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Special Schools Conference 2017 review and more


This series covers both residential and mainstream education and is written by Dr Rona Tutt, a former Chair of NAHT Special Education Needs Committee


Rona Tutt’s update on events, research and policy developments in SEND, March 2017   

Since the last blog appeared – and my apologies for a longer-than-usual- gap – NAHT’s Special Schools, Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference has taken place in its slightly altered format. Those who were able to reach Birmingham in time for the events on the evening of Thursday 9th March, were treated to a lively Panel Discussion chaired by Kim Johnson, followed by a convivial meal and Russell Hobby rounding off the evening in his usual eloquent and humorous style.

A full day on Friday included 8 highly topical seminars, topped and tailed by Will Ord in his opening address persuading the entire audience to tie themselves in knots – literally – en route to explaining the need to take risks and to try out new ideas as part of developing growth mindsets, while I had the privilege of being the closing speaker. Due to its continued success, Paul Williams was able to announce that the nextSpecial Schools, Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference will take place on Friday 9th March 2018. We await feedback to see if members would like to have the option of starting again on the Thursday evening.  This is a great event for enabling school leaders, school business managers, children’s centre leaders and SENCos from all types of schools and settings, to mix and mingle, and, hopefully, return to the day job refreshed, up to date and full of new ideas.  

As well as planning the theme and content of the next conference, the SEND Council will be pursuing opportunities that have arisen to work more closely with the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPSYCH) and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT). This work ties in closely with that of the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education (NFNSE) and the Autism in Girls Forum that sits under its umbrella on NAHT’s website. Future blogs will keep members informed about how these links are developing.

Rochford Review and Assessment

We were very fortunate to have Diane Rochford to run seminars at the SEND Conference. She gave members an insight into the various stages of the Rochford Review and how they arrived at the recommendations about the assessment of pupils working below the standard of the national curriculum tests. Diane was accompanied by Richard Coneron from the DfE, who has been helping to write the long awaited 2nd consultation on the Rochford Review. When pressed to say when we might expect it to appear, Richard said it would be out ‘shortly’. The questions have been finalised and the consultation is ready to roll but is stuck on Ministers’ desks. Whether this is the result of Brexit or something else is anyone’s guess. However, it does mean that implementation is likely to be delayed until Sept 2018. In the meantime, the P scales should continue to be used where appropriate.

Although, at the time of writing, the consultation on Primary Assessment and Accountability has also failed to appear, the Education Select Committee’s own Inquiry into Primary Assessment  is well underway. Written submissions are now closed and oral evidence sessions have been held. The final report should be worth reading, as both the effect on pupils with SEND of testing en masse, and the knock on effect on the wellbeing of pupils as a whole, are due to be considered.


Also running seminars at the NAHT conference was Lesley Cox HMI, Ofsted National Lead for Disability and Special Educational Needs, whose sessions were entitled: ‘How Ofsted evaluates SEND provision in schools’. At the conference last year, Mary Rayner, who shared the role with Lesley, had run a similar session for us.  She has now moved on from Ofsted, but I was surprised to learn from Lesley that she is leaving as well. So, we await news of who will be heading up SEND at Ofsted, as well as waiting to see how far Amanda Spielman HMCI, will be a different type of leader to her predecessor, Sir Michael Wilshaw. 

The latest School inspection update has been published (March 2017, Issue 9). In his covering letter, Sean Harford, National Director, Education, reminds inspectors that they should no longer refer to ‘expected progress’. This is further amplified on page 7:

“Inspectors should understand from all training and recent updates that there is no national expectation of any particular amount of progress from any starting point.”

Children and Social Work Bill

After a long campaign by NAHT and others, on 1st March, Justine Greening announced the biggest overhaul of sex education for 17 years. The government is achieving this through an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, and itwould come into effect from September 2019. The proposal is to help all young people stay safe and to prepare for life in modern Britain by making Relationships Education (Primary) and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE - Secondary) part of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE), which would become statutory in all schools. There will be a full consultation on the proposed guidance later this year. 


The government has launched a five-week consultation on updating its 2012 exclusion guidance. The consultation runs until 25th April. The main change around SEN is the different terminology from statements to EHC plans. As a reminder, the key section is:

Paragraph 23   …..The head teacher should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding any pupil with an Education, Health and Care plan or a looked after child.

Paragraph 25    Where a school has concerns about the behaviour, or risk of exclusion, of a child with additional needs, a pupil with an EHC plan or a looked after child, it should, in partnership with others (including the local authority as necessary), consider what additional support or alternative placement may be required.

 The relevant DfE documents are:

  • Exclusion  guidance 2017  Launch date 14 March 2017

         Respond by 25 April 2017

  • Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in EnglandDraft statutory guidance for those with legal responsibilities in relation to exclusion. Proposed for introduction in September 2017.

A final version of the guidance is due to be published this Summer.

Lenehan Review

The Call for Evidence, as the first part of Dame Christine Lenehan’s Review into the outcomes and experiences of children and young people attending residential special schools, closed on 17 March and Ian Hartwright has co-ordinated a full response from NAHT. Read it here.

The review is expected to make recommendations to the government and other agencies, so that outcomes can be further improved for a group of young people whose complex needs may require intensive support. It is to be hoped that the Review will recognise the outstanding work that goes on in some of these provisions. The Association has offered to provide examples of where young people’s lives have been turned round by receiving the highly specialist support they needed.

Mental Health

At a recent meeting of the National Executive, the Association’s policy position on mental health was extended. The mental health policy statement can be found on NAHT’s website. The statement recognises that: poor mental health is a significant barrier to learning; the need for teachers and school leaders to have support in maintaining their own mental health; and the need for government to invest further in health and social care services which support the mental health needs of young people, including CAMHS. The policy statement makes it clear that NAHT does not support the use of additional accountability measures of a school's effectiveness in supporting the mental and emotional wellbeing of pupils.


As well as hosting nasen Live again this year, (Birmingham ICC on Friday 7 July), nasen is marking its 25 Birthday through the nasen Awards 2017. There are 16 categories:

1.    Excellent practice in Early Years Award

2.    Excellent practice in Further Education

3.    Excellent Practice in Primary School Award

4.    Excellent practice in Special School Award

5.    Excellent practice in Secondary School Award

6.    Exceptional parental engagement Award

7.    Technology Award

8.    Effective Collaborative Working Award

9.    Employer of the Year Award

10.  Young person/Youth achievement Award

11.   Inspiring Publication Award

12.   Inspirational Teacher Award

13.   Inspirational Leader Award

14.   Learning Support Staff Award

15.   Governor of the Year Award

16.   Lifetime Achievement Award

Nominations have to be received by Friday 30 June 2017. An Awards Ceremony is planned at the Museum of London on 19 October.

As the Easter break hoves into sight, the race is on as to whether the end of term or the consultations on Primary Assessment and the Rochford Review will arrive first.

Whatever happens, I hope there will be time for a refreshing break, so that you feel resilient enough to be able to look forward to the Summer Term.  

Rona Tutt, March 2017
First published 23 March 2017