Department for Education
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Further education: learning difficulties and disabilities reforms

One year to go for further education colleges and approved independent specialist providers to prepare for changes in the Children and Families Bill.

The Children and Families Bill is currently before Parliament. The bill will bring radical changes to the learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) system in England from September 2014. It will introduce important new responsibilities on further education colleges and approved independent specialist providers (ISP) as part of a new 0 to 25 special educational needs (SEN) system that will help provide young people with LDD the support they need to realise their aspirations.

Young people with LDD and their families will be at the heart of the new system. It will provide them with greater choice and control over services and have an increased focus on supporting them to achieve the outcomes they want in life, including finding employment, obtaining accommodation and participating in society.

The legislation will:

  • place a new duty on local authorities to involve colleges and ISPs in their area - and beyond, where appropriate - when reviewing their special educational provision and developing their local offer of services
  • enable colleges and ISPs to request an assessment of education, health and care needs, by bringing a young person to the attention of their local authority
  • introduce a new 0 to 25 education, health and care (EHC) plan, replacing the current systems of statements and learning difficulty assessments (LDAs)
  • allow young people to express a preference for a particular college or ISP and require that institution to admit them, unless it was unsuitable for their education or that of others
  • require local authorities to consult colleges and ISPs about young people they would like to place with them, and send a copy of their EHC plan to them
  • place greater importance on the transition between school and further education, and on into adult life
  • require colleges and ISPs to have regard to the new 0 to 25 SEN Code of Practice

From 4 October to 9 December 2013, the Department for Education is consulting on drafts of the new 0 to 25 SEN Code of Practice and Regulations, and proposals for transferring young people from LDAs to EHC plans. All colleges and ISPs are encouraged to read the SEN Code of Practice and regulations consultation and feed their views into the consultation to ensure we get these important documents right, and implement the reforms correctly.

Effective preparation this academic year will be crucial to delivering a system from September 2014 that helps young people with LDD achieve what they want from life, not just to cope with it. While local authorities are coordinating implementation in each area and will need to work with the further education (FE) sector over the coming year, individual colleges and ISPs should make sure they are prepared for implementation.

Colleges and ISPs may find the following information helpful in supporting their preparations:

  • details about the SEN reforms and learning from the SEN pathfinder areas which have been testing the changes is available on the dedicated SEN pathfinder website
  • the Association of Colleges is holding a learning difficulties and disabilities conference on 5 December 2013 which will provide further information for its members
  • The Association of National Specialist Colleges (Natspec) can provide information and, with the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and Disability Rights UK, are running 3 events on the SEN Code of Practice consultation:

    • 5 November in Birmingham
    • 6 November in Manchester
    • 7 November in London

Book a place at these events on the NIACE website

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