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Rona Tutt's SEND summary (January 2019)

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.
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The year began with the SEND Inquiry gathering pace and rising numbers of pupils with SEND clamouring for special school places. There has also been a continued battle to get the Chancellor to realise the seriousness of the funding situation, including how to support an increasing number of pupils with more complex needs, as well as the majority who are on SEN support.

SEND reforms

Education Select Committee’s SEND Inquiry

The inquiry is concentrating on the impact of the SEND reforms, with the roundtable in November mentioned last time, being followed by further witness sessions, also in the form of roundtables. The first of these was on 4 December 2018, when the witnesses were parents and the organisations who support them. The session on 15 January was to gather views from a range of schools. Those selected were:

  • Tania Beard, head teacher, St Martin's C of E Primary and Nursery School
  • Jon Boyes, principal, Herne Bay High School
  • Penny Earl, resource provision manager, Stoke Park Infants School
  • Sabrina Hobbs, principal, Severndale Specialist Academy
  • Nicola Jones-Ford, SENCO, Fulham College Boys' School
  • Dr Cath Lowther, educational psychologist
  • Callum Wetherill, pastoral leader, Joseph Norton Academy, Wellspring Academy Trust.


The outcome of this inquiry should be interesting; select committee reports are often quite hard-hitting as they go across political boundaries. There has been much agreement that the idea of co-production and making EHC plans more personalised than statements has been a positive move, but the process is still seen as too complex, with lengthy delays and more cases going to tribunal. This means money being spent on processes and procedures rather than on meeting pupils’ needs. There is a further session due before the end of the month.


Ofsted’s ‘reforms’

Although this heading is mine rather than Ofsted’s, there is no doubt that Amanda Spielman is seeking to make changes. This was evident from the time she was appointed and turned the spotlight on the curriculum. On 11 December, she published a commentary on the third and final stage of her review. This also provided a very brief summary of phase one, where the findings were that some schools were ‘teaching a narrowed curriculum in pursuit of league table outcomes.’ Amanda described this as ‘disappointing but unsurprising,’ and accepted the inspection process was partly to blame. In the second stage, the research focused on schools that had spent time considering curriculum design, leading to the third phase looking at how to inspect the quality of the curriculum under the new framework.

On 19 January, The Education Inspection Framework - draft for consultation was published and remains open until 5 April. The four key judgements are:

  • Quality of education
  • Behaviour and attitudes
  • Personal development
  • Leadership and management.


There is a reduced focus on data and more on how pupils’ learning is being developed. There is a higher profile for SEND, including – at last – a recognition of the need for inspectors to take into account whether a school has resourced provision, (see handbook paras 57- 58). Under a section of the handbook on Behaviour and attitudes, there is the following statement:

‘Inspectors will evaluate the experience of particular individuals and groups, such as pupils for whom referrals have been made to the local authority (and check how the referral was made and the thoroughness of the follow-up), pupils with SEND, children looked after, those with medical needs and those with mental health needs. In order to do this, inspectors will look at the experience of a small sample of these pupils.’  (Paragraph 193)


The education inspection framework – draft for consultation

Also, handbooks for:

Early years

FE and skills

Non-association independent school

Maintained schools and academies

Mental health developments

Although there remains a real concern about the timescale for improving services for pupils with mental health needs, two recent developments show progress is being made, at least for some pupils.

1.Mental health support teams

Just before Christmas, details were given of the first 25 trailblazer areas to benefit from having these teams working with schools. Below is the list, together with the number of teams planned for each area:


North Kirklees CCG & Greater Huddersfield CCG (2)

Northumberland CCG (2)*                  Doncaster CCG and Rotherham CCG (4)*

Newcastle Gateshead CCG (3)          South Tyneside CCG (2)

Liverpool CCG (3)                   Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership (3)*

Midlands and East

Herts Valley CCG and East & North Hertfordshire CCG (2)

Stoke on Trent & North Staffs CCG (2)*

Nottingham North East CCG and Rushcliffe CCG (2)

South Warwickshire CCG (2)*                       North Staffordshire CCG (2)

South West

Gloucestershire CCG (4)*                  Swindon CCG (3)

South East

North Kent CCG Grouping: Swale CCG and Dartford, Gravesham & Swanley CCG (2)

Berkshire West CCG (2)         Oxfordshire CCG (2)* Buckinghamshire CCG* (2)*


SW London HCP – Wandsworth, Sutton & Merton CCGs (2)

Tower Hamlets CCG (2)*                   West London CCG (2)            Haringey CCG (2)*

Bromley CCG (2)*                              Camden CCG (2)*                  Hounslow CCG (2)

*12 of these trailblazers will also trial a four week waiting time.


2. Education mental health practitioners

The one-year, full-time courses to train these new health practitioners started this month and are available from the following universities:

Central and South    University of Reading

North West                 University of Manchester

North East                  University of Northumbria 

London and South East       King’s College, London

UCL (Anna Freud Centre)

Midlands                    University of Northampton

South West                University of Exeter

It is hoped that the first tranche of trainees will be ready to start work in schools before the end of the year. The next recruitment round is due to start in September.


Whole School SEND (WSS)

Since she took over as National Director of WSS, NAHT has had several meetings with Anne Heavey (formerly of ATL/ NEU) about how our Association can support this government-funded venture to deliver the SEND workforce contract. The aim of WSS is toimprove outcomes for young learners with SEND, through collaboration and unlocking the answers that already exist within the system. On Mon 23 January, James Bowen, Director of NAHT Edge, represented us at the first meeting of the newly established Leadership of SEND group.  Among other items, the group plans to produce a Guide to assist school leaders inlooking at inclusion in the context of their school, and a second Guide looking at the management of SENCOs.

SEND conferences

10th anniversary Autism Professionals Conference

Happily, this year the NAS conference is being held on Thursday 7and Friday 8 March, so it no longer overlaps with the conferences mentioned below. This time, it’s being held at the ICC in Birmingham under the title, Improving Practice, Improving Every Life. As usual, the event includes the awards evening. Having been involved in judging the awards and in helping to design the programme, I can confirm that it is all set to be as informative and entertaining as usual.


NAHT’s double SEND conference event

Tuesday 2 April will be a memorable date, regardless of what has or hasn’t happened in terms of  Brexit by then, Not only is it World Autism Awareness Day, but NAHT will be marking the occasion in a unique way, with a combined conference and book launch. Together these will provide the very latest information about autistic girls and how to support them. The programme has been put together by the Autism and Girls’ Forum and builds on the success of 'The Big Shout' conference two years ago. This one is called, Girls and Autism - Many Voices Conference and has a stellar cast of speakers. Added interest will be the launch of the book, Girls and Autism: educational, family and personal perspectives (Routledge, 2019). As part of the programme, the authors of the chapters will be present to sign copies and deliver the breakout sessions.

The same evening, NAHT’s Annual SEND Conference will start and continue the next day (Wednesday 3 April), although delegates have the opportunity to make it a residential or a day event. Under its general title of Leading on SEND Across All Schools Conference 2019, this year’s theme is difference, diversity, dynamics, which makes the most of NAHT’s links with the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) and the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists (RCSLT). So, we are privileged to have as keynote speakers, Kamini Gadhok, chief executive, RCSLT, talking about how to improve outcomes for pupils with SLCN, and Bernadka Dubicka, RCPsych’s chair of the College’s child and adolescent faculty, discussing how different systems can work together to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children. After a wide choice of workshops, a stimulating event will be rounded off in style by Dean Beadle, international speaker and trainer, drawing on his own personal experiences in school and beyond, of how celebrating diversity is the key to working with autistic children and understanding social and emotional needs.                   

Both conferences will be in London and both will blend the latest research with how to make it applicable in the classroom and elsewhere. To find out more or to book either or both conferences, please click here.

I look forward to seeing you at these events.