As usual, and despite Brexit creaming off civil servants from the DfE and other departments, there is no shortage of topics to write about. Rather, it’s a question of what to leave out.
The impact of the SEND reforms
1. Education Select Committee’s SEND Inquiry
Since my last summary, the select committee has held two more witness sessions.
On 29 January, the topic was post-16 support, with representatives from FE and specialist colleges and those who support young people into employment or independent living, including: AOC’s SEN Group, Natspec, Mencap, Action on Disability, The National Development Team for Inclusion, National Star and Transition
On 7 February, the session concentrated on the work of Local Authorities, with speakers from the LAs of North Yorkshire, Rochdale and Staffordshire, plus the following organisations: The Association of Directors of Children’s Services, The British Association of Social Workers, Local Government Association and SEND4Change.
It isn’t clear how many more sessions there will be, but it is expected that the work may be completed by the summer.
2. Local area SEND reviews
Last time I mentioned that Rochdale had a return visit which put them in the clear. Since then, Suffolk’s follow up visit on 22 February was less successful. Although inspectors were happy that sufficient progress had been made on the first identified area of weakness, which was about governance and leadership of the joint planning and delivery of the SEND reforms, they were less satisfied with the progress in three other areas. These related to the timeliness and quality of EHC plans, the quality of the local offer and joint working on improving outcomes for children.
As this may be the first time the process has arrived at this point – I don’t want to sound too certain as I could have missed this happening before - it was informative to read what happens next. The final paragraph of the inspectors’ letter says the lack of progress across all the weaknesses identified means: “It is for the DfE and NHS England to decide the next steps.” Apparently, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission’s role comes to an end at this point unless the Secretary of State directs them to carry out further visits. Although these area reviews may be causing considerable work for those involved, it would seem they may be turning out to be very effective in helping to embed the SEND reforms.
Educational psychologists (EPs)
Having enough EPs would seem to be fundamental to the success of the reforms, so it was encouraging to receive an update from the DfE about their plans for increasing the number of EPs in the system. The report of the research into EP provision and training is due to be published this month. However, we already know from a previous announcement by Damian Hinds, that the DfE will be funding the training of three more cohorts of trainee EPs from Sept 2020, which will increase their numbers from 160 to at least 206. The procurement for this new contract starts this month.
National Audit Office value for money SEND study
The NAO is currently conducting a study looking at whether the DfE knows that funding is distributed according to need, whether pupils with SEND are receiving high-quality support leading to good outcomes, whether the arrangements for overseeing the cost and quality of services, and for intervening if services are under-performing, are effective. Further information can be found here.
First announced on 16December 2018, the DfE has issued further information on what SEN Futures is all about. This is described as a flagship programme of research and analysis focusing on children and young people with SEN in England. The aim is to build the evidence base on a wide range of issues including:
- A variety of outcomes for children and young people with SEN – including outcomes in a wide sense such as well-being, happiness and preparation for adulthood.
- The experiences of children and young people with SEN on their journeys through education.
- The value for money of different types of SEN provision in England.
The first stages of this work will be a longitudinal study discovery phase to consider the design and feasibility of a longitudinal study and a value for money feasibility studyto assess the viability of a potential future large-scale value for money study of SEN provision in England.
Designated mental health leads
The continuum of provision that is being put in place to support schools and the pupils within them is beginning to become clearer. Although this isn’t a statutory post, the government is hoping that most schools who don’t have an equivalent post already, will choose to have a designated mental health lead. Free training for these positions will start in September this year. The DfE will provide up to £95m to cover the costs of the training, with all schools and colleges having access to the training over the next five years.
Education mental health practitioners (EMHPs) and mental health support teams
The first cohort of the new education mental health practitioner trainees started their training at the beginning of this year at the seven universities mentioned last time. They will become part of the NHS mental health support teams working in schools/colleges, which the NHS is paying for over the next five years. They will be rolled out to between a fifth and a quarter of the country by the end of 2023, building on the support already available.
Adding everything together, over time, the continuum of mental health provision should consist of:
- Mental health first aiders
- Designated mental health leads
- Education mental health practitioners
- Mental health support teams
This should make it easier to spot problems earlier and to have a clear pathway to further support. If it all works out – and it will take many years for it all to be in place – it should mean much closer working between health and education. We are fortunate that Bernadka Dubicka (RCPsych) will be giving a keynote address at our SEND Conference about how to bridge the divide between the health and education systems.
Draft education inspection framework (EIF)
When NAHT’s SEND Council met recently, the EIF was a major item on the agenda. Among the points discussed were the following:
- Resource bases in mainstream schools being recognised at last
- Problems that will be caused if schools’ internal data is ignored
- Outstanding special schools continuing to be treated differently in terms of frequency of inspections
- KS2 needing a ‘broad, rich curriculum’, but at KS1 the emphasis should be on the three Rs
- The emphasis on a ‘strong academic core’ with a focus on Ebacc subjects
- Extending the time inspectors are in school.
As a bit of light relief, you may like to know of the approach YoungMinds has taken on their website, where they’ve rated the proposals under the four categories by which schools are judged. For example:
- Outstanding for focusing less on academic assessment and exam results and more on the quality of education.
- Good for personal development being one of the four key judgements and helping pupils understand how to be “mentally healthy”.
- Requires improvement for not mentioning that “difficult” behaviour can be a communication of mental health needs.
- Inadequate for not highlighting that schools should be valued for identifying children who need mental health support and trying to get them the help they need.
You’ll be aware that NAHT has been encouraging members to respond individually to the consultation, which runs until 5 April and a members’ guide to responding is on the website. If you haven’t already done so, please do find a moment to reply as it really could make a difference.
Bercow: ten years on – one year on
I’m writing this summary just before the publication of this report, which will give an update on what has happened over the last year. So, please watch out for it after 6 March. We are fortunate in having Kamini Gadhok (RCSLT) to give us the full picture of what the government and others have or haven’t done in the vital area of speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), when she addresses our SEND Conference.
SEND Awards 2019
Now in their fifth year, this is the right time to put in an entry for these awards which are designed to recognise those who go the extra mile. The categories are:
1. Most inclusive practice across a school
2. Partnership with Parents (must be co-written with parents)
3. Most innovative intervention
4. Best use of external special needs professional
5. Excellence in special schools
6. Inclusion in early years
7. Inclusion in further and higher education (up to 24 years)
8. Inclusion in employment (up to 24 years) – for employers.
Entries must before in before 30 April. For more details and to download the entry form, go to: www.sendawards.com
STA inclusion reviewers
I’ve had a reminder from the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) about the second round of inclusion reviewers being sought, with a few more details of what they want. They are: “Looking to recruit Inclusion Reviewers specifically with knowledge and experience of the National Curriculum as well as working with pupils with disabilities, other protected characteristics, and/or SEN. More specifically, we are looking for a number of Inclusion Reviewers for each of the following specialisms:
- Autism spectrum disorders (ASD);
- Behavioural development;
- Communication and language development (including dyslexia);
- English as an additional language (EAL);
- Hearing impairments (HI);
- Visual impairments (VI);
- Other Special Educational Needs – SEN (including dyspraxia and dyscalculia)
- Representation and Diversity, including,
o Religious groups such as Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish etc;
o Cultural groups such as Black African, Black Caribbean, Asian Indian, Asian Pakistani / Bangladeshi, Arab, Eastern Asian (Chinese / Malaysian / Thai / HK / Indonesian / Japanese etc), European;
o Social groups such as Gender equity, Social class equity, LGBT, Age etc.”
The closing date for applications is midday on 25 April and the contract runs from 1 June to 31 October 2020.
Apply to: TendersTD.STA@education.gov.uk and copy in firstname.lastname@example.org to express an interest.
NAHT’s SEND Conferences
At the SEND Council Meeting in February, the finishing touches were put to the conferences on 2 and 3 April. As a reminder, the Girls and autism – many voices conference is on World Autism Day (Tues 2April) and the Leading on SEND across all schools conference has the theme: Diversity, difference and dynamics. Both will be held at the Radisson Blu Portman hotel in London, with a special price for attending both days. The first event will also see the launch of the book, Girls and Autism – Educational, Family and Personal Perspectives, when many of the key figures in the autism field will be present to run workshops and to sign books. I’m happy to say that my advance copy has arrived and so I confirm that this will definitely happen.
As usual, the SEND Conference starts on the Tuesday evening with the prospect of a lively panel when all your SEND queries can be answered, followed by a convivial meal and after dinner speech, which I will try to ensure is light-hearted, humorous and entertaining. Alternatively, you can make it a day conference and arrive on Wednesday. I’ve mentioned two of our keynote speakers, but, in addition, there will be an array of workshops to choose from, where you can learn more about:
- Reducing risk, restraint and restriction
- Ofsted Inspections of SEND
- Co-existing conditions
- Demonstrating progress in pupils with HI and VI
- Avoiding exclusions
- Premature births and what it means for teachers
- Supporting pupils with SEND who identify as LGBTQ
- Supporting pupils who have physical disabilities.
The final keynote speaker I haven’t yet mentioned is Dean Beadle, who gives an entertaining and enlightening account of how the schools he attended reacted to a pupil with autism when much less was known about it. He also describes his varied life beyond school.
As it happens, I’m off to Birmingham this week to join Dean at the NAS Annual Professionals Conference, where we will be co-chairs on the second day. This is an untried and untested double act, but we’ll do our best…