In case you’ve noticed, I’ll start by explaining that I’ve had a term off from writing these summaries, not out of laziness or lack of interest, but because staff at NAHT have been doing such a superb job keeping members informed about the twists and turns of what is expected of schools during the pandemic, to the extent that I felt giving people more information to read might not be the most helpful thing I could do.
So, although this isn’t an entirely covid-free zone, I’ll concentrate as always on items that are specific to SEND. Before I do so, I’d like to express my admiration for all of you still in post who have had to handle situations unknown to those of us whose headships are in the past, and which have demanded unprecedented levels of resilience and resourcefulness.
Department for Education
On 10 February the Department for Education (DfE) launched a consultation, a Review of national funding formula for allocations of high needs funding to local authorities: changes for 2022-23.
This closes on 24 March and forms part of a longer-term review, which will be taken forward following the SEND Review.
Although much delayed, the DfE’s SEND Review, which was launched in September 2019, has been going on quietly behind the scenes, supported by any civil servants not hived off to work on Brexit or the pandemic. Although little information is seeping through, it is clear that the intention is not to go over old ground, but to accept that the SEND Reforms of 2014 haven’t had the intended impact.
It would appear that areas of focus include: closer working between the services in order to improve pupil outcomes; supporting mainstream schools in meeting the needs of the majority of pupils who do not have EHC plans; and making these plans less bureaucratic and more consistent, possibly by having a national template. Nothing is likely to change in a hurry, as a consultation is expected when the proposals are released, and if this means significant changes, including to the SEND Code of Practice, it could mean changes to the law, which always takes time.
Research into covid’s impact on SEND
The DfE is commissioning research into how covid-19 has impacted pupils and staff. The rapid data and literature review will consider harms in terms of mental and physical health, domestic violence and loss of learning. Working on behalf of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), this DfE project is worth up to £85,000 and is split across seven sectors, which include early years, primary and secondary schools, parents and carers, further education, higher education and the workforce. Unfortunately, as the tender is a rapid review, if you haven’t already applied it’s too late, as bids closed on 26 February, which was shortly after the project was announced. However, we can all look forward to the final report, which is due at the end of May, with a skeleton report due in April.
Children’s Commissioner in England
Last month, Anne Longfield delivered her final speech after being very active in her time as Children’s Commissioner. In it, she pointed out that while we collect more and more data, we fail to build up a picture of a child. Therefore, she has presented data-linking educational results with social care data to produce the three vulnerabilities of:
- living in poverty
- having SEND
- being involved with social services.
In the same way that we sometimes need to look beneath the way a child is behaving to find the cause, Longfield suggests that we should go underneath the headline data to see if the same child has multiple issues that combine to damage their life chances.
Anne’s successor is Dame Rachel de Souza, who takes up her post this month. Previously, she was the founding chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, a MAT of 14 academies in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Amanda Spielman HMCI
In a section on ‘Oversight and accountability’ as part of her Annual Report 2019/20, Amanda says: “Children with SEND are also a major focus of our work. Providing a quality education for these children is, of course, vital and we address this in a number of ways”. She goes on to talk about looking at SEND provision as part of school inspections and the Area SEND Inspections undertaken jointly with CQC – the Care Quality Commission.
In summary, she suggests: “The combined evidence from these inspections clearly shows some serious weaknesses in SEND provision overall. The government’s forthcoming SEND review is an opportunity to address some of these failings.”
In January this year, Ofsted published a short account called What’s working well in remote education.
At the same time, Ofsted produced a video featuring Nick Whittaker HMI and Specialist Adviser, SEND, discussing the effective practice they have come across in terms of remote learning for pupils with SEND. A discussion pack of downloadable slides is also available on the same theme.
NAHT’s SEND Conference 2020
Although this had to be rescheduled and we were unable to meet face to face, the upside was that the conference was attended by many more people, members and non-members alike. Continuing the overall series title of Leading on SEND across all schools conference 2020, the theme this time was 'Looking behind, beneath and beyond the behaviour'.
All the keynote speakers and the seminar/workshop leaders had excellent feedback, and the SEND Council is already working on the theme for next year and the possibility of the conference being held in the autumn. In preparation for the 2020 conference, the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education (NFNSE), which is hosted by NAHT, had been working on a series of information sheets. The five topics covered so far are:
- What teachers need to know about acquired brain injury (ABI) and traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- What teachers need to know about developmental language disorder (DLD)
- What teachers need to know about foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
- What teachers need to know about prematurity
- What teachers need to know about trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Further information sheets will be added in the coming months. Written by members of the Forum and their colleagues who are experts in these areas, the sheets deserve to be read, studied and used, and are also available through the NFNSE webpage.
Some of you will be familiar with ISEC – Inclusive and Supportive Educational Conference, an International Conference that takes place every five years. ISEC 2020 had to be postponed and has become ISEC 2021.
Organised this time by nasen working with UCL’s Centre for Inclusive Education (CIE), the decision has been taken for it to be online from 3-5 August. The theme is 'Closing the research to practice gap' and, if you’re interested, please see the overview of what will be on offer. Further details will be added when all the research papers have been selected from around the world.
I’d like to end with a quote from Anne Longfield and to wish you all the very best for the rest of this term, whatever it brings:
“And if the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s the fundamental role that schools play in vulnerable children’s lives – way beyond teaching.” – Anne Longfield, 17 February 2021