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Rona Tutt's SEND summary (October 2017)

 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.

Shortly after the previous blog appeared, so did the long-awaited government response to the consultation on primary assessment and Rochford’s recommendations for pupils working below the standard of the tests, as well as further details on moving to a national funding formula (NNF). 

Primary assessment

Primary assessment in England – government’s consultation response (Department for Education (DfE) Sept 2017), includes another attempt to introduce a Reception Baseline. This time, the DfE is running a Reception Baseline Pilot Project before it is introduced. Also out are slightly revised frameworks:

  • Teacher assessment frameworks at the end of key stage one – For use in 2017-2018 (Standards and Testing Agency 2017)
  • Teacher assessment frameworks at the end of key stage two – For use in 2017-2018 (Standards and Testing Agency 2017).  

Turning to the assessment of pupils below the standard of the tests, Primary school pupil assessment: Rochford Review Recommendations – government’s consultation response (DfE Sept 2017) broadly accepts Rochford’s proposals.  The interim key stage standards are to become permanent and have been slightly tweaked:

  • Interim pre-key stage1: pupils working below the test standard – for use in 2017-2018 (Standards and Testing Agency 2017)
  • Interim pre-key stage 2: pupils working below the test standard – for use in 2017-2018 (Standards and Testing Agency 2017)  

Further changes are to be made on a more permanent basis. In addition, the P scales will become non-statutory and will be replaced by the seven areas of engagement for pupils at the lower end of the P scales. However, as this is new territory for many, up to a hundred mainstream and special schools are being asked to pilot this approach. Our senior policy advisor Sarah Hannafin is the link for any work to do with assessment: sarah.hannafin@naht.org.uk. 

The curriculum

At the beginning of the year, and shortly after she had taken over as HMCI, Amanda Spielman said she wanted to have a thorough look at the curriculum. Recently, she’s announced the first phase has been completed, and she hopes the second phase will be finished by Spring 2018 when a report will be published. Amanda is concerned there has been too little thought given to the curriculum schools deliver and this has resulted in the following:  

  1.  The primary curriculum narrowing in some schools as a consequence of too great a focus on preparing for key stage two tests
  2.  Leaders often misunderstanding the purpose of key stage three and the new GCSE assessment criteria
  3. The intended curriculum for lower-attaining pupils in some secondary schools often being associated with the qualifications that count in league tables but not with other knowledge they should be acquiring.

Exactly who is being blamed for this state of affairs will become clearer when the report is issued. Our deputy general secretary Nick Brook has written a response to these views. 

Funding

After months of consultation and delay, the national funding formulae for schools, high needs and the central school services block are being introduced from April 2018. This includes the funding arrangements for the following:

  • children and young people with SEND who need extra support at school, college or alternative provision settings
  • the central school services block for LAs to provide services for all schools.  

Since NAHT first supported the move to having a national funding formula, the financial landscape has changed, so although it may bring about greater fairness in terms of schools receiving similar funding per pupil, it won’t solve the problem of not having enough money to go round. 

Some key documents:

  • The national funding formula for schools and high needs  (Sept 2017)
  • The national funding formula for schools and high needs policy document (Sept 2017)
  • High needs funding 2018 to 2019 – Operational guide (Sept 2017).  

Exclusions and alternative provision

At the beginning of this term, the DfE’s revised guidance on exclusions, Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England (September 2017), came into force. This leads to another topical piece of work. Hardly had Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, been removed from his post at the DfE as minister of state for apprenticeships and skills than he picked up a plum job as chair of the education select committee. The committee’s first piece of work affecting schools is an inquiry into alternative provision. Although the work of pupil referral units (PRUs) and other forms of alternative provision (AP) goes much wider than SEND, DfE’s statistics show pupils with identified SEN account for almost half of all permanent and fixed term exclusions. Introducing the Inquiry, the committee invites written submissions by Wednesday 1 November on the following themes:

  • The quality of teaching in alternative provision (including pupil referral units)
  • Educational outcomes and destinations of students
  • Safety, accommodation and provision of resources for students
  • In-school alternatives to external alternative provision
  • Regulation of independent providers.  

Our senior policy advisor Ian Hartwright is already hard at work drafting a response, but individual submissions can also be made to the education select committee.   

Meetings

Special Education Consortium (SEC) on Thursday 7 September

Contact is continuing with the DfE over i) the extension of the SEND Tribunal pilot on recommendations being made about the health and social care parts of EHC plans and ii) the concerns about LAs who fail to transfer all statements to EHC plans by the deadline of 31 March 2018. SEC’s post-16 working group is being re-formed and will have an excellent recruit in Kim Johnson, our immediate past president. As regards the operational guidance for high needs funding formula (HNFF), although extra money has been put into the system and a degree of flexibility allowed so that money can be moved from the schools block to the high needs block, it was felt the funding wouldn’t keep pace with the extension of the age range, the rising number of children and increased costs all round.

NAHT’s SEND Council on Thursday 14 September

The council met at the Senate House in London on the same day it was known the government’s response to Rochford would be released, but before it actually saw the light of day. We were very pleased that Anne Lyons, our national president, found time to join us along with our head of policy Valentine Mullholland and specialist advisor Siôn Humphreys.

There were some positive comments on the HNFF, but further action is required on top-up funding. A recommendation went to our national executive on the need for legal clarification on the impact for children with statements whose LAs won’t meet the deadline to transfer them to an education, health and care (EHC) plan. Plans for next year’s Special Schools, Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference in March and the arrangements for the forthcoming conference on Collaborative Approaches to the Mental Health of Children in January (which NAHT is running jointly with the Royal College of Psychiatrists) were discussed in depth. Bookings for both are arriving on a daily basis, so make sure you book your place now.  

The council is keen to make contact with Robert Goodwill (minister of state for children and families) and Robert Halfon. The experience and expertise of NAHT members in the field of SEND is sometimes overlooked because of our wider work.    

Joint Unions SEND Meeting on Wednesday 20 September             

Of the five teacher unions, only NEU was missing, possibly as the former ATL and NUT unions were adjusting to their new situation. However, both UNISON and GMB were present along with three colleagues from the DfE: Chris Eridani-Ball, David Gosling and  Andy Hackett. 

Rochford was high on the agenda, and we were fortunate to have with us Andy Hackett who is leading on the Engagement pilot. As well as mainstream and special schools, he wants schools who have several pupils working at this level and those that only have a very few. Andy confirmed his colleague, Tom Treadwell, would be looking for volunteers to refine the pre-key stage standards now they are to become permanent. David Gosling talked about the DfE piloting a Reception Baseline as part of the move to looking at progress over time. 

Chris Eridani-Ball said he was aware there were concerns about LAs that were unlikely to meet the deadline. He felt this was covered by the letter Robert Goodwill sent to the directors of children’s services on 12 September, which was attached to the Sept 2017 newsletter from the 0-25 SEND Unit at the DfE.This says where a transfer review hasn’t been completed in time, the statement ‘will continue to remain in force from 1 April 2018 until a transfer review has been completed….’ It remains to be seen if, for instance, those who are 19+ (not covered by a statement) and young learners who transfer to different settings will prove problematic. The final agenda item was the forthcoming Green Paper on Mental Health,which Chris said would appear “late Autumn.” This will be a major topic at the next meeting. 

National SEND Forum on Wednesday 27 September                                          

We welcomed two new members: Unity Howard from the New Schools Network (NSN) and Rani Kaur from the National Governors Association (NGA). We were joined on this occasion by Joanna Hall HMI, deputy director of schools at Ofsted and Matthew Barnes HMI, specialist adviser SEND (who has replaced Mary Rayner and Lesley Cox). They gave us an update on the Joint Area SEND Reviews by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted. A document, due out mid-October, will give the key findings from the reviews so far. Joanna mentioned the work Amanda Spielman has been doing on the curriculum and that a high-quality curriculum should go across all subjects and benefit all pupils. I thanked Matthew for agreeing to talk at our Special Schools, Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference. As a former primary head, special school governor and parent of three children with special needs, I’m sure he will go down well. 

There was general agreement that the DfE’s response to Rochford was a sensible one. Two queries that remained unanswered were i) what happens to secondary aged pupils who are currently on the P scales and ii) what happens to pupils whose teaching is partly, but not wholly, subject-based? Issues that came up in relation to funding were as follows: some LAs wanting to cut funding before students had completed their FE courses; a special school saving the LA money by setting up a free school yet the LA being unsupportive; a general agreement that funding was not keeping pace with need and a concern it would be post-16 provision that could crash the system now SEND goes up to 25. 

The meeting finished early so that a small group of us could continue the discussion on developing regional centres of expertise (RCEs). A very productive hour and a half was spent going through the tabled paper and listing the actions to be carried out before reporting back to the main meeting. 

As I’ve run out of time and space, I’ll give an update on the work of the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education (NFNSE)  and the Autism and Girls Forum (both of which have met recently at the National Autistic Society’s London HQ) in my summary for November.

First published 19 October 2017