Since my last summary, and despite the hiatus known as Brexit, much has happened in the field of SEND. Having recently returned from NAHT’s splendid and productive Annual Conference in Telford – and had the pleasure of meeting some of you there – I thought I’d start with the announcement Damian Hinds made when he was with us and took the opportunity to launch a ‘call for evidence’.
This is a 27-page document entitled: Provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and for those who need alternative provision: how the financial arrangements work, DfE, 3 May – 31 July. After assuring us in the introduction that “high needs will be carefully considered in the forthcoming spending review”, the paper, and the questionnaire which runs alongside it, ask whether the current funding arrangements could be changed to “enable the right support to be given at the right time and at the right cost.” This is an opportunity to comment on the notional SEN budget, the £6,000 threshold, the cost of SEN support and other aspects of the provision made for pupils with SEND.
While we were at Annual Conference, there was a further announcement from the DfE about its £10 million scheme to crack down on what it calls ‘bad behaviour in the classroom.’ The press release quotes Ofsted as saying that behaviour isn’t good enough in over a third of schools, so Tom Bennett, who, since 2015, has been informally referred to as the government’s behaviour tsar and is officially known as the DfE’s lead behaviour adviser, will head a team of advisers. Together, they will select lead behaviour schools to offer support to up to 500 schools across England in developing better behaviour management policies. The programme is due to start in September 2020 and will run for three years. As Tom has spoken in favour of zero tolerance behaviour policies, there has been some concern about his appointment. However, he is aware of his reputation and has said that he wants to correct the assumption that he is in favour of “harsher punishments and harsher sanctions.”
Exclusions – the Timpson review
Another recent development has been the publication of the long-awaited Timpson review of school exclusion, which finally emerged on 7 May. It has 128 pages and includes 30 recommendations. Pages 36-39 are about pupils with SEND and includes information about the different types of need most likely to be excluded and a comparison of exclusion rates between those who have EHC plans and those who are on SEN support. (For those who want more detailed information, the Timpson review of school exclusion: technical note provides further statistics).
In its response, which was published at the same time, the government has said it will accept all the recommendations and in annex one, the recommendations are set out side by side with how each one is being or will be, addressed.
Since my last summary, the Education Select Committee has held three more sessions as part of its SEND inquiry:
- On 19 March, some young people with SEND gave their opinions on how the SEND system is working.
- On 24 April, evidence was given by Ofsted, CQC and a deputy chief inspector from health. They were followed on the same day by Alison Fiddy, chief executive of IPSEA. (Independent Parental for Special Educational Advice); Michael King, the ombudsman for local government and social care; and Imogen Jolley, head of public law, Simpson Millar.
- On 8 May, the committee had been hoping to interview the chief executives of Newham and of East Sussex. They took a dim view when, instead, the director of education and skills turned up for Newham and the director of children’s services arrived from East Sussex.
There was a general feeling at these sessions that it wasn’t the SEND reforms that were wrong, but the way they had been implemented, partly due to the legal implications not being fully understood, and, possibly in the case of health and social care, the services not feeling ownership of what they viewed as legislation to do with education.
SEND and home education
Following a consultation in 2018, last month the DfE published its response: Elective Home Education: Call for Evidence 2018 Government consultation response, DfE April 2019. Out of this has come the DfE’s Elective home education - departmental guidance for local authorities in April 2019.
The guidance is non-statutory and is due to be revised by Dec 2020. Section 8 is headed: Home-educated children with special educational needs (SEN). As well as other information, there is a reminder in 8.6. that if the child attends a special school under an arrangement made by the LA, that the LA’s consent must be given before the child is removed. You can access this guidance here.
Currently, NAHT is working on a response to the consultation: Review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below in England which was launched on 19 March this year and closes on 10 June. This is the first part of a two-stage review, which isn’t concerned with T Levels, A Levels or GCSEs, but with pupils who will be taking other qualifications. According to the foreword by Anne Milton, minister of state for apprenticeships and skills:
“The review forms part of a much broader set of educational reforms that aim to create a coherent system with clear, high-quality progression routes for students of all ages.”
Sarah Hannafin, who is organising NAHT’s response, will be concentrating on how the proposals would affect students with SEND.
The SEND gateway
I thought it might be helpful to mention a couple of items that have appeared recently on Nasen’s SEND gateway, which, for those of you who haven’t yet found the time to explore it, is described as the one-stop shop for all things SEND. These are:
1. Whole school SEND 2018/19 report
The report covers the work in its first year of the Whole School SEND Consortium, which received a contract from the DfE to deliver strategic support to the SEND workforce in mainstream and special schools. Led by Anne Heavey, national director, a regional approach to the task has been taken and the report lists the two regional leads for each of the eight regions, (page 13). Looking forward to the second year, the delayed publication of the first edition of the SEND index is expected this term. Together with the final report of the gap analysis, this should provide a picture of the provision for SEND currently available, what training is available and where the gaps are in both training and provision.
2. The SENCO forum
In the April newsletter from the DfE’s 0-25 SEND, AP and attendance unit,
there is a reminder of the support the forum provides for both new and experienced SENCOs. Started 23 years ago, and chaired by Christopher Robertson, on 1 April this year the forum moved to the SEND gateway. It is described as a space for SENCos to engage in an online learning community, where professionals can exchange knowledge, share expertise and build support networks.
Hopefully, there will be a shorter gap before my next SEND summary, and, in the meantime, keep up the good work!.