What does academisation mean for children and young people with SEND?
The government has watered down its decision to force all schools in England to become Academies by 2022, stating now that the best schools can choose whether or not they want to convert.
In light of the recent Government climbdown over plans for forced academies in England, what are the implications of academisation for children and young people with SEND?
One of the key benefits of MATs (Multi Academy Trusts) for children with SEND was the opportunity to create fluid provision and to eliminate exclusions. MATs consisting of mainstream schools, special schools and alternative provision would be well placed to focus on the needs of individual children and to move them between schools within the trust according to need. There would be no need to exclude children for poor behaviour, instead recognising that their needs had shifted and having the appropriate resources and expertise within the MAT to address to those needs. Some Local Authorities are already facilitating this kind of fluid provision between schools, but ironically it is the fact that there are both schools and academies in the system that limits the potential impact of this approach.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said recently that we cannot have both a local authority-run system and an academy-run system. It is true that operating multiple systems can limit the potential impact of some initiatives as described above, but the truth is that we need different types of school as part of an inclusive education system. We already have different types of schools, funded in very different ways; independent schools and some faith schools being two examples. The focus should be less about what kinds of schools we have in the system, less on how they are funded, and much more on whether as a whole the range of schools we have cater effectively for the needs of every individual child. Every child must have access to a school that can meet their needs and those schools must be given the resources they need to do the job properly. Teachers are amongst the most trusted professionals in our country and we must allow them to focus on the children and on teaching and learning rather than on changing structures and processes. This will lead to better outcomes for children, including those with SEND.
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Dr Adam Boddison is the Chief Executive for nasen with responsibility for strategic direction and operational delivery across the full breadth of nasen’s activity. Prior to this, Adam held a number of senior education roles including Director of the Centre for Professional Education at the University of Warwick, Academic Principal for IGGY (an educational social network for gifted teenagers) and West Midlands Area Coordinator for the Further Mathematics Support Programme.