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Rona Tutt - Special Educational Needs Blog

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

I had hoped that this blog would reach you before the end of the year, but having to be left handed following a minor hand operation has slowed down my output. However, the government has kept up its drive to keep us occupied over the holiday season and both the documents mentioned in November’s blog have now appeared.

These are:

The green paper on mental health

This arrived at the beginning of the month. Entitled Transforming Children & Young People’s Mental Health Provision (DoH / DfE Dec 2017), it builds on the DoH’s vision as set out in Future in Mind (March 2015) and the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (2016) -  the  report written by an independent Mental Health Taskforce for NHS England.  A consultation on the green paper runs until 2nd March 2018, so I’ll say more about it in the next blog.

Restraint and restrictive intervention

The other one mentioned previously appeared at the end of Nov. The DoH / DfE’s Restraint and restrictive intervention: draft guidance – for consultation, 29 Nov – 24 Jan, is concerned with reducing the need for restraint and restrictive intervention for children & young people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs. The reason for concentrating on these groups is that they are seen as being at higher risk of restraint. Rather surprisingly, the guidance specifically states that, although it may be of interest, it does not apply to mainstream schools (including Academies and Free Schools), general FE colleges, or PRUs / Alternative Provision (AP), unless the latter provide hospital education. 

A further consultation is Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE), which began on 14 Dec and runs until 22 Feb 2018. This one is about revisions to the current statutory guidance andhas a useful summary in Annex H of the main changes from the 2016 version. The consultation goes alongside Working Together to Safeguard Children, (which was mentioned in the previous blog), and any resulting revisions will be reflected in KCSIE. In addition, the DfE has produced, Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools & colleges – Advice for governing bodies, proprietors, headteachers, principals, senior leaderships teams & designated safeguarding leads, which may be altered in the light of any changes to KCSIE. Just released is Changes to the teaching of Sex and Relationships Education and PSHE – A call for evidence, which runs from 19th Dec to 12th Feb 2018. There is a short online survey to gather views.   



As usual at this time of year, the Annual Report of HMCI has appeared. This is the first one since Amanda Spielman took over from Sir Michael Wilshaw. The upside is that there seems to be a change of tone, for instance in comments such as:

“We have learned over the past 10 years that increases in test scores do not necessarily reflect a real improvement in education standards. While tests are important and useful, they do not, and can never, reflect the entirety of what pupils need to learn. Exams should exist in the service of the curriculumrather than the other way round." - HMCI’s commentary (page 8)                                        

By way of contrast, in speaking at a conference on the day the Annual Report appeared, Amanda Spielman said that some school leaders had created a climate of fear around inspections. As far as I’m aware, it wasn’t heads who asked for a data driven, punitive process that could see them losing their job over night.

Returning to the Annual Report, there is a section on Children who have SEND, which mirrors the findings of the Local Area Reviews, that:

  • Those on SEN support have relatively poorer outcomes than those with an EHC plan
  • Too many pupils with SEN are being excluded
  • More pupils with SEN are being home educated

On this latter point, when speaking in the House of Lords recently, Lord Agnew, (whose responsibilities include behaviour and attendance, exclusions and alternative provision), said that the DfE plans to revise its guidance on elective home education. 


Additional funding for SEND

On 30th Nov, Robert Goodwill, Minister for Children & Families, announced further funding to be spent as follows:

  • £29 million to support councils and their local partners to continue pressing ahead with implementing the reforms to the SEND system
  • £9.7 million to establish local supported internship forums, which will create work placements for young people with SEND and help them move into paid work
  • £4.6 million for Parent Carer Forums, so that they can continue to be involved in local decision making.

The Minister also confirmed that more funding would be available to build capacity in the system and support the ongoing delivery of the SEND reforms over the next two years


Meetings and Events

I said in the previous blog that I would include something about the meetings I’ve attended since I last managed to include this item. So, here, in chronological order, is a brief summary of the main issues that arose:


29 Sept - In the morning, it was the Autism and Girls Forum chaired by Prof Barry Carpenter.The main discussion was around the forthcoming book on autism in girls, to which most of the Forum members are contributing a chapter. At the moment we’re trying to meet the deadline of end of December to send in our chapters, so that the editors, Barry, Jo Egerton and Prof Francesca Happe have time to see how they all fit together. Also, currently, members of the Forum are sending in their comments on an Autism Module, which is mainly designed to help clinicians understand more about diagnosing girls who are on the autism spectrum.

In the afternoon, it was the turn of the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education (NFNSE) to meet. We worked on the details of the forthcoming conference with the Royal College of Psychiatrists (PCPsych), which members of the Forum are supporting. This event, Collaborative approaches to the mental health of children: from issues to interventions, is now almost sold out, having 200 available places and 190 people already booked.  Looking to the future, we discussed the possibility of holding a conference in 2019 to continue our mission of keeping members up to date with developments in the field of neuroscience and bringing school leaders and scientists closer together.

18 Oct - The Autism Education (AET) Schools Leadership Group met to continue its role in ensuring that programme content and delivery are of a high quality, by working through all the online training and resources that AET has produced, in order to discover which ones need replacing, which need updating and what new material might be needed. The Group is looking for someone to represent MATs, so please let me know if you or a colleague would be interested.

Separately, Autism Associates are carrying out a review of the AET Autism Progression Framework and would like to hear from Early Years practitioners who would be interested in giving their views on the adaptation of the Progression Framework to Early Years settings. Please contact Suzanne Farrell at suzifarrell@hotmail.com or via the Autism Associates website (www.autismassociates.co.uk).

2 Nov - I enjoyed being present once more at the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) Annual Event at the House of Lords. NAHT’s association with BESA goes back a long way and it is great to meet so many of the companies who produce the furniture and other resources schools need. 


13 Nov - Courtesy of Marijka Miles, National Executive member, the SEND Council meeting was held at Baycroft School near Fareham. As well as a fascinating tour of the school and generous refreshments, we managed to get through an agenda which included:

  • An update on high needs funding, based on a helpful paper from Valentine Mulholland, resulting an agreement to continue to lobby for greater clarity and consistency around top up funding in particular
  • A discussion on the Rochford Review, its ramifications for all those working below the level of the NC tests and the pilots that are happening
  • NAHT’s response to the Education Select Committee’s call for evidence on Alternative Provision
  • The expected guidance on Restriction and Restraint (now out and covered in a previous item)
  • NAHT’s Annual Conference, which is being held in Liverpool, this time from Thursday 3- Sat 4 May
  • NAHT’s Special Schools, Specialist & Alternative Provision Conference at the Stoke-on-Trent Moat House on Fri 9 March, with the option of arriving on the Thursday. The programme was finalised and booking for this popular event are well under way.

29 Nov - At the meeting of the National SEND Forum  (NSENDF), Andre Imich from the DfE  gave us his usual update, starting with the transfer of statements to EHC plans. When I raised a few queries, he agreed that the DfE was still working on some of the finer points around the protection of those still on statements, but he hoped there would be no problems.  Andre moved on to the DfE’s work in the field of SEND after March 2018. He said this moment in time has been described as ‘the end of the beginning’. He mentioned the following topics the DfE had identified as future priorities: 

  • Ensuring that SEND covers the 14.4% and not just the 2.8% - in other words, a focus on SEN support
  • Improving quality and outcomes
  • Funding and value for money
  • Inclusion in a context of increasing diversity of school and FE provision
  • Working with partners in health and social care so they understand their legal responsibilities, as well as with parents and young people.

It was agreed that someone from the NNPCF should be invited to join us, as we’re missing the voice of parents.

The Lenehan Review item was led by Daisy Russell, Principal Officer CC / NCB who joined us in place of Dame Christine Lenehan who was unable to be present. Daisy mentioned both the reports Lenehan had produced this year and then went through the latest one in some detail. The issues she raised included: the amount of money wasted on Tribunals; the failure of mainstream – as she saw it – to meet needs; and the variable cost of provision, particularly across non-maintained and independent special schools. In the discussion afterwards, concerns were raised that there was a lack of information about the basis for the findings, with no list of schools that had been visited and no reference to other sources that had been used to inform the research.

14 Dec - The Special Education Consortium (SEC) met, not in it usual place at the NCB, but at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Discussions centred around:

  • A meeting the post-16 group had had with the Institute of Apprenticeships, which led to a discussion about Supported Internships, (which I argued had helped to lead to jobs for some of those taking part, but another member viewed as ‘modern day slavery’)
  • Preliminary thoughts on the mental health green paper including: whether there should have been more about the causes of mental health issues; whether the SENCO was likely to have to take on the role of Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health; clarity about the expectations of schools and the need for more support for pupils who needed more specialist help. A full response will be discussed at the next meeting
  • The findings of a SEC survey of parents and others involved in transfer reviews, which painted a far less positive picture than Andre had given to NSENDF. The results of the survey are being used to make recommendations to the DfE
  • The Lenehan Review was due to be discussed, but we ran out of time.

18 Dec - Another annual event is meeting the other judges for the Autism Professional Awards, which, after the intensity of judging online and in splendid isolation, is a welcome reward, particularly as it takes place over a working lunch at a restaurant in Pall Mall.

Season’s Greetings and all the very best for 2018. See you again in January.

02 January 2018