisions and that enforcement of these clauses would not therefore be possible in those cases. 

Lord Nash has now formally recognised this point, stating in Parliament, “Our formal powers in relation to failing and coasting schools vary depending on the age of an academy’s funding agreement.” He has therefore written to existing academies to explain that he is seeking amendment of the bill so that the coasting provisions apply directly to academies in the legislation. 

This approach leaves no doubt that, in the eyes of the law, the coasting criteria will be applied equally and across the board to maintained schools and academies. 

However, by introducing a new means through which the key contract between the secretary of state and the academy trust can be terminated, the government is essentially using legislation to amend the contractual terms of existing funding agreements. The government is, of course, empowered to use statute to regulate academies, and perhaps consistency in the context of failing schools is a legitimate enough reason to justify a change of terms.

However, this decision to suddenly alter pre-agreed contractual terms through statute sets a concerning precedent for existing academies and those contemplating academy status. Over time, are academy freedoms going to be eroded via legislation? 

The third reading of the bill, a final chance for amendment, is yet to be scheduled.

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GCSPod is ASCL's new Premier Partner

ASCL is delighted to announce that GCSEPod is now a Premier Partner, one of a select handful, in recognition of its role in educating today’s tech-savvy teenagers. Expand

ASCL is delighted to announce that GCSEPod is now a Premier Partner, one of a select handful, in recognition of its role in educating today’s tech-savvy teenagers. 

GCSEPod’s audio-visual pods are now used in over 20 per cent of UK secondary schools, and, in 2015, it won four of the education industry’s top awards for its positive impact on teaching and learning. 

Co-Founder Anthony Coxon said, “GCSEPod has gone from strength to strength since its launch to schools five years ago; it continues to evolve alongside technology and is now an independent learning tool as well as a classroom teaching resource, with over 70 per cent of access being outside of school hours. 

“We’ve exciting new developments for 2016, so being selected as a Premier Partner by highly respected ACSL tops off a great 2015 for us and supports the growing evidence that GCSEPod really does make a difference to outcomes.” 

ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said, “We are delighted that GCSEPod is our Premier Partner. We increasingly hear from schools about the positive effects such podcasts are having on students and we’re pleased to be able to share this with all of our members.” 

ASCL members will receive a 5 per cent discount on a one-year subscription and a 10 per cent discount on two- and three-year subscriptions. For more details, see www.gcsepod.com

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Extremism focus remains on agenda

In early December, Secretary of State Nicky Morgan turned the extremism focus on to social media in schools, suggesting that air strikes in Syria could increase the risk of radicalisation. Expand

In early December, Secretary of State Nicky Morgan turned the extremism focus on to social media in schools, suggesting that air strikes in Syria could increase the risk of radicalisation. A greater focus will now be placed on what pupils are accessing on personal devices and what they do ‘online while they are at school’. 

To this end, a draft update to Keeping Children Safe in Education is out for consultation with a view to being in force for September. The changes are minor, but the intention of the government is clear – evidence that you are discharging your Prevent duty and protecting your students. 

So, expect scrutiny at your next inspection specifically around the filters and monitoring systems you have in place. Your IT/ communications managers are likely to be asked what the school is doing to protect students from unsuitable materials and when so asked, will your school or college be able to show it is discharging its Prevent duty? Specialist IT software is used by many schools to track key words (in many languages) used by students, to monitor website use and – with wider safeguarding duties in mind – to alert schools and colleges to grooming risks. This software is crucial, but you must also have the right procedures in place to deal with the alerts flagged by the software. 

To discharge your duty, you should consider what software works best for you and ensure you have policies and procedures in place for escalating concerns flagged by that software.

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Parental harassment injunction

It can be frustrating to see your school, college or staff criticised in a public forum, especially when this criticism comes from parents. Expand

It can be frustrating to see your school, college or staff criticised in a public forum, especially when this criticism comes from parents. Such activity can often be curtailed by writing to the parent, advising that their posts have been seen by the school and reminding them that concerns can be raised through the school’s published complaints procedure. 

However, effective legal redress can be elusive unless the posts can be proven to be defamatory, breach copyright, breach data protection law or amount to harassment. In relation to harassment, Browne Jacobson LLP has recently been successful in assisting a school to secure an injunction against a parent under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Over a period of two years, the parent conducted a campaign against staff at the school through meetings, correspondence and comments on a website he set up specifically to publicise his campaign. 

In this case, the judge found that the parent made “deeply offensive allegations and remarks”, including those of racial discrimination, and “displayed enormous aggression”. 

The injunction forbids the parent from making malicious allegations against any employee or governor of the school or from publicising personal information about them on his website or elsewhere online. 

This case demonstrates that effective recourse can be made to the courts where parental behaviour well exceeds that that is acceptable.

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The new Governance Handbook

All school governors and trustees need to understand their obligations in order to fulfil their role. Expand

All school governors and trustees need to understand their obligations in order to fulfil their role. The new The Governance Handbook (November 2015) sets out statutory, educational and contractual duties and expectations of all governing boards. The handbook applies equally to small community primary schools and large multi-academy trusts (MATs). 

The most obvious change from the previous handbook is the variation in name from The Governors Handbook to The Governance Handbook. This, along with a change of reference from ‘governing bodies’ to ‘the board’ highlights the DfE’s growing preference for academy group structures. This preference can be seen throughout the handbook, particularly in the introduction of an entirely new section on the benefits of MATs. The principal message is that ‘formalised collaboration’ gives boards a greater overall strategic view and much greater accountability across schools. 

The handbook requires boards to have at least one governor/trustee with specific skills and experience of financial matters and makes clear that all board members need to have at least some understanding of the financial cycle and legal requirements on accountability and spend. The handbook also suggests that boards should develop ‘[a] skills-based set of criteria for governor selection and recruitment which can also be used to inform self-evaluation and governor training’. Boards should consider what criteria they currently use and update their recruitment policy where necessary. 

The new handbook clearly shows the direction of travel – a school-led system with the academy programme firmly at the helm. See the handbook online at: http:// tinyurl.com/zxnwsxx

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A helping hand with recruitment

The selection and appointment of a new headteacher or principal for your school or college is a huge responsibility for your governing body. Expand

The selection and appointment of a new headteacher or principal for your school or college is a huge responsibility for your governing body. The decision is one that will have a long-term and far-reaching influence and therefore the recruitment and selection process is something that governors will prepare for and plan for carefully, if they are to appoint the very best person for the role. 

ASCL Professional Development has devised a professional, comprehensive and cost-effective Leadership Appointment Service offering expert guidance and advice to governing bodies. Our service will provide a dedicated and expert consultant to work with governors throughout the appointment process. All of our expert consultants are either serving or former headteachers or principals, providing an unparalled level of support, expertise and experience when appointing to this role. 

To find out more, visit www.ascl.org.uk/las or email las@ascl.org.uk We would be happy to discuss your requirements, answer your questions or arrange for a presentation to be made to your governing body at no cost or obligation.

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World of change after post-16 Area Reviews

Schools may think that the area reviews for the further education ( Expand

Schools may think that the area reviews for the further education (FE) sector have nothing to do with them but the changes that are being encouraged will have either direct or knock-on effects for all schools within the identified geographical regions. Post-16 Area Reviews are being implemented across the country with the first one being underway and the last one being scheduled for November. The Area Reviews will be looking to encourage colleges to consider closer collaboration with other colleges and educational institutions in their region in order to create sustainability within the FE sector. It is also significant that sixth form colleges are being allowed to apply to become post-16 academies and those not looking to make the change will face close scrutiny according to Skills Minister Nick Boles. 

The obvious advantage for sixth form colleges is that they cease to be liable to pay VAT, although the formal guidance will be produced in February and thus until then no firm decisions are likely to be made. As well as looking to merge with other further education colleges, sustainability could also potentially be grown through the amalgamation of academy schools in subsidiary companies that could choose to share central services. 

The number of subsidiary MATs is gradually growing to include primary as well as secondary schools and will undoubtedly soon form a wide range of educational provision under the umbrella of a larger further education college.

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Parent View

ASCL has been working closely with Ofsted to ensure that Parent View is as helpful as possible for members. Expand

ASCL has been working closely with Ofsted to ensure that Parent View is as helpful as possible for members. Following a request by ASCL, Ofsted has now produced a management information report on Parent View data by phase, type and region. You can see Parent View management information 2014/15 online at http://tinyurl.com/pscuj6y and the revised Parent View toolkit here http:// tinyurl.com/z5pk3l9

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Essential guidance papers

ASCL has been working closely with Ofsted to ensure that Parent View is as helpful as possible for members. Expand

Professional Standards for School Business Managers

A new set of Professional Standards for School Business Managers have been launched by the National Association of School Business Management ( Expand

A new set of Professional Standards for School Business Managers have been launched by the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM). ASCL has been supporting the development of these standards as part of a wider stakeholder group. 

The new standards set out a series of professional behaviours and competencies that can be used to inform a self-assessment process for practitioners, and help to determine professional development opportunities/requirements. 

There is clear direction in the summary that the standards, which are not mandatory, do not set out a benchmark for effective performance but can be used to support established performance management processes and the recruitment of practitioners as well as to identify further professional development options. See the new standards online: http:// tinyurl.com/gukyrw7

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Academy trust policy

Academy trusts ( Expand

Academy trusts (both new and established) should take note of the evolution of the DfE’s policy towards the make-up of the members with their governance structure. 

Historically, there had been little prescription from the DfE on who should be a member. Most academy trusts appointed senior trustees as members and many individuals continue to hold the dual role of member and trustee. 

However, particularly following the governance issues identified in the report into the Trojan Horse schools, the DfE stated in the Academies Financial Handbook, ‘Some distinction between the two layers ensures that members, independent of trustees, provide oversight and challenge.’ 

It is therefore not acceptable for new academy trusts to have their members made up completely of trustees. While it is permissible to have an element of cross-over between members and trustees, the majority of members should consist of non-trustees, to ensure effective oversight. 

While the separation between the two levels potentially encourages better governance, recruitment can be an issue. It can make trustees nervous, as they are reluctant to allow independent ‘outsiders’ to have such influence in running the trust. Similarly, the ‘hands-off’ nature of members makes it difficult to recruit individuals who want to become involved in school governance, but will have no say in the day-to-day running of schools. 

It is therefore important that a policy for the role of and recruitment of members be agreed at an early stage for those contemplating establishing or restructuring an academy trust.

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Personal budgets

One of the more controversial aspects of the new SEN framework is the concept of personal budgets – the idea that instead of the local authority determining what special education provision is required and organising delivery of that provision, the parents can have a greater degree of involvement in organising that provision either through the local authority or another organisation or by receiving the cash and making the arrangements themselves – the idea of direct payments. Expand

One of the more controversial aspects of the new SEN framework is the concept of personal budgets – the idea that instead of the local authority determining what special education provision is required and organising delivery of that provision, the parents can have a greater degree of involvement in organising that provision either through the local authority or another organisation or by receiving the cash and making the arrangements themselves – the idea of direct payments. 

Parents can request personal budgets during the EHC assessment process and the local authority is under a duty to consider the request. There is no duty to meet the request and the local authority retains the discretion to refuse to make a personal budget if there are concerns about the suitability of the person to receive a direct payment or where there could be wider financial and educational issues for other children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) if the making of a direct payment to one family would require other area-wide arrangements to be unpicked. 

Schools also have an important role to play. As part of the consultation over a placement for a child with an EHC plan, schools may express a view on the making of a personal budget, and where the proposed budget relates to provision that would need to be delivered on the school site, the school may veto that provision. In addition, the nature of the school and the range of provision it is able to offer will affect the availability of personal budgets. 

Where a greater range of provision or therapies forms part of the usual provision offered by a school, the likelihood of a personal budget may be reduced. A personal budget will not affect the funding received by a school – it is funded from the local authorities high-needs block. However, it would remain possible for schools to agree to contribute towards a personal budget to provide more innovative support for SEND pupils.

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Data protection update

Schools and colleges ‘process’ thousands of pieces of data every day and need to be clear as to their obligations when it comes to data protection. Expand

Schools and colleges ‘process’ thousands of pieces of data every day and need to be clear as to their obligations when it comes to data protection. The new European Data Protection Regulation will have an impact on schools and colleges. Key changes: 

01 Explicit consent? 

‘Consent’ is not currently defined, however the agreed text adds to the position. There are concerns that where a school relies on ‘consent’ as a valid ground for processing under the new regulation, then it should be ‘freely and explicitly’ given. Consent forms and data collection practices will need to be carefully reviewed for compliance with new, more onerous rules such as opt-out or auto-completed forms. 

02 Data requests 

There are to be changes to timescales for Subject Access Requests as well as the right to have a request fulfilled without charge. This could lead to increased requests. Schools and colleges will need to have an efficient process for dealing with, and logging, requests as well as ensuring that staff are clear on exemptions, rules around disclosure and redaction. 

03 Data breach notification 

There is currently no obligation to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) or those concerned of data breaches. Under the regulation, data breaches should be notified to the regulator and, where the breach puts individuals’ data at risk, to data subjects. There will be time limit of 72 hours for reporting breaches. A breach management procedure should be drawn up and staff clearly trained on what to do in the event of data loss. 

Above are just a few key points that schools and colleges will need to consider. The draft text has been finalised but is not yet in force. This is an ideal time for schools to consider data protection compliance by reviewing and putting in place processes and policies to enable compliance with the coming changes. Regardless of the fact that implementation may be a few years off, schools and colleges should be getting ready for the reform that is on the way.

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Pupils with medical conditions

The DfE has issued updated guidance for schools ( Expand

The DfE has issued updated guidance for schools (including academies, maintained schools and pupil referral units (PRUs)) on supporting pupils with medical conditions. The guidance assists governing bodies with implementing their statutory obligation to make arrangements for supporting pupils with medical conditions. See the guidance online: http:// tinyurl.com/nrv8wxy 

Dealing with medical conditions within a school environment can be complex and this guidance is essential reading for governing bodies. It should certainly be referred to when putting in place relevant school policies and considering the support and training required for staff. 

The updated guidance aims to distinguish clearly statutory requirements from good practice advice. It also highlights the relationship between the medical conditions duty and compliance with the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice where pupils have medical conditions but also recognised special needs and/or disabilities. 

Finally, there is a reminder that, under the new Ofsted framework, inspectors will look at how well a school meets the needs of pupils with medical conditions with regard to progress, achievement and also spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

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Notes on guidance

Leader contains general guidance on the law that has been supplied by our partners Browne Jacobson LLP. Expand

Leader contains general guidance on the law that has been supplied by our partners Browne Jacobson LLP. If you have a specific legal issue relating to your role as an employer, we recommend that you seek advice from a qualified legal professional. Members can also call the ASCL Hotline on 0116 299 122 with respect to legal issues relating specifically to their own employment.

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Transition to EHC plans

We have seen an increasing number of queries from schools concerned with the role they are being asked to play in relation to the transfer from SEN statements to education, health and care ( Expand

We have seen an increasing number of queries from schools concerned with the role they are being asked to play in relation to the transfer from SEN statements to education, health and care (EHC) plans. 

Practice does appear to vary across the country with different local authorities (LAs) adopting different approaches but all local authorities and schools should be taking account of the DfE guidance on the transition process. What is clear is that the local authority retains overall responsibility for ensuring that the process for each individual child is implemented at the correct time and within the correct timescale of 20 weeks. The timing of the transfer should be set out in the local authority’s transition plan that should be published alongside the local offer. Access to the plan will provide an idea of the categories of child who will transfer during any one academic year. 

In relation to the transfer to an EHC plan, this takes the form of an EHC assessment under the Children and Families Act 2014. Under the process outlined in the DfE guidance, it often replaces the annual review process for a statement and involves a meeting between school, parents, relevant professionals and the local authority. The purpose of the meeting is to consider the progress made under the SEN statement and determine future provision and the outcomes to be sought for the child and included as a key element in the EHC plan. The presumption under the transfer process is that new evidence will not be required, although where evidence is out of date, where the child’s needs have changed or where the current evidence is not sufficiently focused on outcomes, new evidence should be pursued by the local authority to inform properly the creation of an EHC plan.

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LEADING READING