Over the past six months, the government have announced a SEND review and a brand-new Schools Bill. Both of these acts aim to improve support for children with learning difficulties in school.
The SEND review sets out the government’s plans to offer every child the opportunity to access key support at the right times during their time at school. The aim of this is to ensure that every child, regardless of their needs, can fulfil their potential and live a happy and productive life.
The Schools Bill, which is still to be successfully passed through parliament, is a potential new law which will raise education standards across the country. It will do this by providing Ofsted with more power, introducing registers for children with poor attendance and allowing schools to join multi-academy trusts.
In light of both of these acts, the Dyslexia Commission held an inquiry session to discuss the key talking points relating to SEND. It was chaired by Matt Hancock MP and Dr Helen Ross and featured panellists from the education industry.
The Issue of Funding
Regardless of policy, funding always seems to crop up as an issue. Has enough money been provided for real change to occur? Has the money been divided up fairly across different areas of the country? Has the money been spent wisely? These are all fair questions when it comes to SEND, and they were put to the panellists by Matt Hancock during the inquiry.
David Williams, Executive Director of Inclusion for The Park Academies Trust said:
“Funding is a concept that is different depending on where you are in the country. One of the things that I particularly like about the green paper is that it talks about bringing that together and almost getting rid of the postcode lottery.
Most of our schools are Swindon-based and we’ve got various schools that border each other. However, we’ve got young people receiving very different amounts of funding depending on where they live in the same provision. Sometimes this difference can be upwards of £10,000 and frankly it’s a bit of a nonsense.”
Pamela Hanigan, Co-Founder of LDIGS and Teacher at Cawthorne’s Endowed Primary School, argues that vital money can be saved by upskilling teachers rather than putting me through lengthy and costly SENCo qualifications:
“I’m not coming at this from a policy-making angle, I’m coming at it as a worker and how I see it working on the ground. I think we need to think outside of the box when it comes to funding. I think we need to stop looking at all teachers doing the SENco qualification because that is going to be incredibly expensive and incredibly time-consuming.
What I think we need to do instead is upskill all teachers and teaching assistants. They need to be upskilled in terms of what they are looking out for with a SEND hat on and specifically for dyslexia.”
Getting a Diagnosis of Dyslexia
One of the common themes of the discussion was around dyslexia screening and the cost of getting a full diagnosis for a child. While some panellists argued that the screens were perhaps too expensive, Georgina Durrant, former Teacher and SEN Coordinator argued that a proper diagnosis was vital for a child’s mental health:
“I get that it’s expensive but I just think for a child’s mental health and well-being that a diagnosis means so much. When they’re going from primary school to secondary school they need that diagnosis because if it isn’t picked up early on by the secondary school then they’re going to struggle.”
“I heard a story from a parent the other day whose child has recently started secondary school and because this child hasn’t received a full dyslexia diagnosis, they have been asked to read in front of their new class which sent the child into a crisis.”
André Imich, SEN and Disability Professional Adviser at the Department for Education, was keen to stress, however, that the current systems in place at primary school level are sufficient.
“All of the current assessment systems have a strong focus on early reading skills and literacy skills – for example, the early year’s foundation stage assessment, the phonics screening check, key stage 1 assessments, and key stage 2 assessments.
“I was dismayed about the story of the child who was made to read in front of his new classmates in secondary school but I think that’s more to do with the issue of transition and information exchange. This issue is actually highlighted in the green paper because it is something that needs to be improved upon. That seemed to me to be more about that rather than their diagnosis.”
It was fantastic to see so many industry leaders come together to discuss the SEND review and the Schools Bill. It was clear to see the passion that everyone in the room had for supporting dyslexic children in schools and we are hopeful that in time more funding and support will be made readily available for these children.
More information about Curia’s Dyslexia Commission can be found here.