nasen response to NAHT 'Empty Promises Report'
The Empty Promises report published today by the NAHT (National Association of Headteachers) is a timely report that highlights a range of important issues. nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs), welcomes the report and the opportunity to discuss how we can realise the vision of the SEND (Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities) Code of Practice 2015. There are three areas of the report that I would like to comment on further:
1) The Disincentives for Inclusive Schools
It is clear that school leaders joined the teaching profession because they want to make a difference to children and young people. I would even argue that the default position of school leaders is to be inclusive. The Empty Promises report makes the case that schools are financially penalised for being inclusive because of the additional costs of meeting the needs of individual learners. Our nasen members who are school leaders tell us that they are not only penalised financially for being inclusive, but they are also penalised professionally, since the accountability framework actively discourages inclusion. The Ofsted school inspection framework is currently under review and so there is an excellent opportunity to re-incentivise schools to prioritise inclusion. It should not be possible for non-inclusive school that chooses to be non-inclusive to be rated as outstanding. If we do not act quickly, then inclusive schools will continue to be ‘SEND magnets’ that are overwhelmed with the complexity of volume of needs, whilst non-inclusive schools are rewarded.
2) Accountability and Funding for learners on SEN Support
The Empty Promises report makes the point around the limited amount of funding reaching learners on SEN Support because of the concept of a ‘notional SEN budget’. I would draw a comparison between the accountability and funding for learners on SEN Support compared to those in receipt of pupil premium. For pupil premium, funding is ring-fenced and a report about the impact of spend is used by governors to hold school leaders to account. A similar concept could be applied to notional the SEN budget so that school leaders, SENCOs and governors could better understand the impact of this budget on learners on SEN Support. The Whole School SEND Consortium, hosted by nasen, has appointed Regional SEND Leaders to support schools to maximise the effectiveness of the resources they have. Once schools know what their notional budget is, they can look at how well they are spending it for learners on SEN Support and how they might collaborate with the Local Authority or other schools.
3) High Needs Funding
The money required to meet the needs of learners with the most complex needs is increasing and this is due to a greater proportion of children with statements/EHC plans attending special schools over time and the fact that the needs of individuals are more complex now than ever before. Data shows how this proportion has increase from 37.9% in 2007 to 45.6% in 2018. nasen is a champion, friend and protector for both mainstream schools and special schools and in order to support both sectors a decision needs to be made about what proportion we want as a society. This will allow special schools to plan for places and mainstream schools to ensure staff are appropriately prepared to meet the complexity of needs in their settings. It will also support the government in determining the level of funding that is required to ensure that all schools can meet the needs of all learners, with support from health and social care, which is part of the vision of the SEND Code of Practice 2015. The Whole School SEND consortium is working to share expertise between special and mainstream settings in order to improve the continuum of provision and make our education system more inclusive.
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