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.
There has been a great deal of activity on the SEND front in the last few weeks. Both Damian Hinds, the secretary of state, and Nadhim Zahawi, the minister whose responsibilities include SEND, have given speeches raising the profile of children and young people who have SEND, while the Education Select Committee reached the stage of calling witnesses to its inquiry into the SEND reforms.
Education committee’s SEND inquiry
On 3 July, having received 900 written responses, Robert Halfon’s committee held their first oral evidence session. It was great to see Mary Warnock continuing to take a lively interest in SEND. She expressed her concern that Ofsted inspectors don’t give schools an incentive to be inclusive as they are too focused on academic excellence. She also said that the pressure on local authorities (LAs) to balance the books makes it hard for them to be on the side of families.
However, Stephen Kingdom, campaign manager for the Disabled Children’s Partnership and previously at the Department for Education (DfE), expressed doubts about whether accountability measures should be re-weighted to account for pupils with SEN as he said it might incentivise schools to lower expectations for these pupils. He didn’t seem to consider that perhaps the measures we have aren’t the right ones, or that schools would continue to have high aspirations for all their pupils, even if there was less emphasis on academic attainment alone.
The third witness was Brian Lamb, whose Inquiry into Improving parental confidence in the SEN system (2009), found that the main way for parents to become more confident in the SEN system of the time, was for teachers to be better trained. This led to the online training materials for ASD, MLD, SpLD, SLCN and BESD, which are set at Masters level: www.advanced-training.org.uk. Brian told the committee that a ‘culture shift’ is needed across the sector to make provision for pupils with SEN a central part of how a school works rather than an ‘add-on’. As no further sessions have yet been announced, it is assumed that nothing more may happen before the summer break.
Alternative provision (AP), exclusions and elective home education
While the select committee’s review of alternative provision has been concluded and we await their report, the chair, Robert Halfon, spoke last month at the tri-borough alternative provision conference, when he drew on some of the findings. He said he was shocked by the lack of provision for vulnerable pupils post-16 and that he would like to see more technical and vocational courses being offered to them, including apprenticeships.
It will be interesting to compare this report with the findings of Edward Timpson’s review of exclusions, which is also due by the end of the year, and what they say about children with SEND being seven times more likely to be excluded. There is an overlap here with the work going on around elective home education. The consultation on this closed on 2 July and the government is looking at whether there should be a mandatory registration system and greater powers for LAs to monitor and support children, including those with SEND who are educated at home. On 13 June, Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards, said the DfE hopes to publish guidance for LAs and parents early in the Autumn.
Speeches by Damian Hinds and Nadhim Zahawi
Recently, both Damian Hinds and Nadhim Zahawi spoke at an ADCS conference. In his speech, Damian Hinds said: “SEND is a huge priority for my department – and we’ll be saying more about all of this in the coming months.” He gave some statistics:
- Around 15% of children have SEN
- 50% of children in care have SEN
- One in five children has had contact with social care by the age of five.
He said that while there had been record investment in SEND, he accepted that budgets are still under pressure. He recognised that some parents feel it is still a fight to get the support their child needs. He expressed concern about:
- the increase in pupils moving out of mainstream schools and into specialist provision, alternative provision and home education
- the rise in exclusions and the off-rolling of pupils to avoid exclusions
- the notion that SEND pupils are someone else’s problem.
At the same time, he said he was clear that “specialist provision can be the right choice for those with more complex needs.”
For his part, he said he wanted to work with:
- Ofsted to make sure schools are encouraged to focus on all pupils, not just the highest achievers
- Ofsted and CQC to plan for a further round of Local Area SEND reviews
- DHSC and NHS England in supporting LAs and CCGs to improve their planning and commissioning of SEND provision
- Employers to increase the numbers with SEND who find employment.
He referred to the work on alternative provision and to Timpson’s review of exclusions. He said there would be further information soon about the £300 million to improve mental health services for all children and young people.
Speaking at the same event, Nadhim Sawahi described his family’s flight from Saddam Hussein when, as an 11-year-old, he left behind everything he knew in Baghdad, and struggled to cope with being educated in a language he didn’t understand. He agreed with Damian that funding is a real challenge, but wants evidence for why additional investment is needed so that he can put it before the Treasury. He ended his speech by saying; “I believe that if we can get it right for our most disadvantaged children, we can get it right for every child.”
The latest plans for primary assessment are gradually taking shape, following the DfE’s response to the consultation on primary assessment.
1. Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
On 22 June, the DfE announced that new early learning goals (ELGs) would be piloted in 25 primary schools from Sept this year. The new guidance proposes a greater focus on vocabulary development and a better understanding of numbers 1 to 10 rather than 1to 20. Nadhim Zahawi, said the pilots are intended to cut down the ‘burden of paperwork’ in the current system, including the evidence that is needed. Consistency around how the ELGs are moderated by teachers will also be trialled in the pilots. The EEF is managing the independent evaluation, which is being carried out by NatCen Social Research. The evaluation report will be published in Autumn 2019.
Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage - Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five. [PILOT VERSION] (September 2018)
Early years foundation stage profile 2018 handbook [PILOT VERSION] (September 2018)
2. Reception baseline
Meanwhile, the reception baseline that previously came and went before it came in, is now back on the agenda. It is due to be introduced in Autumn 2020, so the first progress scores won’t become available until 2027, and only then if, in the meantime, other factors haven’t come into play. To save the difficulties last time of allowing schools to choose the approach they preferred to assessing four-year-olds, the DfE has appointed the NFER to develop the ‘test’.
After more than three years of deliberations and adjustments, the final version of the pre-key stage standards (PKS) for KS1 and KS2 have recently been published and come into use next year. Work is in hand on guidance and exemplification materials. A major change, apart from dropping the word ‘interim’, has been the various descriptions for the PKS, where the terms: growing development, early development, foundations, emerging and entry to the expected standard, might have been placed in any order. Instead, they are to be labelled standard 1, standard 2, standard 3, and standard 4.
The other part of Rochford, namely the pilot on using engagement as an approach that would replace the lower end of the P scales for those not following a subject-specific curriculum, has been completed and we await the outcome of the evaluation. Although they can still be used, the P scales will no longer be statutory after 2019/20.
News from Nasen
I mentioned last time that Nasen has been awarded the DfE contract, on behalf of Whole School SEND (WSS). Since then, Anne Heavey, senior SEND policy advisor for the National Education Union (NEU)has been appointed to become the national director and will have direct leadership responsibility for the £3.4m SEND schools workforce contract. The majority of the regional leads have also been appointed. The four aims are to:
1. Drive education institutions to prioritise SEND within their CPD and school improvement plans, including facilitating greater links between mainstream and special schools.
2. Equip schools to identify and meet training needs in relation to SEND.
3. Build the skills of teachers working in mainstream and special schools and of SENCos and teachers of classes of children and young people with sensory impairment by promoting best practice.
4. Identify and respond to any gaps in the training and resources available to schools.
The National Autistic Society’s professional awards 2019
The National Autistic Society’s Annual Awards are now open for nominations, with a closing date of Friday 28 October. The finalists will be announced in January 2019 and the winners announced during the NAS professional conference on Thursday 7 March 2019 in Birmingham. There are both individual and team awards. For further information go to:
TES SEN show 2018
On Friday 5 and Saturday 6 October, the annual event will take place at the Business Design Centre in London. The largest show of its kind, it attracts 100 exhibitors, a range of free workshops, as well as a range of seminars. Although there is no need to register in advance, some of the seminars will be fully booked and you also avoid the queue to get in. For further details and to book go to tessenshow.co.uk.
NAHT’s leading on SEND across all schools’ conference 2019
If it hasn’t already done so, further information on this ground-breaking event should reach you shortly. On Tuesday 2 April, to coincide with World Autism Day, a conference will be held on Autism and Girls, which follows on from the sell-out event a couple of years ago. At this event, a new book will be launched published by Routledge called Girls and Autism: Educational, Family and Personal Perspectives. Edited by Professors Barry Carpenter and Francesca Happe, and by Jo Egerton, most of the chapters have been written by members of the Autism and Girls Forum, which, alongside the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education (NFNSE) is hosted by NAHT.
Starting on Tuesday evening and lasting throughout Wednesday 3 April 2019, the SEND Conference, under the title, Diversity, Difference and Dynamics, will follow its normal pattern of starting on Tuesday evening. On this occasion, members will have the choice of attending for 2 full days; arriving on Tuesday evening; or coming all day on Wednesday. We have been extremely fortunate to work once again with the Royal College of Psychiatrists and with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, both of whom will be providing keynote speakers. In addition, there will be the usual array of stimulating seminars from which to select the ones you would most like to attend.
I would like to wish you all a refreshing and well-earned break from the daily grind, so that you return ready to face the rigours and enjoy the challenges of working with staff, pupils and their families, to achieve amazing results.