In just 11 astonishing days, the denial of young people’s rights to education, health and care in England has been completely exposed. Evidence of young people being hidden away from their communities, removed from the mainstream, refused the support to which they are entitled and ultimately placed in serious danger has been building and has now burst into the open.
Last Tuesday we covered in some detail the DfE survey showing that parents of children with SEND were twice as likely as other parents to have complained and moved their child to another school. The figures included:
- Fewer than a third of parents of children with SEND felt ‘fully involved in the decisions about the support the school/college gives my child’ – which was the whole point of the SEND reform three years ago
- Pupils without SEND were almost three times as likely to have thought about their future after school than those with SEND
- Pupils with SEND were almost twice as likely to drop out of education at the age of 16.
On Thursday, the Department of Health published a review led by Dame Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, triggered by concern about the care, support and treatment provided to the group of children and young people with complex needs (and behaviour that challenges) involving mental health problems and learning disabilities and/ or autism. It followed several high profile cases, including the utterly preventable death of Connor Sparrowhawk, who drowned in a bath at an Assessment & Treatment Unit managed by Southern Health Trust.
Speaking of similar reviews in 1997 and 2004, Dame Christine says, “We didn’t get it right then. We haven’t got it right now.” She describes some in-patient units for young people with mental health needs and disabilities as, “a place of last resort” used for, “warehousing, they act as the long stay hospitals that I thought we had left behind.”
Additional factors contributing to the needs of these young people are identified as:
- Communication difficulties
- Limited coping strategies and social skills
- Coexistent disorders
- Neurodevelopmental disorder – notably ASD and ADHD
- Psychiatric disorder – emotional disorder and psychosis
- Physical health problems – epilepsy, immunological difficulties, sleep disorders
- Child abuse (exposure to violence including bullying, abuse and neglect)
- Out-of-home care (e.g. fostering, institutional placement)
- Socioeconomic deprivation
- Inadequate educational provision and supportive services (e.g. a lack of local residential projects, such as respite provision and residential schooling)
- A remote, rural population
- Adverse life events
Send in your evidence
But it’s not as if these needs were unknown, as Dame Christine said, “This is not a group of children and young people that is ignored by Government programmes and priorities. The challenge is that everybody’s business becomes no-one’s priority. These children need to become our children.”
Dame Christine is seeking evidence to inform her review into the experiences and outcomes of children and young people in residential special schools and colleges (including non-maintained and independent special schools). She would like to receive evidence about:
- the characteristics of the children and young people currently in residential special schools and colleges;
- how and why these children and young people come to be placed in residential special schools and colleges;
- the pattern of provision across the country and how it is commissioned and procured;
- what good quality support looks like for these children and young people, both pre- and post-placement (including the role of early intervention, family support and community services);
- the experiences and outcomes of these children and young people and their families, and how these can be improved;
- how schools and colleges are supported to meet the needs of these children and young people by all agencies;
- how effectively the workforce in residential special schools and colleges meets the needs of these children and young people; and
- destinations for these children and young people.
You can submit your evidence to Dame Christine Lenehan here.
But it gets worse... yes, it's possible
In the same week I was contacted by Martin Vickers MP who confirmed to me that the Department for Education is preparing a consultation on the admission to mainstream schools of children and young people with autism. This follows his meeting with Ed Timpson, the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families.
And then, the bombshell:
Yesterday afternoon, the research group Education Datalab unleashed a shocking report showing how pupils have been pushed out of mainstream schools under the nose of the DfE, especially pupils with SEND and especially from ‘sponsored’ Academies (those which joined a Multi-Academy Trust).
The researcher, Philip Nye, used the DfE’s own data to find out what happens to those children (mentioned in the pupil survey above) with low attainment who are ‘managed out’ of their mainstream school because they are likely to lower the school’s performance rating. This is what Nye found:
- “Outcomes for all groups of pupils who leave the roll of a mainstream school are poor, with only around 1% of children who leave to state alternative provision or a special school, and 29% of those who leave to a university technical college (UTC) or studio school, achieving five good GCSEs;
- There exists a previously unidentified group of nearly 20,000 children who leave the rolls of mainstream secondary schools to a range of other destinations for whom outcomes are also very poor, with only 6% recorded as achieving five good GCSEs;
- There is wide variation in leaver numbers observed from mainstream schools. In some schools, the number of pupils who have been on-roll but leave at some point between Year 7 and Year 11 is more than 50% of the number of pupils who complete their secondary education at the school;
- Pupils leaving can have a very flattering impact on the league table results of a school – with GCSE pass rates up to 17 percentage points lower in some cases if league tables are re-weighted to include all pupils who received some of their education there, in proportion to how much time they spent there;
- Sponsored academies tend to 'lose' more pupils after they becoming an academy. No such trend is true of converter academies.”
The report concludes:
“Broadly speaking, secondary school league tables are about who’s left on-roll in the January of pupils’ Year 11 year.”
This is what we have been saying all along: In fact, when Professor of Critical Disability Studies & Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, Katherine Runswick-Cole, and I met with Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director of Schools, back in January 2015, this is exactly what we told him.
It’s what parents tell us all the time: certain types of school are very effective at pushing out children with special needs, without even going through the exclusion process. They don’t want them, they don’t help them, and – as Nye’s report, “Who’s Left?”, demonstrates – they don’t keep them.
Yet, as Christine Lenehan says, these are our children. And these are tomorrow's adults. We need to think carefully about that.
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- Key points of SEN Support in schools: What it is and how it should work - June 22, 2017
- SEN Support: Poorer outcomes when needs aren’t thoroughly assessed - June 20, 2017
- Fixing our broken SEND system: The next Minister’s ‘To Do’ list - June 12, 2017