Pupil ranking plans are an epic fail for SEN children

Oh dear.  We've always said communication is an issue with the SEN reforms but it's fairly obvious that it spans education as a whole.

Can someone please let David Laws and Nick Clegg know about the reforms going through and let them have the memo about "promoting inclusion".

When the Department for Education launched the Green Paper, two of their proposals were to give parents a real choice of a range of schools and give children with statements the right to express a preference for any state-funded mainstream or special school.

However, this morning Mr Laws and Mr Clegg have announced a consultation about plans to change performance measures for schools.

  • Pupils aged 11 would be ranked in 10% ability bands across the year group
  • Test results would be divided into bands of 10%
  • Parents will be told how their child "measures up" to their peers
  • A tougher minimum level of achievement for schools (below which an Ofsted inspection would be triggered
  • This is currently 60% for Sats tests but would rise to 85% under the proposed change

So, let's just consider this.

  • Would a mainstream school realistically welcome children with SEN if this could risk bringing their minimum level of achievement below 85%?
  • As a parent of a child with SEN, I already know that my child is not achieving at the same rate as their peers.  Will introducing a new measurement help them to do better?
  • How would a young person with (or without) SEN, who has tried to the very best of their ability, feel when they find out that their hard work wasn't good enough and they were banded in a low percentile?  Will introducing a new measurement help their often already-fragile self-esteem?
  • Is it just a rumour or do all children develop at different rates, based on their age and family dynamics?   Will introducing a new measurement put a stop to that nonsense?
Epic Fail, Mr Laws

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Schools Minister, David Laws said he thinks that levels such as 2a, 3b, "Mean almost nothing to parents,"  

Well, here's a suggestion, why not just explain to parents what they do mean?  That would be an awful lot cheaper and as a parent of three children, I found out what they meant (and any parent who is interested in their child's progress will have done the same).

Therein lies the issue, there will always be parents who are more engaged than others and introducing new methods of measuring children's achievements won't encourage parents who are not engaged to suddenly become the type of parent who pushes their child to do better.

Mr Laws also said that the individual score won't be published nationally and children won't be told the results, only the school and parents will know.  How does he think parents will find out how their child measures up?  Would that be a letter being sent home via their child's school bag because we all know that children will never look at them?  Or are we going to put the results online and password protect them - because no child can ever access the information that way, can they?

And parents are not going to discuss it with each other or their friends within ear-shot of the kids? And the kids aren't going to just ask outright? Or brag if they got a great score within the hearing of less able or SEN children?

This has to be, in our opinion, one of the worst thought-out proposals to have come out of Westminster for quite some time!  Transition to Secondary is an issue for all children, especially those with SEN.  However, the proposals being presented today show a real lack of understanding of children, SEN, parents, schools and inclusion.

If I was to score this proposal, in the manner being proposed, it would definitely be in the 0-10% band.  Mrs Laws and Mrs Clegg, I am sorry to have to tell you that your sons are performing way below their peers (but don't worry, we won't tell them if you don't).

Debs Aspland
Follow me


  1. Eva

    I am reading a Mallory Towers book to my children, and just last night we discussed how awful it must have been for children 60 years ago to be ranked “bottom” of their form. Just like sardine sandwiches and potted meat, those ideas are rank and should not be resurrected!

  2. My autistic son is only starting reception this September, so I’m only now starting to really grasp what all of these rankings could mean for kids with ASD. Rather than learning the system ahead of us, I feel as I’ve been slapped across the face with a very harsh reality of what appears to be discrimination. Thanks for the post – very informative.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with you. All the research shows that these sorts of high stakes tests will have a very negative effect upon children with Special Education Needs. I am teaching a child who is on the autistic spectrum at the moment and can only write one line in an hour; yet he can read poetry and explain it clearly on a one-to-one basis better than his peers. He will struggle to get above an F grade at GCSE, and yet he’s got a very high level of understanding of many things. The system is really failing our children. Time to consider a boycott?


  4. Simon Hepburn

    Funnily enough I got an email from Nick Clegg minutes after reading this (I used to support the Lib Dems). Have replied linking to your blog – not sure if it will get through bit at least I tried!

  5. Wendy Cradduck

    Today, I attended my son’s end of year Prize Giving ceremony. For the first time ever, he won a prize for personal progress. He is so proud of his achievement and was thrilled by the good wishes of his peers.

    He has autism and OCD/Tourette’s. Academically, he struggles and frankly, it would do his ego and self worth no good whatsoever to be “graded” bottom amongst his peers.

    Years ago, there was a dreadful term used, “Educationally Sub-Normal”, Abbreviated to “ESN”. How awful for all those, judged to be so. That term was scrapped and thank heavens for that!

    Shame on this Govt, yet again.

  6. asurreymummy

    Totally agree, another ridiculous idea that will squash confidence out of a substantial section of our children before they even reach secondary school. Not just an issue for those with SEN what will it feel like to be in the bottom 50% let alone the bottom 10%. There will always be 50% of kids who are below average in any test – its in the maths as they say, so lets look at kids strengths and support their weaknesses rather than judge them by another useless category.

  7. I was shouting at the radio in the car when I heard this one – talk about a backward step! At almost 15, his school has finally been able to measure my ASD’s son’s cognitive ability and found out that behind his auditory processing delay, language disorder, sensory issues, anxiety etc etc etc he is really very bright – which is exactly what we’ve always told him! If he had been told that he is stupid (which is what every type of formal academic measure has traditionally suggested for the last 10 years), there is no way he would be as motivated as he is now.

  8. As a child I went to a school in Saudi Arabia where they routinely ranked children on the end of school report on their performance in the end of year exams. It was awful. I wasn’t SEN, but my rankings gradually went down year on year until I came back to the UK in year 5. It was incredibly depressing (but hardly surprising since I was studying in a language which wasn’t my own). Nevertheless I was judged by my teachers and peers because I didn’t perform that well. Now I’m all grown up, and about to start a job as a trainee solicitor in a well respected law firm. So what did those rankings mean? Absolutely nothing.

    I completely agree with the author, I know exactly what 2a and 3b mean and it really wasn’t that hard for the teacher to explain it to me. In any case most parents (well those who’re interested at least) have a fair idea how their child is performing in comparison to the average (from SATs results) and how much progress they’ve made in comparison to the year before. As far as I can see this is just another conservative gimmick which hasn’t been thought through properly and I suspect it will be another one of those ideas which will have to be ditched when they realise how ill thought it was.

We LOVE to hear what you think... please take a minute to add your views here, so your comment is seen by all!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.