Later on today, Angela and I will be attending the Westminster launch of "Joining the Dots" a report out today from charity Driver Youth Trust.
The report, commissioned from think-action Tank LKMco, explains how in some places reforms have led to chaos and confusion. Fragmented provision makes it hard for some families to access the support that they need.
We hope to bring you more tomorrow from the launch, hosted by Labour SEND spokesman, Sharon Hodgson MP. The report's author, Eleanor Benares, told me that Special Needs Jungle had been a vital resource in her research.
The report says that while the recent reforms have unleashed innovation such as work at Plumcroft Primary School in Greenwich, where Headteacher Richard Slade negotiated a deal with educational psychologists from Harley Street, giving pupils access to top experts regardless of their family background, the wider picture is very much of mixed provision.
The government introduced the “so called’ local offer which required all local authorities to tell parents what support was available in the area, but analysis shows that these offers are often incomplete and largely useless.
Sarah Driver, Chair of Driver Youth Trust, said “as a parent of children who have struggled with dyslexia I am concerned that it is still so hard for some children to access the support that they need. However, it is heartening to hear from frontline teachers like Maria Constantinou from St Mary’s School in Barnet who are both developing great practice in the classroom, and through work with London Leadership Strategy, sharing what works with schools across the country.
“We want the government to introduce an annual SEND award with a prize comparable to the £100 000 on offer for schools who excel in supporting children in receipt of pupil premium. Celebrating success and highlighting what is going well is a really important part of improving outcomes.
“However among our recommendations we also call for the government to commission an independent review of how local authorities are delivering their statutory responsibilities for SEND in order to identify good practice and support weaker local authorities”
Report author Eleanor Bernardes, lead author and LKMco Associate reflected that "Too often policy is made for the 'average' student and reforms are judged in terms of how they affect the majority. It has therefore been a privilege to spend time looking into how young people with special needs have been impacted upon over the last five years.
"It became overwhelmingly clear over the course of this research that to look simply at SEN specific reforms misses the bigger picture of how unprecedented upheaval in the education sector as a whole has affected children and young people with special needs. It has been inspiring to see the remarkable ways many schools and sector organisations have responded and made the most of the opportunities available. We now call on policy makers and sector leaders to ensure that young people do not fall through the gaps in a worryingly fragmented system."
Over the coming year Driver Youth Trust will be supporting a range of initiatives to take forward the report’s recommendations. This includes an expansion of their Drive for Literacy Programme which support classroom teachers to help children struggling with literacy and a new forum bringing together teachers, parents and SEND experts to share what works.
We hope to bring you snippets from the launch tomorrow!