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‘Making the invisible visible’ at the Whole School SEND Summit – with George Fielding and Simon Knight

Edward Farrow

On Thursday 23 February, I was thrilled to pop along to the Whole School SEND Summit for a smorgasbord of speeches, panels and roundtable workshops on building a community in SEND provision. Edward Timpson MP (our most recent contributor to The SEND Practitioner) delivered the keynote and set the tone for an edifying day. Post-lunch and post-roundtable workshops, I returned to the lecture hall to see a panel of speakers discuss how to ‘make the invisible visible’. This energetic debate, chaired by Simon Knight, featured a panel of people from across the education sector. At the very heart of this discussion was the need to ‘look outside of the SEN community to learn from the experiences of others’.

During the debate, I was struck by George Fielding’s (chair of the WhizzKidz Kidz Board) impassioned introduction and Simon Knight’s (Director of Education at the National Education Trust) forensic response to a parent’s question on the Code of Practice. Why? Because neither George nor the parent hailed from the typical conference complement of senior school leaders and teaching professionals. And this fact is refreshing and pressing and important, because if we are to really make a difference to the lives of those with SEND, then engaging fully with parents and those with SEND in this way will help us to ensure that we are truly ‘school-led and user-informed’.

With this in mind, I have transcribed George’s and Simon’s excellent speeches. If you get a moment, they’re really worth a read.

George Fielding

‘It’s what you do with what you’ve got’

‘Hello, my name is George Fielding, I am the chair of the board of young trustees at Whizz-Kidz, which is the largest organisation representing wheelchair users across the UK and so it is my great, great pleasure to represent them today and hopefully give you some sort of a sense of where I’m coming from and what I think needs to be changed in order to make the education system better and more accommodating for those with SEND.

‘What’s the use of two strong legs if you only run away? What’s the use of the finest voice if you’ve got nothing good to say? What’s the use of two strong arms if all you do is push and shove? What’s the use of two good ears if you can’t hear those you love?

‘That was a verse in a song that I was listening to a week ago called: “It’s what you do with what you’ve got”. And as I was listening to it I was thinking about what I was going to say today. And what those four lines reflected to me was [that] actually either everybody has a disability or nobody does. That I don’t want to sound controversial, but we all thrive in different environments, we all have different talents, abilities, different backgrounds, different experiences, different values, different beliefs and a different culture.

‘Put me on a stage and ask me to sing and dance and I can’t do it. So, I am better than my non-disabled peers in some environments, but I am much worse compared to them in others. That is just human nature, we’re all human beings. And I think that, really, what we have to do (without trying to preach to the crowd) is champion difference. There is one word that I do not like that I hear all the time and it is curriculum.

‘I do not like the word curriculum because the three core subjects that you have: English, maths and science. To me, they all seem to champion some sort of formula, some of structure, some sort of way of doing things. And the message is that if you learn that structure and repeat that structure again and again and again, you’ll always come out with an acceptable answer. You may disagree about English, but what is punctuation for if not to be put in the right place. And I don’t wish to say that to be controversial, but I wish to say – in a sense – that I think that a lot of people, they sit in class, and they don’t think their school/their society fits. They don’t think that their society is accessible or accommodates them.

‘There are four Ls to the education of people with SEND for me. People with SEND can Love, they can Learn and they can Lead. They can Learn because they can move around, they can meet and they can be mobile and they can have their voice heard. By having their voice heard they can Lead and they can be fantastic representatives in society and they can Love too. We have passions, we have desires we are, as I have said, human beings. Play on those emotions, use them, tap into the great swathes of talent that [are] currently untapped in society and you will see a much more colourful, much more vibrant and sustainable society. Because it is through teachers…parents and everyone in this room learning those three Ls, that there’s a fourth – and that is that people with SEN will Learn.

‘The most important point to me is that an education doesn’t have to have happened in a classroom. My education has happened by meeting people, by speaking with people and by voicing my opinion and by campaigning. If we limit education to a classroom and we don’t actually think about what is educational and we don’t use our expertise to help young people with disabilities/SEN transition and be proud of who they are, then we won’t get anywhere.

‘I am a proud wheelchair user, I am a proud Brit and a proud man. There aren’t many people who would say that for fear that in my community they won’t be understood. So thank you for giving me a stage on which to speak on and give up that platform to others too and I will champion you and all that you do in the future. But accept that difference [and] diversity is what makes Britain, is what makes our country, is what makes society liveable. It’s what makes us thrive and sometimes conversations need to start and people need to speak up if we ever want to see change at all. Thank you very much.’

Simon Knight

Responding to a parent’s question about chapter six of the Code of Practice

A parent’s question

‘Do you think that enough is being done about implementing chapter six of the Code of Practice (SEN support in schools’ barriers to learning) – in terms of a shift from IEPs to the graduated approach?… The graduated approach itself is a different way of doing things and I just wonder whether enough support has gone in to schools to actually enable them to see the difference and the shift in thinking that’s required to make that work well.’

Simon’s answer

‘I think that that’s a really important question. I think that it’s one of those ones that probably needs to be dealt with in two different ways. There’s a policy and accountability piece that sits with that and there is a pedagogical and a pragmatic piece that sits with that.

‘So, the accountability structures are such that quite often teachers do not feel particularly compelled to put their hands up and say “I don’t do this very well, I would like to do it better”. And so the nature of performance-related pay, appraisals and Ofsted makes it difficult for people to be truly honest about [what] their professional capabilities are and some of the work that we’ve talked about a little bit here today is about trying to create structures where we can support that. Because the barrier to learning is not always a learning difficulty, sometimes it’s a teaching difficulty, and we need to understand how that relationship works – and we need to be much more honest about that.

‘The other challenge that we’ve got, which is kind of a structural challenge, is the fact that a graduated approach, even a targeted approach is a developmental approach – and yet [has] all of the accountability of the chronological approach. So we talk about having mastery of the curriculum, but we want chronologically determined accountability structures. Those two don’t work. You cannot have a developmentally prescribed curriculum based upon the individual needs of a person and expect them all to be at a certain level by the time that they’re 11. So there’s a real challenge there for school leaders, a real challenge to be able to implement, which I suspect that the vast majority would want to be able to do, which is to focus on meeting the needs of the child. Because, at the moment, what we’re doing is that we’re focusing on meeting the needs of the system. And that system doesn’t actually reflect the needs of the children that they have within it. So that’s part of it.

‘And the other side is the amount of support that teachers are given to actually develop those skills. And so I spend quite a lot of my time working with people who find it quite tough working with kids with SEN. And it basically comes down to confidence and competence, [which] is that nobody’s actually shown how to do it so they don’t think that they can. And actually there isn’t anything special really about what we do in the specialist sector, despite its name, I wish it was something remarkable. It’s just really really good teaching based on really really good evidence that comes from the child rather than some sort of overarching structure.

‘So from two directions: we need to challenge the accountability and policy piece and we need to support and encourage practitioners to be more honest about what they do well and what they need to do better. And where families come into that is that teachers need to be much more confident about using the knowledge that sits within the family unit. Being able to draw that into the classroom so that those barriers to learning are not just being challenged by professionals who perceive themselves as being the fount of all knowledge, but work collaboratively with families who actually have an awful lot [to share] to drive the progress of children much more rapidly when we work in partnership.’

Find out more about the Whole School SEND Summit 2017.

Our MA with MU: New modules in the pipeline as delegates learn to lead

Two new 30-credit modules are in the pipeline for our jointly developed Leading Inclusive Education MA with Middlesex University (MU). Learning Differences and Communities and Culture will launch in 2017, and will complement the 60-credit Leading Inclusive Practice module that delegates started in October 2016.

These two modules are aimed at teachers who are, or aspire to be, leaders of inclusive practice in educational settings. As such, they will be of interest to senior leaders, inclusion managers, heads of year and pastoral leads, and will build on the core learning that delegates encounter in Leading Inclusive Practice. Each module contains thematic strands, each strand contains learning experiences, and each learning experience is made up of a range of activities.

NB: While both modules are aimed at teachers who work in SEND, Learning Differences may not be appropriate for fully-qualified SENCOs – as they may encounter content that they have previously covered.

Learning Differences

This module will enable delegates to get to grips with a broad range of learning needs – including SEND, EAL, gifted and talented, and pupils with literacy difficulties. It will allow them to focus on needs that are useful to their practice and setting. Delegates will understand how contemporary thought, guidance, legislation and research in this area apply in their setting. They will evaluate, understand and apply their learning, and will think about how best to lead staff to make a difference to children and young people with learning differences.

In the first strand, delegates will understand learning differences and inclusion. The second strand will encourage them to review their provision for a particular area of learning difference. While the third and final strand will enable them to apply their learning to lead change in their setting.

Find out more about Learning Differences.

Communities and Culture

This module will allow delegates to develop their understanding of the impact of culture and community on pupils and their families, and the implications of these for education settings. They will encounter a range of cultures and communities that are relevant to them and will get to grips with vital issues around community, culture, identity and multiculturalism. They will learn about the community-based resources that can support their practice and will think about how best to lead staff and evolve a cohesive approach for a diverse pupil population.

In the first strand, delegates will examine community and culture. In the second strand, they will look at understanding practice. In the third strand, they will be able to apply their learning by developing an action plan for change in their setting.

Find out more about Communities and Culture.

A look at the two new MA in Leading Inclusive Education modules

 

Following the successful launch of the Leading Inclusive Education MA, Maddie Ralph explores the forthcoming Learning Differences and Communities and Culture modules.

Learning Differences

This module will enable delegates to get to grips with a broad range of learning needs – including SEND, EAL, gifted and talented, and pupils with literacy difficulties. It enables them to focus on needs that are useful to their practice and setting. Delegates will understand how contemporary thought, guidance, legislation and research in this area apply in their setting. They will evaluate, understand and apply their learning, and will think about how best to lead staff to make a difference to children and young people with learning differences.

Strand one of this module concentrates on understanding learning differences and inclusion. As well as refreshing their understanding of learning theories and typical cognitive development, delegates will explore different perceptions of learning differences and inclusion, and models of disability, and consider some controversial issues around difference. This will enable them to build a picture of various learning differences and the provision currently made for them in their setting. They will also be able to learn about the national picture, (re learning differences and inclusion) and reflect on responsibility, accountability and leadership.

Strand two will enable delegates to review provision for an area of learning difference, by first revisiting the waves of intervention model of support for children and young people with learning differences. They will go on to learn about the graduated approach to SEN support, how this is applied to other groups, and consider how well their setting implements this. Delegates will work with their colleagues to select an area of learning difference where practice could be improved. They will research it, make provision for it in their setting, share their findings and obtain feedback.

In the third and final strand, delegates will build on their learning by developing an action plan for change in their setting. They will reflect on their learning and progress as a leader of inclusive practice, and will look at the next professional development steps that they need to take.

Communities and Culture

This module will allow delegates to develop their understanding of the impact of culture and community on pupils and their families, and the implications of these for education settings. They will encounter a range of cultures and communities that are relevant to them and will get to grips with vital issues around community, culture, identity and multiculturalism. They will learn about the community-based resources that can support their practice, and will think about how best to lead staff and evolve a cohesive approach for a diverse pupil population.

Strand one is based around delegates’ understanding of communities and culture. They will explore their own culture and that of their setting, they will consider a range of perceptions of the concept of community and will reflect on education settings as communities. They will not only consider how identity is defined and shaped, but will also explore issues surrounding community cohesion, examine culture and cultural diversity, and investigate the relationship between diversity and inclusion in communities.

Strand two will lead delegates to a deeper understanding of practice in relation to communities and culture. Through researching diversity, social capital and what it means to be British, they will develop their knowledge of how education settings (particularly their own), can support individual identities and promote a universal sense of belonging. By understanding the role of supplementary schools, and the kind of education that will equip children to participate and achieve (both in school and beyond), delegates will be in a good position to apply their knowledge in the final strand.

In the third and final strand, delegates will focus on leading change in their setting. To conclude their learning, they will work with colleagues to develop an action plan for change in their setting. In common with the previous module, they will reflect on their learning and progress as a leader of inclusive practice and will look at the next professional development steps that they need to take.

To find out more about this programme, take a look at Middlesex University’s website.

A Q&A with Jalak Patel – our new senior educational psychologist

 

We recently welcomed Jalak Patel to Real Group. As an educational psychologist (EP), she has wide-ranging experience of working with young people in both the UK and Hong Kong. We spoke with Jalak about her time in Hong Kong, what led her to her new role and how SEND challenges differ between the two landscapes.

As an EP, what are your areas of interest?

‘Recently I’ve spent a lot of time working with children and young people who experience social cognition challenges (which might be known as social thinking challenges). These individuals find it difficult to understand that other people’s perspectives may differ from their own, and this disparity can have a huge impact on their social lives, their academic lives and their academic work. I am interested in helping this group achieve their individual social goals. These goals may include the ability to share space, work effectively with others and be more effective in reading the social environment around them, learning how to work as a member of a team, or developing and maintaining relationships with others.’

You have broad international experience as an EP (having worked in both Hong Kong and the UK). Can you tell me about your recent time in Hong Kong? What took you there and what did you do there?

‘I worked in Hong Kong for four-and-a-half years and in Coventry for eight years before that – so two very different places. Throughout my career, I’ve always been interested in how different cultural backgrounds and experiences impact on how we think, feel or behave, and how that might then influence a student’s emotional well-being or their academic progress. So, for me, the opportunity to live and work in a completely different culture was just thrilling really.

‘In Hong Kong, I worked as an EP for the English School Foundation, which is a foundation of 22 settings covering pre-school children up to secondary level. During this time, I was also the foundation’s advisor for SEN training and development. In this role, I worked with schools to find out what their development needs were, wrote and delivered training based on these needs, supported others to do the same, and then worked with different settings to embed their new learning and skills. What was particularly interesting about the position was that my work was not just limited to the English School Foundation’s pool of international schools. We were keen to broaden our remit to support and influence the practice of other schools within South East Asia. In this way, through inter-school discussions and conferences, we shared good practice.

‘Of course, living in Hong Kong was such an amazing experience: the food is delicious and I’ve developed quite a taste for dim sum. And at the weekend, there’s so much to do too: you can go hiking or you can go to the beach – so life was really good fun there. I had so many opportunities to travel and feel really lucky to have travelled to every South East Asian country on my list.’

Before this, you were in the UK. In the world of SEND, what are the similarities and differences between the two landscapes?

‘I think both the UK and Hong Kong have an increasing understanding of the importance of ensuring that the needs of all students are met (whether they have SEND or not). In the UK, we have a long-held understanding that we have a part to play in this, and I did wonder before I went whether it would be the same. I’d say that in Hong Kong, there is also an understanding that we need to meet the needs of all students, and educators are becoming even more interested in how this can be done, especially when thinking about meeting the needs of children and young people with SEND.

‘In Hong Kong, there is often a high expectation for children and young people to succeed academically.  However, there is also a growing awareness of the links between these expectations and increased levels of stress, (or decreased levels of emotional well-being). This is in line with the UK’s recognition of the importance of mental health challenges and how these can impact on students. The raft of new legislation that’s come out and the kind of discussions that are taking place, are illustrative of how much the UK has developed in this area in just the few years that I worked abroad.

‘Differences: I suppose that the main difference would be in terms of behaviour. In the international school context, we saw a lot less of what might be termed in the UK as challenging behaviour. People in South East Asia tend to have a real respect for education and they very much expect their children to do well – sometimes to their detriment. They can be a little bit pushy or work their children very hard. In general, however, children and young people have a healthy respect for education and want to do well. So, if they are exhibiting challenging behaviour, it’s not from a desire to get out of the classroom, or to cause problems. More so, it’s because they are genuinely experiencing difficulties stemming from other challenge areas – such as, say, social cognition challenges, or mental health issues.

‘I suppose that one of the other big differences is that the curriculum that we worked towards in our particular schools was very concept-based, rather than skills-based. So, children and young people were really expected to think in an abstract way. In this context, some children with SEND faced challenges because they found flexible thinking difficult, or weren’t able to access a language-heavy curriculum. In contrast, the curriculum in the UK is a lot more skills-based, so it’s much easier to differentiate. But just to clarify, not all curricula in Hong Kong or South East Asia is concept-based, that was just the case in the foundation that I worked for.’

At the time of the interview, you have only recently touched down in London. What drew you to this role?

‘Well, Real actually came out to Hong Kong. Jen [Wills] flew over, and delivered the Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing (CCET) to a number of staff within our foundation. We contacted Real because we’d heard about them and their reputation. During that time, I held a dual role, one part of which involved advising the foundation on SEN training and development. Following the course, I spoke to staff to find out what they thought about CCET: they were struck by the clarity and rigour of the training, and could clearly see how this was going to help them and how they could move forward. The knock-on effect was that I was very impressed with the quality of the course and Real’s reputation. After conversations with EP friends back in the UK, I became more aware of the organisation’s positive reputation, the forward-thinking nature of the company, and its willingness to embrace new ideas and thinking.

‘I felt that I’d learnt a lot from working in Hong Kong, and wanted to make sure that my wealth of international experience would benefit and complement any organisation that I worked with in the UK. I got the sense that Real would be willing to harness some of that, and bring that on board with what they were doing. So, all in all, it seemed like a good fit!’

As you start your role with us, what areas are you particularly looking forward to working in?

‘I’m keen to get involved in delivering some of Real Training’s courses, as training is something I really enjoy doing. I’m eager to share some of the ideas and approaches that I’ve come across whilst working in Hong Kong, some of which aren’t really being used in the UK. I’ve been quite heavily involved in the training, implementation, and evaluation of certain approaches, and have delivered good outcomes for students. I would like to develop that further here. And of course, I am looking forward to getting to know everybody at Real too!’

Finally, in the coming months, you will tutor on some of our courses (e.g.: the Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing). With this in mind, why is assessment and educational testing training so important to education professionals and young people with SEND?

‘First and foremost, there are a lot of reports that are written and sent about different individuals, and it’s really important that we are able to fully understand them. There are many different tests available, and they are standardised in different ways, so it’s vital to be able to read a report, understand it, and know what that test was specifically focused on. This will allow us to know what those outcomes mean for a young person – in terms of next steps and how best to support them. To put that another way: you have to know where you are, to know where you need to go! Education professionals are willing to do the hard work and they want the right thing for their students, but aren’t always certain what information they need and/or how to use what they do know. So, coming on these kinds of training courses and gaining that knowledge, experience and understanding, is vital, because it provides certainty and enables us to be sure that everything we are doing is right for each individual student.’

Jalak will be working with both Real Psychology and Real Training in her role.

Middlesex University launches MA in Leading Inclusive Education with Real Training

In September of last year, we were delighted to launch a brand-new MA in Leading Inclusive Education, jointly developed by Real Training and Middlesex University.

One of the most significant challenges that education professionals encounter, is the long overdue need for developing and supporting inclusive education practice in order to meet the needs of all learners. To cover this broad and ever-changing subject, our multifaceted course consists of a selection of modules that delegates can choose from. Among these are modules focusing on subjects such as gender and sexuality, communities and culture, and migration and language acquisition.

The MA in Leading Inclusive Education is a distance-learning package that is delivered entirely online. Using our state-of-the-art online learning platform, Campus Online, delegates are able to access the course from anywhere in the world. We’ve combined our extensive knowledge and expertise in delivering online courses with the physical resources of a major London university to produce a truly unique learning experience.

Ron Sergejev is the course leader for the MA in Leading Inclusive Education. Ron’s years of experience in the education sector, have given him great insight into the difficulties caused by the lack of training in inclusive education.

When asked what he believes makes our course unique, Ron had the following to say:

‘The modules that comprise this MA, cater for many professional requirements within education. Whether a student is aiming to become a head of department, or even head teacher, or solely seeks to gain a greater understanding of learning, social, and emotional difficulties, they will find that the course is thorough, and covers a great many aspects of inclusive practice.

‘This course is designed around sound learning principles, is practice-based, and can be done from anywhere in the world. The modules are designed to be part of the whole Masters programme, but they can also stand alone to enable education professionals to upskill in specific areas, without completing a full Masters.’

For more information, or to book a place, visit Middlesex University’s MA in Leading Inclusive Education web page.

Read every issue of The SEND Practitioner in our archive…

Earlier this month, issue 18 published. Our first 2017 issue features Edward Timpson MP, Dr Adam Boddison and Brian Lamb OBE.

In the past 18 issues, we’ve interviewed a host of nationally and internationally respected experts about the essential topics that matter to our readers.

If you’d like to read a particular e-zine, simply click on the blue text below:

Access the archive.

Sign up to receive The SEND Practitioner.

Corrections and clarifications

An article by Brian Lamb OBE in issue 18 of The SEND Practitioner has been amended.

One sentence of Brian Lamb’s piece (‘The SEND reforms: Where are we now?’) was changed and an additional sentence was added as follows.

From:

‘A survey carried out by the parent carer forums found that 84% of parents were fully or largely engaged in the strategic planning and co-production of SEND services…’

To:

‘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.’

Read issue 18 of The SEND Practitioner.

If you have any questions about this amendment, please contact the editor.

The government confirms funding for SEN support

The government has recently announced a new multi-million pound fund to support children and families with SEN.

Edward Timpson announced this news on [Monday] 9 January at the Department for Education. The funding, totalling almost £60million, will be available from April of this year.

The government’s recent SEN support press release

‘The funding announced includes:

  • £15 million for the Independent Supporters programme in 2017 to 2018, run by the Council for Disabled Children, this has been a real driver of change for families navigating the SEND system and improving the experience for them
  • £2.3 million for Parent Carer Forums in 2017 to 2018, who bring parents together and provide a voice to influence local decision-making
  • £1.8 million to Contact a Family, to support individual Parent Carer Forums and their National Network, and to run a national helpline for families

The package also includes funding for councils worth £40 million, which the minister wrote to them about shortly before Christmas. This investment, an increase of £4.2 million from last year (2016 to 2017) will support them to make effective plans for this important final year of the transition to the new SEND system.

Minister Edward Timpson said:

“These reforms are the most significant we’ve made to the support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in a generation and we know that they are making a difference, thanks to the passion and dedication of all those involved.

“As we enter the final year of the transition, I know there are still challenges to overcome, to ensure that the inspiring work going on in many parts of the country is shared with areas where improvements still need to be made.

“That’s why I’m delighted to be able to confirm this additional funding for councils and for the groups playing such a vital role in supporting children with SEND. All children, no matter the obstacles they face, should have the same opportunities for success as any other.”‘

Editor’s note

Read the government’s press release in full.

In addition to this, our recent interview with Edward Timpson MP appeared in issue 18 of The SEND Practitioner.

Read the latest issue of The SEND Practitioner.

Issue 18 of The SEND Practitioner published recently

Issue 18 published on Sunday 8 January 2017 and features a cornucopia of expertise.

Edward Timpson MP (Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families) and Dr Adam Boddison (CEO of nasen) answer our readers’ questions on the Code of Practice, early identification, nominal budgets, the new national curriculum, the Rochford Review, SEND and teacher training courses, and 2017 and beyond. While Brian Lamb OBE looks at the SEND reforms and asks where are we now?

There’s a summary of  a recent research study that we carried out with hundreds of our Certificate in Psychometric Testing, Assessment and Access Arrangements’ (CPT3A) delegates and a couple of Q&As with two of our most recent CPT3A graduates.

Read issue 18.

The SEND reforms, the new curriculum and the Rochford Review — with Edward Timpson MP, Dr Adam Boddison and Brian Lamb OBE

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.

In this issue…

A Q&A with Edward Timpson MP

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

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).

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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.

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Plus…

What our CPT3A graduates think of our course

A research summary.

What our CPT3A graduates say about our course

Two Q&As.

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Archive

Issue 19 Apr/May 2017

Autism, gender and gender dysphoria

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen discusses autistic girls; gender and the diagnostic process; ongoing research into autistic females; gender dysphoria and sexual identity; EHCPs and mental health; and the genetic links between autistic children and their parents. Dr Sarah Hendrickx examines autistic girls hiding in plain sight; identifying them in a mainstream setting; and helping them to cope with the nuances of teenage girl friendships. Dr Wenn Lawson draws on his own experience of gender dysphoria and autism, to discuss the links between the two conditions and the ways in which he overcame these barriers.

Issue 18 Jan/Feb 2017

The SEND reforms, the new curriculum and the Rochford Review

Edward Timpson MP (minister of state for vulnerable children and families) and Dr Adam Boddison (CEO of nasen) tackle questions on the Code of Practice, early identification, nominal budgets, the new national curriculum, the Rochford Review, SEND and teacher training courses, and 2017 and beyond. Brian Lamb OBE looks at the SEND reforms, education, health and care plans, the local offer and strategic engagement, and outcomes.

Issue 17 Sept/Oct 2016

Children and young people’s mental health

Anne Longfield OBE (children’s commissioner for England) discusses the state of the nation’s child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) via: CAMHS cuts, SEN general annual grant (GAG) funding, demographics, exclusions, legal aid, and the post-Brexit landscape. Sarah Norris (senior educational psychologist (EP)) explores the particular challenges facing professionals who support children and young people with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties.

See the full archive

Get in touch

If you have any questions, or there is anything that you want to say…

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A Q&A with Edward Timpson MP

Q1

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?

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“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.”

 

Q2

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?

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“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.”

 

Q3

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?

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“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.”

 

Q4

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?

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“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.”

 

Q5

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 forsee 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?
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“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.”

 

Q6

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?

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“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.”

 

Q7

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?

Close ↑

See below.

 

Q8

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?

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“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.”

 

Q9

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?

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“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.”

 

Q10

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

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“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.”

 

“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.”

Edward Timpson MP

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

Q1

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?

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“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.”

 

Q2

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?

Close ↑

“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.”

 

Q3

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?

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“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.

 

Q4

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.

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“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.”

 

Q5

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?
Close ↑

“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?”

 

Q6

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?

Close ↑

“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.”

 

Q7

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?

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“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.”

 

Q8

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?

Close ↑

“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.”

 

Q9

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?

Close ↑

“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.”

 

Q10

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?

Close ↑

“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.”

 

AP1

Useful links to nasen

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  • 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.
  • “Given the range of pressures and burdens…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.”

    Dr Adam Boddison

    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.

    Find out more about Dr Adam Boddison.

     
     

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

    BL1

    Introduction

    Close ↑

    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.

     

    BL2

    Education, health and care plans (EHCPs)

    Close ↑

    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.

     

    BL3

    Local offer and strategic engagement

    Close ↑

    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.

     

    BL4

    Outcomes

    Close ↑

    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.

     

    “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.”

    Brian Lamb OBE

    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.

    Find out more about Brian Lamb OBE.

    What our CPT3A graduates think of our course

    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 our CPT3A graduates think of 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 Taylor

    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.”

    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.”

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

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

    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.”

    What can someone who has taken this course offer?

    “In one word: professionalism.”

    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.”

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