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Rona Tutt's SEND summary (May 2018)

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This month, NAHT past president Rona Tutt looks at SEND reforms, consultations from the Department for Education and much more.


Just when we thought the consultation on 'schools that work for everyone' (Sept-Dec 2016) must have sunk without trace, the Department for Education's (DfE) response belatedly appeared (May 2018), together with a blaze of publicity about grammar schools – or as the government prefers to call them, ‘selective schools.’ Although no new selective/grammar schools will be allowed, existing ones will be permitted to expand, provided they become more inclusive. Hopefully, this will mean not only the more disadvantaged but also a minority of those with SEND who may flourish in this environment. 

As those of you who were there will know, when Damian Hinds joined us at our annual conference in Liverpool, he gave us some encouraging words about future developments, but for some reason, he didn’t mention the grammar school debate was about to spring into life again. 

Education Select Committee

Such is the exuberance of chair Robert Halfon, that he is making sure his committee keeps him as busy as when he was a minister at the DfE. With so many inquiries going on at once,  it’s hard to keep track of them. Current ones include: 

  • The SEND inquiry (18 April to 14 June 2018) aims to review the success of the SEND reforms, how they have been implemented and their impact on those who have SEND. NAHT’s response will be fully discussed at the SEND council's meeting on 5 June 2018 at Oak Grove College in Worthing
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution inquiry (1 May to 21 June 2018) aims to examine how best to prepare young people to take advantage of future opportunities and look at the suitability of the school curriculum. It will also consider the role of lifelong learning and how best to help people climb the ladder of opportunity in the future
  • The Life chances inquiry (4 May to 1 June 2018) aims to understand the impact that early years education and social policy have on determining children’s life chances. The inquiry will focus on early years educational settings, but it will also consider the role of other services, including health services and those provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Following their inquiry, on 9May 2018, the Joint Education and Health & Social Care Committees issued their report commenting on the government’s green paper on mental health. It is entitled 'the government’s green paper on mental health: failing a generation'. The committee’s report refers to NAHT’s evidence, both oral and written. A poll of our members showed that 93 per cent were unable to access specialist mental health support. The report is critical of the lack of aspiration in the government’s proposals and the time it will take to have much effect. A concern is also expressed that extra work will fall on the teaching workforce with no guarantee of additional resources.            

In case you’re wondering about it, the 'alternative provision inquiry, which was launched in September 2017, has completed its work and the report is in preparation.

DfE documents etc.

On 17 May, the latest guidance following the consultation was published. Keeping children safe in education - statutory guidance for schools and colleges(Sept 2018) will be implemented from September. Until then, the KCSIE 2016 guidance should be followed. As it is a very lengthy document, the DfE has also produced a separate document, keeping children safe in education - statutory guidance for schools and colleges (part one), and suggested that all staff should at least read part one of the guidance. The DfE is setting up an online safety working group to give schools further support and guidance. 

At the same time, the DfE has published sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges. The advice sets out what sexual violence and sexual harassment are, how to minimise the risk of them occurring, and what to do when they do occur or are alleged to have occurred.  

New contracts for SEND

On 10 May 2018, Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for children and families, announced three new contracts: 

  1. £20 million for the Council for Disabled Children (CDC), in partnership with Contact (formerly Contact A Family), to provide families and young people with impartial advice about the services and support available
  2. £3.8 million for Contact to work with KIDS and the CDC to promote young people’s and parent carers’ participation
  3. £3.4 million over two years for nasen to work with UCL, on behalf of the Whole School SEND (WSS) consortium, to enable schools to deliver high-quality SEND provision.  

Nasen is recruiting for a number of roles to form part of the new Whole School SEND's project management team. These include a national director, eight regional leaders, eight deputy regional leads and a programme assistant. They are fixed-term appointments until March 2020. 

Alongside these new contracts, the Department has developed new tools in partnership with nasen and Action for Children to create a job description and specification for level three early years special educational needs coordinators (SENCos).

This delivers on a commitment set out in the government’s early years workforce strategy, and it will boost the profile of this important early years role to make sure children with additional learning needs get the right support from the earliest opportunity.

DfE’s 0-25 SEND, alternative provision and attendance unit newsletter

The latest newsletter appeared on 10 May 2018 and it includes the following information:

  • The DfE continues to chase local authorities (LAs) who still have some transfer reviews to complete
  • The consultation on elective home education has two parts: a call for evidence, and a request for comments on the draft versions of guidance for LAs and a separate one for parents
  • The fund of £7 million for LAs to establish local supported internship forums
  • The Education Select Committee’s SEND inquiry and its main strands
  • Details of the SEND school workforce contract
  • A list of papers published by the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education.

SEN.IMPLEMENTATION@education.gov.uk to sign up for these newsletters.

National SEND Forum

The forum met on 16 May 2018, when Lydia Vye from HQ and I were both able to attend. The agenda included a discussion about Labour’s early years, education and skills: towards a national education service. Those of you who were at our annual conference will have heard Angela Rayner, the shadow secretary of state, speaking about this. The Party is keen to collect views and although there is nothing specific in it about SEND, comments may be sent

There was a talk by Amit Kulkarni, research and development officer, from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) who would like to work with the NAHT on improving commissioning and provision of services for children with developmental language disorder (DLD), the name that replaced specific language impairment (SLI). 

Finishing on a more personal note, on 30 April 2018, it was a pleasure to be at the House of Lords to celebrate the launch of the latest four books in the Books Beyond Words series. Professor Baroness Hollins and her team have spent many years working with people who find it easier to understand pictures than words. Together they have devised sets of books, now amounting to more than 50 titles. The four most recent ones are to do with the world of work. If you haven’t come across these yet, but you feel they might suit some of your pupils, visit https://booksbeyondwords.co.uk/.

I hope half term will be an opportunity to step off the treadmill and to return sufficiently refreshed to enjoy the rest of the summer term.

First published 22 May 2018