The SEND Practitioner
Issue 18
Jan/Feb 2017

Issue 18: The SEND Practitioner

The SEND Practitioner

Issue 18
The SEND reforms, the new curriculum and the Rochford Review

January/February 2017
With Edward Timpson MP, Dr Adam Boddison and Brian Lamb OBE

In this issue

  • A Q&A with Edward Timpson MP (DfE): We ask the minister of state for vulnerable children and families your questions about the SEND reforms and more. We discuss the Code of Practice, early identification, nominal budgets, the new national curriculum, the Rochford Review, SEND and teacher training courses, and 2017 and beyond. Read more…
  • A Q&A with Dr Adam Boddison (nasen): In January 2016, Adam was appointed nasen’s CEO. Since then, he has embarked on a vigorous expansion of the country’s leading SEND membership organisation for education professionals. With this in mind, we ask Adam many of the same questions as Edward Timpson (above). Read more…
  • The SEND reforms: Where are we now? By Brian Lamb OBE: In 2009, Brian wrote the widely respected Lamb Inquiry: Special educational needs and parental confidence. In this piece, Brian casts his expert eye over the state of the nation’s SEND reforms. His progress analysis of education, health and care plans (EHCPs), outcomes, the local offer and strategic engagement is food for thought. Read more…

Plus

  • What do our CPT3A graduates think of our course?                                   
    A research summary. Read more…

  • What do our CPT3A graduates say about our course?                                  Two Q&As. Read more…

Editorial

Even from a neutral perspective, 2016 was one of the most extraordinary years in living memory. As we begin 2017, the political status quo is in such a state of flux globally and domestically, that many ‘givens’ and established norms have been swept away by a tide of populism. In the wake of such a year, when the only certainty is the undertow of uncertainty, it is tempting to look at our education and health systems as safety-nets of stability. But even here, in the great public institutions that sustain and nurture our humanity, there is uncertainty.

Navigating this turbulence would be tricky enough at the best of times. But, combine this post-Brexit world with the pre-Brexit education reforms and one realises that the sheer external and internal forces at sea are daunting. And yet, despite this, SEND practitioners and the education system have shown remarkable resilience in a stormy time that is as far from the doldrums as Cape Horn is from the English Channel.

So, with all of this playing out – and at the beginning of a new year – it’s important to seek guidance from those in the know: those who make the decisions in government; those who support our practitioners; and those who are experts in the art of policy. With this squarely in view, I drew together a dream-team wish-list of experts for my readers to pose their questions to: three of them duly obliged and I commend their invaluable insights to you.

You sent in a flood of questions, I pared them and posed them to the country’s most influential SEND figure (the minister of state for vulnerable children and families, Edward Timpson) and the chief executive of one of the most high-profile charities for SEND practitioners (the CEO of nasen, Dr Adam Boddison). Their responses to many similar questions set out their views on such things as the Code of Practice, early identification, nominal budgets, the new national curriculum, the Rochford Review, teacher training and other SEND questions. Most importantly, their answers reveal similarities and differences that not only reflect their positions, but also shed light on the SEND landscape and education more generally.

To complement the Q&As, I thought that it would also be useful to commission a thought-leadership piece on the SEND reforms from one of the country’s most respected SEND policy experts and academics. I was thrilled when Brian Lamb accepted my proposal and his progress analysis of education, health and care plans (EHCPs), outcomes, the local offer and strategic engagement is elucidating.

Finally, as you may well have noticed, the initial email that links to this issue has been redesigned, so that it is cleaner, easier to navigate, and links to the pieces on our website. This means that we’re not clogging up your inbox with 1,000s of words, but giving you a summary of each piece, which you can click-through-to on our website should you wish. This allows us to provide you with even more useful content. To this end, you’ll not only find a summary of a research survey that we carried out with hundreds of our successful CPT3A delegates; but you can also read a separate Q&A with two of our most recent CPT3A graduates.

Thank you so much for subscribing to The SEND Practitioner. I hope that you find it useful and that you have a fine start to 2017.

Best wishes,

Edward Farrow
Editor

edward@realgroup.co.uk

PS: if you do not currently subscribe to this publication, but would like to receive it in your inbox, please do sign up. Also, if you want to receive the latest updates on SEN and The SEND Practitionerfollow us on Twitter.

Table of contents

A Q&A with Edward Timpson MP

A Q&A with Dr Adam Boddison

The SEND reforms: Where are we now? By Brian Lamb OBE

What do our CPT3A graduates think of our course? A research summary

What do our CPT3A graduates say about our course?

A short Q&A with Allyson Pulleyn

A short Q&A with Adele Tesler

A Q&A with Edward Timpson MP

1. Editor’s question: [At the time of asking] [i]t’s just 26 months since the SEND reforms came into force, five months since the Brexit referendum result and one month since the publication of the Rochford Review. In the wake of this ever-shifting landscape for practitioners and students with SEND. What has been achieved? What has still to be achieved? What are the barriers to that achievement?

“These reforms were the most significant we made to the support system in a generation and I don’t underestimate for a moment the amount of hard work that’s gone in to making them work. And we know that they are making a difference – more than 74,000 young people with SEND now have education, health and care plans (EHCPs), and we are receiving positive feedback from families who have benefitted. We’re seeing some great work from schools and councils which is being shared around the country to help the areas where improvements still need to be made and crucially we’re seeing improved working relationships between councils and parents, and between health organisations and parents. But this needs to be the norm, not the exception – so there are still challenges to overcome to embed the necessary cultural changes.”

2. A reader’s question: The Code of Practice states: “All schools should have a clear approach to identifying and responding to SEND. The benefits of early identification are widely recognised.” Are you happy with how this statutory guidance has been implemented in schools?

“There is some really creative, innovative work going on within schools and councils and this is starting to be shared around the country. The duties on schools are being phased in over three and a half years, up to April 2018 and we are seeing encouraging feedback from parents and young people. A small-scale survey in 2014 of families with EHCPs found that the majority said they are getting the help and support they needed, and that their experience of education improved as a result. We are now carrying out a large survey of families, which will report next year.

“A number of sector specialists, including charity groups like the National Autistic Society, are working with school and college staff to help them understand how to identify and respond to the needs of young people with SEND. Initial teacher training (ITT) now also includes a requirement to understand the additional needs of pupils with SEND, and over 80% of teachers (primary and secondary) who responded to the latest newly qualified teachers survey reported that their induction had helped them to teach these pupils.”

3. A reader’s question: Recent data suggests that there has been a reduction in children identified as having SEND. How does this data fit with early identification? Does the department now believe that the level of identification is about right?

“This reduction is due to a fall in the proportion of pupils on SEN support. In the past, when the proportion was at its highest, Ofsted inspectors reported a trend of ‘over-identification’ by schools, so we clarified in the SEND Code of Practice what action we expect schools to take to make sure provision is in place for young people with SEND. We expect schools and colleges to frequently revisit a pupil’s needs to ensure the measures in place remain appropriate, and they should use their professional judgement to decide how best to do this. Ultimately it’s about ensuring we are identifying the right children for the right reasons.”

4. A reader’s question: As a primary school SENCO, I want to ask why the SEND nominal budget is not ring-fenced for SEND? This is urgently needed. This way, we will know that the funds will go where the SENCO wants, rather than being used to prop up normal staffing budgets?

“We expect schools to decide how to spend their budget, taking into account the needs of all their pupils, including those with SEND. It is much better that such decisions are made at schools by the people who know the needs of their pupils best. The head teacher and senior leadership team in the school should recommend to the governors a budget that ensures those with SEN and disabilities have suitable provision, taking into account the views of the school SENCO.

“The notional SEND budget is intended as a rough guide. Each council can add funding from its high-needs budget to top this up in order to meet its responsibilities for children with SEND, particularly in cases where a school has a disproportionately high number of these pupils.”

5. A reader’s question: The new spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) GCSE marking criteria will have a detrimental effect on students with SEND (particularly in English) using a scribe as their normal way of working, now that the weight of those marks equates to 20%.

  • Is this fair, or does it simply discriminate against those who are already at a disadvantage?
  • Do you foresee grades dropping significantly? 
  • As pupils with SEND are subjected to both English exams and the goal posts on the scoring of SPaG, have been increased, is this not setting them up to fail?

“Exam boards, which are regulated by Ofqual, have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to support students with SEND during their exams, as set out by the Equality Act 2010, and to mitigate against any substantial disadvantage they may face.

“Most GCSE exams do not require spelling, punctuation and grammar to be assessed explicitly. Those that do only allocate 5% of the marks to those skills. The only exception to this is the English language GCSE which sets out that 20% of marks will be rewarded for candidates’ use of a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation – so not simply for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Even for students using a computer to write their exam answers, marks can still be awarded for sentence construction and vocabulary.

“Schools should check with the relevant exam board at the earliest opportunity the arrangements in place for a student. For example, for students using a scribe in the English language exam, it may not always be necessary to dictate the spelling for every answer, and rather just those questions to which marks for spelling have been allocated.”

Key related resources

6. A reader’s question: The Equality Act 2010 legally protects young people in the workplace and in wider society. Can you explain, therefore, how the new national curriculum, which forces schools to focus on the EBacc and Progress 8 measures, is fair for pupils with SEND, given that there are no tiered exams, few vocational qualifications and a relentless focus on outcomes, which are unachievable for many pupils with SEND?

“The curriculum sets out explicitly that lessons should be planned to ensure that there are no barriers to every child achieving and directs teachers to the SEND Code of Practice. Every child, whatever their abilities, is entitled to a broad and balanced curriculum. For some students, studying the full national curriculum may not be the most appropriate option for them, and there is guidance available for schools on how to maximise students’ learning and achievement outside of the curriculum.

“All schools should offer options outside of the core academic subjects. The government’s consultation on the EBacc has proposed that schools should decide whether this approach is appropriate for pupils on a case by case basis. Within Progress 8, pupils can choose up to three GCSEs or other high-quality qualifications outside of the core subjects. The measure rewards better teaching of all pupils, no matter their starting point, and focuses on progress, which improves on the existing 5 A*–C English and maths headline measure by ensuring schools are held to account for their work with all pupils.”

7. Editor’s question: The Rochford Review is a significant and timely review of “statutory assessment arrangements for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests”. Its purpose is to advise the minister of state for schools on solutions for assessing the abilities of pupils who don’t meet the standards required. As it’s advisory, how much of its advice do you expect the government to take on board?

See below.

8. A reader’s question: Re the Rochford Review: key outcomes identified for children and young people with complex SEND frequently focus on the development of independence, as well as the ability and skills to form and sustain social relationships. Will the review’s suggested focus on assessment of cognition and learning development give sufficient emphasis to the assessment and tracking of progress in these key areas?

“The Rochford Review’s recommendations provide an opportunity to help schools to recognise the progress and achievements of every child. Of course, it is important that the wider schools sector and other interested parties, including parents, should have the opportunity to comment on these proposals – that’s why we will be consulting on all of the review’s final recommendations before making decisions about future policy, so I don’t want to pre-empt those decisions.

“Our intention is that this will form part of a wider consultation on primary assessment in the new year, which will ensure that future policy is aligned and will enable children who are working below the standard of the national curriculum tests to progress to mainstream assessment if and when they are ready.”

9. A reader’s question: Why is SEND not a significant part of teacher training courses? It is not something to learn on the job and is something that trainee teachers should at least know the basics of. If we care, then shouldn’t we prepare the teachers before they reach the classrooms?

“All initial teacher training (ITT) courses must ensure that trainee teachers can meet the Teachers’ Standards in full. These include a requirement for trainees to have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with SEND. Teachers must also be able to adapt teaching to the needs of all pupils, and have an understanding of the factors that can inhibit learning and how to overcome them. No trainee should be recommended for qualified teacher status (QTS) until they have demonstrated the standards.

“To improve the quality of ITT, the Department for Education published a new framework of core content in July which was developed by an independent group, of which a significant part includes an understanding of SEND. It will help equip all trainee teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to meet the Teachers’ Standards at the appropriate level, and supports ITT providers to have a better understanding of good quality training content.”

10. Editor’s question: As a closing question, what is your overarching message to SEND practitioners, as they anticipate 2017 and beyond?

“I’m under no illusions about the amount of hard work that goes into teaching and supporting young people with SEND, and I’m very much alive to the challenges practitioners have faced as a result of the changes we made in 2014. Although there are encouraging signs of progress, I know that there are still regular frustrations in some areas – that’s why it’s so key that we continue to share great practice, and great results, around the country. At the end of a busy year it’s always important to take stock of just how much has been achieved in the last 12 months – or, in this case, the last 24 months. Thank you for embracing the challenges with such gusto and dedication and please continue working with me to keep pushing for better outcomes for all children and young people with SEND.”

About Edward Timpson MP

Edward Timpson was appointed minister of state for vulnerable children and Families at the Department for Education in July 2016. He was elected Conservative MP for Crewe and Nantwich in 2008. He studied political sciences at Durham University, took a law conversion at the College of Law, London and sat his bar exams at the Inns of Court School of Law.

Edward sat on the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. He was also Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Adoption and Fostering, Looked-after Children and Care Leavers, as well as Vice Chairman for the Run-away and Missing Children Group. Between 2010 and 2012 he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Secretary.

As the minister of state for vulnerable children and families, Edward’s responsibilities include:

  • Children’s social care (including child protection, children in care and adoption, care leavers, local authority innovation and intervention, and the Children and Social Work Bill).
  • Special educational needs (including education, health and care plans and reforms, attainment and progress, high needs funding).
  • Rounded and resilient young people (including mental health and character).
  • School sport and personal, social and health education (PSHE).
  • Links with the National Citizen Service.
  • Behaviour and attendance, exclusions and alternative provision.
  • Pupil premium (and pupil premium plus).

A Q&A with Dr Adam Boddison

1. Editor’s question: In January of this year, you replaced Jane Friswell as the CEO of nasen. In 2014, I interviewed Jane just one month after the SEND reforms came into force. During the interview, echoing a previous Q&A with Steve Huggett, I suggested that “the proof of the [SEND reform] pudding would be in the eating”. With the SEND reforms, Brexit and the Rochford Review providing such a rich variety of ingredients, and in the spirit of The Great British Bake Off, how’s the pudding?

“There is still general agreement that the policy direction of the SEND reforms is right, particularly the enhanced role of children and young people and their parents. However, it should be acknowledged that the wider policy landscape within education, such as assessment and school funding, has not always complemented the spirit of the SEND reforms. The result is that the implementation of the reforms is at different stages in different parts of the country, so two children with similar needs may well receive different levels of support if they are in different geographical areas.

“nasen is working with a range of organisations to support the government in identifying and spreading best practice to ensure a national, high-quality and consistent SEND offer. In practice, nasen does this through direct involvement with the Department for Education and through its membership of a range of groups, including the National SEND Forum, the Special Education Consortium, the Whole School SEND Consortium and Special Schools Voice.”

2. A reader’s question: The Code of Practice states: “All schools should have a clear approach to identifying and responding to SEND. The benefits of early identification are widely recognised”. Are you happy with how this statutory guidance has been implemented in schools?

“There is some excellent practice in schools and settings in relation to the identification of needs, but some still have further work to do. Given the range of pressures and burdens that are on schools and settings, it is perhaps no surprise that some schools are yet to have fully developed a clear approach to identifying and responding to SEND. Wherever schools are on this journey, the focus must remain on person-centred provision to meet individual needs and ensure that parents, children and young people are truly involved. nasen will continue to support education professionals to develop their confidence in identifying needs and responding effectively to SEND.”

3. A reader’s question: Recent data suggests that there has been a reduction in children identified as having SEND. How does this data fit with early identification? Do you believe that the level of identification is about right?

“The proportion of children with a statement or an education, health and care plan (EHCP) has remained constant at around 2.8% of the school population. The reduction described in the question relates to fewer children being identified in the SEN support category when compared to those who had previously been identified as School Action or School Action Plus. It is hard to unpick cause and effect here, with some claiming that financial pressures on schools are encouraging them to identify fewer children within SEN support and others claiming that high-quality teaching is better meeting the needs of children in the classroom.

“In practice, there are likely to be many factors influencing the number of children identified within SEN support and more analysis is needed in this area. With DfE funding, nasen has developed free online training (Focus on SEND training*) to support the development of high-quality inclusive teaching in every classroom in the country.”

*Editor’s note: Real Training provided expert consultancy and editorial services to support nasen with the development of this online training.

4. A reader’s question: I am a primary school SENCO and would like to ask if you feel that the SEND nominal budget should be ring-fenced for SEND? This way, we will know that the funds will go where the SENCO wants, rather than being used to prop up normal staffing budgets.

“nasen has long argued that SENCOs should be part of the leadership team in a school so that they are involved in strategic decision making and ensuring that SEND provision is built-in rather than being a bolt-on. This would give them a voice in the setting of the school budget and, in particular, the allocation towards the notional SEN budget. It is worth noting that, for local authority schools, budgets are published in the public domain with the notional SEN budget included in section 52. For academies and free schools, there is no such requirement, but the notional SEN budget is detailed in the general annual grant (GAG), which can be accessed through the relevant person in the school (e.g. the bursar, finance director, etc.).

“In relation to ring-fencing the notional SEN budget, we need to be careful that we do not overly constrain spending, but transparent reporting to parents and governors in a similar format to that used for the pupil premium could be helpful. There are many examples of schools who use the notional SEN budget effectively and this practice needs to be identified and shared.”

5. A reader’s question: The new spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) GCSE marking criteria will have a detrimental effect on those students with SEND (particularly in English) who use a scribe as their normal way of working, certainly given the fact that the weight of those marks now equates to 20%.

  • Is this fair, or does it simply discriminate against those who are already at a disadvantage?
  • Do you foresee grades dropping significantly?
  • As pupils with SEND are subjected to both English exams, and the goal posts on the scoring of SPaG have been increased, is this not setting them up to fail?

“Designing and implementing inclusive assessment systems is a challenging area for policy makers and the SPaG concerns described in this question are part of a much broader set of issues. For example, the use of voice output communication aids (VOCAs) in speaking exams has been problematic for some time, with different examination boards applying different inclusion criteria.

“There are some clear tensions between SEND policy and assessment policy in general and they are not easily resolved. At the heart of the debate is a philosophical question about what education is really for, as this drives both the inclusion and assessment agenda. For example, should the outcomes of our education system be purely academic (i.e. judged on the grades that children and young people achieve) or are they broader? If it is the latter, do we need to measure this and if so how?”

Useful links to nasen
  • Focus on SEND training: for educational practitioners working across early years, primary, secondary and post-16. This is available now.
  • nasen Live: a hugely popular SEND conference, best aimed at anyone working or supporting children and young people with SEND.
  • SEND Gateway: an online portal offering education professionals free, easy access to high-quality information, resources and training for meeting the needs of children with SEND.

6. A reader’s question: The Equality Act 2010 legally protects young people in the workplace and in wider society. What are your thoughts on the fact that the new national curriculum forces schools to focus on the EBacc and Progress 8 measures? Do you feel that it is fair for pupils with SEND, given that there are no tiered exams, few vocational qualifications, and a relentless focus on outcomes which are unachievable for many pupils with SEND?

“In theory, Progress 8 is good for children and young people with SEND, because it focuses on the amount of progress they make from their starting points, rather than unachievable attainment targets. Head teachers are also able to disapply pupils from some elements of the curriculum so that they do not have to do all eight subjects. However, the reality is somewhat different to the theory. Children and young people with SEND may not actually be included in the Progress 8 data if they do not have any statutory data from the end of primary school. For those who are included and do fewer than eight subjects, the overall score is still divided by eight to get an average progress score and, in any case, nasen hears that some head teachers are concerned about how Ofsted will view disapplication.”

7. Editor’s question: The Rochford Review is a significant and timely review of “statutory assessment arrangements for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests”. Its purpose is to advise the minister of state for schools on solutions for assessing the abilities of pupils who don’t meet the standards required. What are your thoughts on its proposals and what key elements should the government take on board?

“I agree with the Rochford Review point that assessment is about formative as well as statutory assessment and it should be noted that the recommendations in the review are really about how statutory assessment could work moving forwards. The review also reinforces the point that schools should be collaborating with each other to share and deliver best practice, which is a position that nasen fully endorses.

“The main area of discussion with the review is that it essentially recommends a different approach to assessment for the most complex learners (i.e. the engagement scales), but supporters of inclusion might argue that an inclusive system should work for all learners. In any case, the government will be going through a public consultation about primary assessment in 2017, which will include the recommendations of the Rochford Review.”

8. A reader’s question: Re the Rochford Review: key outcomes identified for children and young people with complex SEND, frequently focus on the development of independence, as well as the ability and skills to form and sustain social relationships. Will the review’s suggested focus on assessment of cognition and learning development give sufficient emphasis to the assessment and tracking of progress in these key areas?

“The review’s focus on cognition and learning as one of the four areas of need identified in the SEND Code of Practice does prompt the question as to why the other three areas of need are not included. The four areas of need were originally intended to provide a structure to the identification and meeting of needs rather than as potential areas of summative assessment. I would argue that meaningful assessment focuses on the widest range of measures and truly captures the breadth and depth of progress and attainment.”

9. A reader’s question: Why is SEND not a significant part of teacher training courses? It is not something to learn on the job and is something that trainee teachers should at least know the basics of. If we care, then shouldn’t we prepare the teachers before they reach the classrooms?

“I think it is unfair to say that SEND is not a significant part of teacher training courses. The reality is an inconsistent picture with some providers preparing their trainees very well and others doing the bare minimum. Initial teacher training providers have a range of pressures on them and fitting the volume of content and practice required into their courses is challenging. However, there is a willingness within the sector to provide a greater focus on SEND. The core content framework has been amended to make SEND more prominent and the trainees are assessed against the Teachers’ Standards, which also include high-quality teaching and learning for all pupils.

“Personally, I would advocate a PGCE+ model (similar to the pass plus driving course), which is government-funded. This would allow new and recently qualified teachers to secure additional Masters-level credits at their local university in return for doing their [postgraduate qualification] in one of the government’s identified priority areas, e.g. SEND. A number of providers already offer similar courses, but typically the individual or the school has to pay and it is linked to locally available expertise rather than nationally identified priorities.”

10. Editor’s question: As a closing question, what is your overarching message to SEND practitioners and how will nasen help them navigate the prospective challenges in 2017 and beyond?

“For those education professionals who are regularly working with children and young people with SEND, I would like to thank them and to remind them that they really are making a difference. I would ask them to take the time to celebrate the positive outcomes of both their pupils and their colleagues and to ensure that wherever possible they contribute to the wider nasen community. The spirit of the reforms is right and nasen will continue to work in partnership with education professionals to support them in improving the life chances of all learners.”

About Dr Adam Boddison

Dr Adam Boddison is the chief executive for nasen, the leading SEND membership organisation for education professionals. He has overall responsibility for strategic direction and operational delivery across the full breadth of nasen’s activity, which includes professional development, e-learning, online resources and the publication of three peer-reviewed academic journals alongside nasen’s membership magazine, nasen Connect.

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 as area coordinator for the Further Mathematics Support Programme. In addition to a range of teaching and leadership posts in both primary and secondary schools, Adam has a portfolio of educational consultancy, research and international education projects.

The SEND reforms: Where are we now?
By Brian Lamb OBE

With the reforms of the special educational needs (SEN) framework now well into their third year, we are beginning to see enough evidence to start to have some idea of how well they are beginning to bed down.

Education, health and care plans (EHCPs)

The recasting of statements into EHCPs has taken up much of the focus of local authorities (LAs). Early research seems to show that the objectives of greater parental confidence and more appropriate services are being met for the majority of parents. Research from Derby University for the DfE shows the following:

  • 77% thought that their wishes had been included in the plan.
  • 67% agreed that their EHCP led to the child or young person getting the help and support they needed.
  • 62% agreed that their plan improved the child or young person’s experience of education.

However, a rise in the number of appeals registered with the SEN tribunal, of 29% compared to the same period 12 months earlier, suggests that there is no room for complacency. Further, LAs are still struggling to complete the new plans within the timescales, with only 59.2% of new plans produced within the 20-week deadline. As LAs become more familiar with the new process and as they also address failings in the old system, the quality of the plans should improve further as should their ability to meet the timescales.

A greater proportion of children with EHCPs and statements (43%) is now educated within maintained special schools and the proportion of children in independent schools has increased from under 4% in 2009 to 6% in 2016. This suggests that parents may continue to have a lack of confidence about mainstream settings being able to provide specialist support and [they may also feel that the] aspirations for their children are not high enough.

Local offer and strategic engagement

Looking at the strategic engagement of parents and young people, the headline figures are positive. A DfE survey of local authorities found that 84% of parents were fully or largely engaged in the strategic planning and co-production of SEND services and that 83% of parents were fully or largely engaged in making decisions about their own SEND provision. The DfE survey of parent carer forums found lower satisfaction: 64% felt that parents were fully or largely engaged in strategic planning, while 51% felt that parents were fully or largely engaged in decisions about their children – the latter an improvement on the previous survey. In addition to this, 86 forums (n107) reported that they had been involved in the further development of the offer in their local area, while 84 forums said that their local offer contained a feedback page.

However, joint planning has yet to translate into better services in some areas, if surveys undertaken by specific impairment groups are taken into account. For example, the National Autistic Society’s survey of over 1,000 parents found that 74% of parents have not found it easy to get the educational support that their child needs and only 50% of parents said that they were satisfied with their children’s SEND provision.

Outcomes

It is probably too early to assess how well the reforms are improving attainment and outcomes. In its annual report, Ofsted noted that the progress of children with SEND lags behind their peers and that: “The proportion of pupils in receipt of SEN support who make the expected level of progress varies between 37% and 74% across local authority areas.” At a minimum, we would hope that reforms would start to deliver consistently better progress across the system and a greater focus on improving attainment.

We need to build on the good start made to the introduction of EHCPs and the strategic engagement of parents. However, there is also a major challenge in ensuring the cultural change sought in all of our schools. The new Ofsted school inspection framework, with its emphasis on progression for all children, links well with the expectations of the reforms. But there needs to be a much greater focus, in the next stage of implementation, on ensuring school-based provision and support for children identified as having SEN.

Brian Lamb OBE
Visiting Professor of SEND Derby University
Chair Achievement for All.

About Brian Lamb OBE

Brian is a renowned expert in the development of SEND legislation, policy and practice. As the author of the influential government-commissioned Lamb Inquiry: Special educational needs and parental confidence, he works alongside charities, schools, local authorities and parents’ groups and has published widely and lectured on SEND issues. Brian is also a visiting professor of SEND at Derby University.

What do our CPT3A graduates think of our course?
A research summary

Edward Timpson, Adam Boddison and Brian Lamb’s pieces remind us that, two years on, questions around the SEND reforms are as ubiquitous now as they were when I first interviewed Brian Lamb for the inaugural issue of The SEND Practitioner. Since then, there has of course been progress, but the strength and the wit of your questions suggest that this room is still dominated by the gargantuan bulk and shadow of the SEND reforms.

While the SEND reforms continue to take shape, other important developments have been somewhat cast in the shade. The relatively recent changes to the Joint Council for Qualifications’ (JCQ) regulations, mean that all access arrangements assessors (previously known as specialist assessors) must have an appropriate level 7 or equivalent qualification by 31 August 2017. Amongst all this uncertainty, it is perhaps unsurprising that some SEND professionals remain unaware of this important necessity.

So, as we hurtle across this landscape of reform and the incontrovertible JCQ deadline, we thought that it would be a good time to ask our Certificate in Psychometric Testing and Access Arrangements’ (CPT3A) graduates what they really think of our course. Because, as a level-7-equivalent postgraduate course in individual access arrangements assessment, CPT3A fully meets the JCQ access arrangements assessor requirement now, in 2017 and beyond.

We asked hundreds of our CPT3A graduates six simple questions and received a rather positive response.

How do you rate our online learning?

98% of our delegates rated our online CPT3A of a high/very high quality.

Are you likely to recommend us to a friend or colleague?

The average mark was 8.86 out of ten. Rounded up, this means that, on average, our delegates were extremely likely to recommend the course to their colleagues.

Why did you choose to take CPT3A online?

  1. Speed of access.
  2. Not having to spend time away from a learning centre.
  3. Geographical differences.

This survey focused on our online delegates, so we’re heartened that the top three responses are all key elements of our online learning. Immediate access at the click of a mouse – any time, any place, anywhere – define our courses and we’re glad that they clearly appeal to our delegates too.

What are your favourite aspects of working with us?

  1. Tutor support.
  2. Campus Online platform.
  3. Real Training customer service.
  4. Technical support.

It’s pleasing to hear that our delegates placed tutor support top of the list, because good pastoral support is key to effective online learning and at the heart of our training. When we first started out, many learners told us that their previous experience of online learning left them cold and unsupported. We were determined, therefore, to develop online learning that places tutor guidance and support at the centre of each delegate’s experience. There is always more work to do, but this indicates that we are on the right track.

Campus Online, our very own Word Press virtual learning environment, supports our students and ensures that they can access strands, learning experiences, activities, libraries, course materials and their course tutors at the drop of a hat. They can also communicate with their tutor and fellow delegates via subject-related forums. While our customer service and technical support are critical to the delegate experience, we’re pleased that tutor support and Campus Online are in the top two. This is because such a rating suggests that the user experience and tutor support is effective and reduces each delegate’s need to contact our customer service and technical support teams.

What are your career development aims?

  1. Enhance career (20%).
  2. Develop as a SENCO (18%).
  3. Become an access arrangements assessor (16%).
  4. Gain a postgraduate [level 7] qualification (16%).
  5. Join my senior leadership team (11%).
  6. Unsure (7%).
  7. Consultancy (6%).
  8. Retirement (3%).
  9. Improve structure/standing of school (2%).

We received a variety of open responses, with quite a bit of crossover, so shoehorning them into percentages and categories that can be understood at a glance took a bit of judgement. Despite this, the responses paint a general picture of where our delegates are aiming and are illustrative.

The most striking combined statistic that comes out of this research study is this: 72% of our respondents took CPT3A as part of an effective career development plan focused on enhancing their careers, developing as SENCOs, becoming access arrangements assessors, gaining postgraduate level 7 qualifications, and becoming senior leaders. Outside of this clear majority, 8% of respondents were either looking to go into consultancy or improve the standing of their school, while 7% were unsure and only 3% couldn’t answer the question because they were expecting to retire.

So, what do these figures tell us? They tell us that CPT3A is a vital professional qualification that the majority of delegates took to enhance their career prospects, complement their goals and prepare them for the future. With this mind, and at such a challenging time, it’s music to our ears to hear that our course plays such a strong part in helping our delegates achieve their goals and improve the lives of vulnerable children.

Is there anything else that we could do differently or better?

We received a good range of open-ended responses on all aspects of the course. While many of them were positive, some responses highlight areas that we will develop and improve over the coming months.

On a positive note, though, here’s a snapshot of the lovely comments that our delegates made.

What our delegates think

“In all honesty, I don’t think you could improve. My experience in the conference and online have been superb. The resources that were given to me at the beginning of the course were very good quality, and I still dip in and out of them now [and again].”

“I was very happy with the service and support during my training.”

“My experience with Real Training was one of the most positive that I have had – training-wise.”

“It’s a very comprehensive training package. We have put several staff through it.”

“I found the whole experience in studying with Real Training excellent and the tutor feedback was really useful. Online courses sometimes fall down on the content of the feedback, but this was not the case with your tutors [as] their knowledge of the subject is obviously top class. Thank you.”

“Any time I have needed support it has been timely and effective solutions [have always] been found.”

“Everyone who I had contact with, face-to-face, on the phone or online was incredibly supportive. The information was clear and helpful.”

“First time doing an online course, so found it a very satisfactory vehicle for learning.”

“I have been studying with Real Training for many years, having recently taken the NASCO course. I feel that the quality of teaching, support and online resources to be of a very high standard. Thank you, Real Training!”

“Keep doing what you do. I thoroughly recommend Real Training courses. They are extremely high quality; the best I have studied on.”

“I have been studying with Real Training for many years, having recently taken the NASCO course. I feel that the quality of teaching, support and online resources to be of a very high standard. Thank you, Real Training!”

“My experience (CCET and Access arrangements) and the experience of a member of my team (ATU) were both excellent. I think the SEND newsletter is of excellent quality too and always read it.”

What do our CPT3A graduates say about our course?
Two Q&As

A short Q&A with Allyson Pulleyn

What do you do?

“I teach some groups in curriculum support. I also do some learning mentor work, but my main role is as the school’s specialist assessor.”

Why did you decide to study CPT3A?

“I’ve always been interested in testing. My background as a mental health nurse is something that we did use as part of our screening and profiling of patients and clients. So, when I moved over to work in a school setting, it wasn’t totally alien to me and I’m quite good at it really. I establish a rapport with students, I also do the initial interview before the assessment, so I can build up a very good picture of need by doing the interview and the testing, which helps us how to decide what access arrangements we need to use for those students who require them. In each instance, I try my best to ensure that all of my documentation is very comprehensive, so that there is no doubt that this student needs what they should have.”

What was your favourite part of the course?

“I really enjoyed the residential part of the course. Meeting people from different educational backgrounds and the face-to-face interaction with the tutors was really good… I got a good feel for what was needed and could ask questions. Any queries that I had, I was able to put to my tutors who I came into contact with on the AAC and the CCET.”

What impact has it had on your professional life?

“It’s had a massive impact really. My salary’s increased, first and foremost. I’m the only person in the school who can do the testing. So, I’ve become the person who staff come to when they have general day-to-day classroom queries about students who aren’t doing very well. At first, the query has to come through the head of learning support – as I’m not the person who the referrals initially come to as I just receive the referrals. But I love my new role. It’s positive and I really enjoy it.

“If I had to pare my job right back to just what I want to do, then the testing would be just it. Because I love how I can put the students at ease, which helps them to cope with the elements of pressure on them to obtain the result that they want. Obviously, we need them to be at ease first and foremost, but I really enjoy the testing.”

What can someone who has taken this course offer?

“It’ll enhance your expertise, really. It’s quite a specialist role, so it’s really good for the school, as they won’t need to get someone in, they’ll have someone who knows the student, and it’s a truly holistic approach to testing. Obviously, we’re painting a picture and testing’s only one part of it. But it’s a really key part and I also get to know the students; which is good.”

Why would you advise someone to take the course?

“I think that it enhances your profile within the workplace. It keeps you in touch with current methods of assessment and it’s really important CPD. We all need to be current in our practice. But, ultimately, if you’ve got this, it puts you in a very strong position in the workplace because, usually, you’re the only person in a school/setting who can carry out this work. Of course, schools can pay for an EP to come in (which we used to do before I did the training), but, ultimately, it will save schools money.”

A short Q&A with Adele Tesler

1. What do you do?

“I’m actually an assistant manager for an independent advisory SEN organisation/charity. I’ve been working here for nine years.”

2. Why did you decide to study CPT3A?

“My clients are mostly from independent schools in the local area and I felt that there was the great need to move things through quickly and it’s good to carry out legitimate testing as a registered practitioner. Because, in certain settings, the quality that I was seeing wasn’t quite what I was expecting to see, and it also wasn’t what I wanted to link myself with.

“A lot of the work that I was seeing concerned applications for education, health and care plans (EHCPs) and the testing and the children who really did need to take EHCPs weren’t getting them. So, I felt that there was a lack of quality in assessment and some unnecessary assessment as well.”

3. What would you say was your favourite part of the course?

“Definitely learning ‘the who’ and ‘the why’ of writing a successful assessment report.”

4. What impact has it had on your professional life?

“It has definitely raised my professional standards: the background of the psychometric testing, the validity and reliability and the techie bits if you know what I mean. They have definitely given me the sound background knowledge, so that I know what to look for when choosing an assessment. I’m aware of why different parts of assessment are carried out (the necessity) and actually how to carry them out professionally and reliably.”

5. What can someone who has taken this course offer?

“In one word: professionalism.”

6. Why would you advise someone to take the course?

“The content and the quality of the course is far better than many of the other ones on offer. Real Training offers professionalism and if also offers support. It’s not a case of passing or failing. They want you to pass, but they want you to pass with the knowledge and I felt that that came through the whole time. The course is centred around making sure that we have the underlying knowledge to know ‘the why’ and I felt that that was definitely a great thing from Real Training.”

If you have any questions, or there is anything that you would like us to feature in future issues, please do get in touch.

What do you think?

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