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Rona Tutt's SEND summary (January 2018)

This series covers both residential and mainstream education and is written by Dr Rona Tutt, a former Chair of NAHT's Special Education Needs Committee.

The New Year heralded yet another government reshuffle leading to some changes at the Department for Education. So, it’s farewell to Justine Greening and welcome to Damian Hinds as the latest Secretary of State for Education. After attending Altrincham Grammar School and studying at the University of Oxford, Damian spent 18 years in the brewing and hotel industries before entering politics and becoming MP for East Hampshire. Damian and his wife Jacqui have three young children.

Robert Goodwill, who had only been in post for a few months, has returned to the backbenches and been replaced by Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-on-Avon. As Minister for Children and Families, SEND is likely to be part of his brief. He and his wife, Lana, also have three children.

Jo Johnson, son of Stanley and brother of Boris, has moved to transport and been replaced by Sam Gyimah who has inherited the role of Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, whichstraddles the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.


Mental health

In the previous blog I mentioned the consultation by the DfE and the Department of Health (DoH) on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision: a Green Paper and promised to provide some details. As it happened, on 17 January, I attended the termly meeting of the Joint Unions on SEND issues at which Matthew Hopkinson, DfE Lead on Mental Health, was present. He highlighted the three main strands:

1. Every school being encouraged to identify a Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health who would receive additional training.

2. The creation of Mental Health Support Teams to ensure closer collaboration between health and education and to provide additional support for schools.

3.  A four week waiting time to be trialled for access to specialist NHS services.

We raised our concern about schools taking on more responsibilities and the need to define the boundaries between what schools should provide and what should be provided by health. The consultation ends on 2 March.

Click here to access the consultation.

Building on last year’s joint inquiry, Children and young people’s mental health – role of education, the Education Select Committee chaired by Robert Halfon, a former DfE Minister, and the Health Select Committee chaired by Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, have launched a further joint inquiry specifically to scrutinise the contents of the Green Paper. In introducing the inquiry, Robert wrote:

“  ….we will want to examine the measures proposed by the green paper. For example, what resources are allocated to schools, colleges and universities to help deliver support on the front line? What considerations are there regarding placing mental healthprofessionals in schools? What does it offer to ensure pupils and students are making better-informed choices about social media use?" 

The first oral evidence session is on Tuesday 30 January, when Paul Whiteman, our general secretary, will be present along with Sarah Hannafin, Senior Policy Adviser, who leads on mental health issues at HQ. This is the same day as the joint conference on mental health by NAHT and the Royal College of Psychiatrists is being held. I hope to see some of you at this sell-out event, but for those not attending, there will be a report on the conference in my February blog.

Still on the theme of mental health, last week the Duchess of Cambridge was at Roe Green Primary School in Brent to launch a new website, Mentally Healthy Schools. NAHT is one of the organisations working with The Royal Foundation to offer primary schools access to quality-assured information, advice and resources to support pupils’ mental health needs. These are due to become available shortly and will be followed by a wider range of resources, including some aimed specifically at Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.   

And, finally, under this heading, a reminder that 5 - 11 February is the fourth Children’s Mental Health Week run by Place2Be, the UK's leading children's mental health charity. Place2Be provides in-school support and expert training to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, teachers and school staff. Further information about the week is available here.

Safeguarding etc

Over the previous two blogs, I’ve mentioned some of the ramifications arising from the Children and Social Work Act 2017. As some of the resulting documents are intertwined, and Ofsted always takes a particular interest in anything relating to safeguarding, I thought it might be worth giving a brief overview of the current situation.

The consultation on an updated version of Working Together to Safeguard Children – the statutory guidance, ended on 31 December and is scheduled to replace the previous guidance.

The consultation on Keeping Children Safe in Education (KSIE)runs until 22 February and the aim is to bring in the updated statutory guidance from September 2018.

In December, the DfE produced, Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools & colleges. This is an advice document that comes with the warning that it could be changed in the light of changes to KCSE.

A government amendment, the Children and Social Work Act 2017 places a duty on the Secretary of State for Education to make the subjects of Relationships Education for primary schools and Relationships & Sex Education (RSE) for secondary schools mandatory, and to decide whether or not to make PSHE, or elements of the subject, mandatory in all schools.

Changes to the teaching of Sex and Relationships Education and PSHE – A call for evidence, runs until 12 Feb 2018. There is a short online survey to gather views, which you can access here.  

Literacy and the Early Years

One of the last duties Justine Greening had before making way for Damian Hinds was to announce a new Centre of Excellence for Literacy Teaching which is being given £26 million to open 35 English hubs across the country, with a particular focus on teaching language and literacy in reception. In addition, from April 2018, new phonics and reading partnerships will be set up costing £435,000, plus £100,000 for 20 phonics and reading roadshows, again with a focus on reception teaching.

This ongoing fixation with phonics, (or should this be ‘fixation with fonics’ or possibly ‘phixation with phonics’), was also apparent in Ofsted’s Bold beginnings: The Reception curriculum in a sample of good and outstanding primary schools, which was published in November 2017, causing a stir that still rumbles on. The key finding that“Reading was at the heart of the curriculum. Children read out loud frequently from carefully selected books that closely matched their phonic knowledge,” drew the comment from TACTYC (Association for Professional Development in Early Years) that the Reception year should not be a watered-down version of the key stage 1 curriculum.

On 16 January, over 1,850 early years academics, organisations and teachers signed an open letter calling for Ofsted’s report to be withdrawn. The next day, UKLA (UK Literacy Association) pointed out that Year R children are not a homogenous group and that “adjusting to the school environment can be problematic for some children with SEND or those disadvantaged by various social or economic factors.”

It seems extraordinary that England stands out as expecting phonic knowledge to be acquired at such an early stage, when it is evident that children in countries such as Denmark, Finland, or Singapore start formal education much later and they not only catch up but overtake our pupils. There is the added risk that forcing formal education on very young children can make them anxious, damage their self-esteem and reduce their motivation to learn. Amongst this group will be those who are identified as having SEND simply because of an inappropriate curriculum being foisted on them. Children don’t all learn in the same way or develop skills at the same age. Governments may succeed in making the curriculum more ‘stretching’, but this doesn’t make pupils more ready to be stretched.     

Some dates in 2018


NAHT’s secondary conference ‘Capturing the teenage brain’ is being held in Birmingham on Friday 9.    

Autism Associates PDA Training Day on 28 Feb in Liverpool. Cost: £175 per person (includes lunch and refreshments) For details and booking:


NAHT’s Special schools, specialist and alternative provision conference, Celebrating success; succeeding against the odds is being held in Stoke-on-Trent, with the option of starting on the evening of Thursday 8th March or making it a day conference on Friday 9th March. With keynote speeches from Jean Gross, who has been chairing the review, Bercow – 10 years on and the extraordinary Paralympic Athlete, Aaron Phipps, plus a wealth of workshops from the DfE, Ofsted and other movers and shakers, if you haven’t already booked then it would be as well to do so now!


NAHT’s Annual Conference will take place in Liverpool from the afternoon of Thursday 3rd May to Saturday 5th May, when it is hoped to hear from Damian Hinds. Booking and further details from:


NAHT’s School business leaders’ conference, ‘Empowering leaders in challenging times’ will be held in Birmingham on Tuesday 19th June.


As last year, nasen Live 2018 will be held at the ICC in Birmingham on Friday 6 July. Further details from Dr Adam Boddison, nasen’s Chief Executive, has recently succeeded Anita Kerwin-Nye as Chair of Whole School SEND. 


The TES SEN Show 2018 will again be held at The Business Design Centre in London on Friday 5th and Saturday 6 October. Details will be appearing at:

By the time you read this, you may be looking forward to a half-term break, in which case

I hope it provides you with some respite from the daily demands on your time. I’ll be writing again in February, when I’ll be able to mention the outcome of the first conference to be badged by NAHT and the Royal College Psychology. Hopefully, there won’t be any more changes at the DfE…