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Thoughts on the SEND Review and Schools Bill

SEND Review by Pamela Hanigan
SEND Review by Pamela Hanigan

Pamela Hanigan

Co-founder LDIGS

Pamela Hanigan is the co-founder of LDIGS and and teacher at Cawthorne’s Endowed Primary School, Abbeystead

Focus of Curia’s Inquiry Session

The third panel for the Dyslexia Commission, held in September 2022, looked at the SEND Review and the Schools Bill. This panel focused on matters pertaining to the most effective use of funding in ensuring the best possible outcomes for all children. As co-founder of LDIGS (Lancashire Dyslexia – Information, Guidance and Support) and a teacher, dyslexia and reading difficulties are close to my heart.

The ‘gold standard’ for dyslexia diagnosis is undoubtedly the full diagnostic assessment, involving looking at the whole individual, completing a comprehensive battery of assessments, deciding upon the strengths and needs of that individual and providing guidance for future support. This is both time-consuming and costly and due to the number of qualified assessors available, inevitably means that only a relatively small number of individuals – disproportionately for those from more affluent and educated backgrounds – receive the support they require, in a timely manner.

A more egalitarian and cost-effective approach would be dyslexia screening across the board (using a validated, robust tool), together with training students and teachers in what to look out for, and a dyslexia-friendly teaching approach, utilising the wealth of assistive technology available. Children and young people need to be at the heart of all that is done and there must be consistency of approach. Those who work with children should look at what the greatest barrier to learning is and support that need, as part of an assess, plan, do, review cycle.  

Cambridgeshire County Council’s approach

Cambridgeshire County Council have taken an interesting approach, where they highlighted that every child should have the: ‘Opportunity to read, to read widely, and to read well’, highlighting that this was: ‘a simple matter of social justice.’ The ‘label’ of dyslexia was not seen as a necessity there, where the approach focussed on high quality first wave teaching, with universal support through dyslexia-friendly classrooms. A way of assessing reading across schools, is offered from Lexplore Analytics. This utilises AI technology, with a validated reading assessment tool, that provides a benchmark for readers across the board, identifying those who may need further investigation.

Initial Teacher Training support and upskilling of all those who work with children is a great starting point to achieving these aims. This could be done comprehensively and relatively cheaply, by rolling out training as CPD for all teachers and Teaching Assistants.

This could enable a simple uniform model, with early identification and intervention with a national set of expected standards, where professionals know what they are looking for and trust their ‘spider senses’. This would be as part of wider assessments and a holistic approach where teachers ask ‘why’ with anomalies as well as knowing who to refer into and appropriate signposting. This upskilling must be for children too – developing metacognition, multisensory learning, built in-overlearning, memory support and ensuring that well-being is nurtured.

Classroom teacher teaching the curriculum

Children at the center of the SEND conversation

National banding could increase efficiency without compromising outcomes, with the child, schools and families at the centre of funding decisions. Parity of support has been achieved in some Multi-Academy Trusts (as highlighted by David Williams on the panel), which could be replicated across the country, where school clusters could pool funding and organise support across settings. This holistic approach, based predominantly on needs, would better reflect the desire in the SEND Review of the: ‘right support, right place, right time’. Consideration must also apply to all aspects of transition, within and across schools.     

Dyslexia is largely a positive diagnosis, often described as ‘empowering’. Currently, only 1 in 5 get diagnosed at school, this undoubtedly has implications for the next panel, where there is a focus on those who are not identified, many of whom then go on to be disengaged, disenfranchised and effectively ‘drop out’ of the education system and all too frequently ‘fall into’ the criminal justice system. Identifying needs, supporting early and across the country, together with upskilling a willing workforce could go along way into preventing some of these outcomes.

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.

  1. Reducing Inequalities
  2. Coordination of Care
  3. SEND Review and Schools Bill
  4. Working Age Adults

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