My belief is that the best measure of a civilised society is how inclusive it is. As such the most inclusive Trusts and Schools are also the Trusts and Schools driving socio-economic progress in the communities they serve.
Shelving the Schools Bill
So what does the shelving of the Schools Bill mean for the SEND Green Paper “The right support at the right time”, and, more importantly, for children with SEND across the country? At this point it is not completely clear; however there are many aspects of the Green Paper which would have a positive and lasting impact on SEND provision for young people. It is encouraging that ahead of the improvement plan the Department for Education (DFE) have committed to training 400 more educational psychologists, and that a “Children not in schools register” is still on the table, as this will combat off-rolling and give much needed (albeit limited) oversight of home education. For me the key element of the Green Paper is the focus on bringing Alternative Provision (AP) and SEND together. This is a long overdue development given that the vast majority of students accessing AP stay for the rest of their time in education in that phase.
The need for Alternative Provision
AP should be operating as a short-term intervention aiming ultimately to return pupils to mainstream education, but at the moment it is being used at best as an overflow for special schools and often as a long-term alternative to a more suitable school placement. As the majority of students in AP have Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities, such as Dyslexia, ADHD, and ASC, among a wide range of others, AP is in essence being used to bolster the Special School system across the country. Most students who attend AP full time never return to their mainstream schools and their outcomes are in turn consistently worse than their peers across every measure. The Academy system could, should, and in some cases does, help to combat this issue and the changes identified in the Green Paper would help to emphasise the need for new types of provisions alongside the correct designation and support in the existing AP structure.
Provisions at The Park Academies Trust
Within our Trust (The Park Academies Trust) we have invested substantial resources into an early intervention AP which operates on a 2 day a week 12-week therapeutic placement for students who have just started struggling either to attend or manage school. Providing a significant level of intervention at this early point alongside the continuation of the student’s main school placement three days a week, ensures that students feel that they belong to their mainstream school and as such do not become isolated from that pathway.
The benefits of standardised EHCP documentation
The proposal for standardised EHCP documentation with a central high needs funding model would reduce the discrepancies in decision making at Local Authority level largely arising as a result of resource-led planning. This would also reduce the confusion and complexities with children moving between local authorities and thus needing their EHCPs to be transferred onto local paperwork, a process which is both costly and timely. When high needs finance is viewed in the round alongside the proposal to include alternative provision and children who are electively home educated in the wider SEND and inclusion conversation, there is the opportunity for a great many vulnerable young people to be better monitored and supported.
Schools are currently applying for statutory assessment as it is in most cases the main, and in some circumstances (as a result of local policy) only, access to additional funds to support a child. This goes some way to explaining the exponential growth in both school and parental request which has in turn broken the high needs and tribunal system. For children who are sitting below this high level of support there is still a need for schools to be able to easily access short term high needs funds outside of statutory assessment to support intervention. This access would reduce the number of EHCP requests, thereby reducing the bill of between £5k and £8k per assessment, and enabling those thousands to be spent on support mechanisms rather than measurement – surely a more effective and worthwhile approach.
Moving forward there is an opportunity to make positive changes that benefit the current generation of students in school and this should be grasped rather than postponed.
Curia’s Dyslexia Commission Report
Curia’s Dyslexia Commission will be launching its Annual Report in the weeks to come. Entailing insights from experts ranging from The Department of Education, The British Dyslexia Association, Members of Parliament, and independent headteachers and SENCo practitioners, the report disucsses the following 4 areas.
Coordination of Care
SEND Review and Schools Bill
Working Age Adults
You can find videos to all inquiry sessions on Chamber UK’S Youtube Channel.