This series covers both residential and mainstream education and is written by Dr Rona Tutt, a former Chair of NAHT Special Education Needs Committee
The shifting political scene
In the wake of an unexpected and unusual outcome to a general election, many aspects of government policy are unclear. What is known is that Justine Greening held on to her Putney seat and will remain the secretary of state for education, while Edward Timpson, who has been the minister for vulnerable children and families since 2012, lost his seat. This was to Laura Smith, who is one of a number of teachers and teaching assistants who were elected.
Added to the Department are Anne Milton, who was the Tory deputy chief whip, and Robert Goodwill, previously minister of state for immigration. At the time of writing, it isn’t known which of these will step into Timpson’s shoes.
Having just listened to the Queen’s Speech on the opening of Parliament, as expected much of the legislative programme is dominated by Brexit. Contentious elements from the manifesto have had to be removed, so there was no mention of grammar schools or of getting rid of FSM for Infants. What did get a mention was: the need to invest in schools and fund them fairly; a major reform of technical education; and reforming mental health legislation.
Recent Bills that are now Acts
Just before Parliament went into recess, 4 Acts that have an educational dimension received Royal Assent. These are:
- Children and Social Work Act, which requires councils to provide personal advisers to care leavers up to the age of 25 and extra support in schools for children in care.
- Higher Education and Research Bill will create a new Office for Students as a market-style regulator for HE in England.
- National Citizen Service Act provides 15-17 year olds with a programme to widen their experience. NCS says it is “Committed to being open to all. Wherever possible, this includes those with a disability.”
- Technical and Further Education Act expands the remit of the Institute for Apprenticeships.Although participation rates for disabled apprentices have improved recently, there is much more work to be done.
This month, Ofsted launched, Short inspections of good schools - a consultation. This makes two proposals:
- When short inspections need to convert to a section 5 inspection, they will take place within 15 working days rather than within 48 hours, unless there is a safeguarding concern
- If Ofsted has information that suggests a section 5 inspection looks likely in advance, this will happen from the start.
The proposals apply to all good maintained schools and academies, while good and outstanding nursery schools, special schools and PRUs will continue to receive a short inspection that may convert to a section 5 inspection if necessary, over the time period set out above. Closing date for responses is the middle of August!
The 2nd consultation on the Rochford Review ended on 22 June and a very full response has been sent in from the Association, thanks to Ian Hartwright and others who contributed to the survey or sent in their thoughts. While the outcome is being decided, the DfE has reissued Performance – P Scale – attainment targets for pupils with SEN (June 2017).
Last month, the DfE issued its latest version of Special education needs: an analysis and summary of data sources, as well as Statements of SEN and EHC plans: England, 2017.
Here are just a few snippets:
- Half of all new special free schools due to open from Sept 2017 onwards, are for those on the autism spectrum
- The number of pupils with SEND who have been excluded account for over three-quarters of all exclusions
- There is a substantial rise in the number of pupils with an EHC plan who are waiting for a school place
- The demand for special school places continues to grow.
Local Area SEND Reviews
At a conference organised by Inside Government recently, I met Nigel Thompson, Head of Inspections for the Care Quality Commission (CQC0). In his talk about how the inspections are going, Nigel outlined the reasons why some are being asked to produce a Written Statement of Action. These included:
- Not prioritising the SEND Reforms or keeping up with timescales
- Ineffective Local Offers
- EHC plans focused on provision rather than outcomes and parents not feeling sufficiently included
- Inconsistent contribution by Health to EHC plans, with a model of service deliverables still being in place rather than being person-centred
- Lack of co-ordination between the services for joint commissioning.
As the Outcome Letters are issued up to two months after the local area has been inspected, only three have been released so far this term. These are for Brent, Northamptonshire and Telford. None have been asked for a Written Statement of Action.
SLCN - Bercow: Ten Years On
Kim Johnson, Immediate Past President, has sent a reminder about this review, which, like the one 10 years ago, is keen to build up as full a picture as possible of what is happening on the ground. Currently, the following surveys are running:
- Practitioner survey
- Parents/carers survey + a separate one to be completed with support
- Survey for employers
- Young person survey (under 16) + Young person survey (over 16)
- Surveys for school commissioners, health commissioners, and LA commissioners
These can all be accessed by going to: www.ican.org.uk/bercowsurvey
Dyslexia – A new charity
A the beginning of May, a new organisation was established called Made in Dyslexia. Founded by a parent, Kate Griggs, along with Mel Byrne, who was a key figure at the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, the charity was launched by Richard Branson. The charity’s report: Connecting the dots – Understanding Dyslexia, sets out clearly the essence of this condition and the need to shift public opinion towards recognising its positive traits.
nasen Live 2017
This will take place at the Birmingham ICC on Friday 7 July. Nasen is marking its 25th Birthday through the nasen Awards 2017. There are 16 categories, which include
Awards for: Excellent practice in Early Years, Primary, Secondary, FE and Special Schools; Exceptional parental engagement; Technology Award; Effective Collaborative Working; Employer of the Year; Young Person/Youth Achievement Award; Inspiring Publication Award; Inspirational Teacher Award; Inspirational Leader Award; Learning Support Staff Award; Governor of the Year Award; Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nominations have to be received by Friday 30 June 2017. Adam Boddison, CEO of nasen, tells me that they would welcome more entries particularly in the special school category.
When the SEND Council met in June, it was at Chris Britten’s Ysgol y Deri, which is part of the impressive complex making up the Penarth Learning Community. Meeting in Wales not only allowed us to look round Chris’s spacious and well equipped special school, but also gave us a chance to hear from Rob Williams, NAHT Cymru Director of Policy, about the progress of The Additional Learning Needs & Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill.
Also on the agenda was a discussion about the 2 conferences coming up in 2018 and mentioned in the previous blog. The first of these focuses on mental health and is being organised in conjunction with the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych). It will be held in London on Tuesday 30th January and have an eminent range of speakers from across the professions.
On 7 and 8 March, NAHT’s annual Special Schools, Specialist & Alternative Provision Conference will take place in Birmingham. Following feedback, it will be a similar format to this year’s event, with an option of arriving on the Thursday afternoon and staying overnight, or attending just on the Friday. The theme will be around celebrating success and achievement. Further information should be available before the end of term, but do put the dates in your diary now.
All the very best for the rest of the term. If you make it to nasen Live 2017, I hope we’ll meet up. I’ll be in touch with a final update before the end of term. Who knows what else may have happened by then……