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#SENDReview: What is excellent SEND provision from early years to adulthood?

So what’s in chapter 3? From the title, you can assume it’s about provision – specifically SEND provision one would imagine. I’ve broken them down into sections, including specifically for each consultation question. But before we start, while this is chapter is subtitled "early years.... etc" I want to remind everyone that SEND provision, and indeed an EHCP, can start at birth, but this seems to have been overlooked.

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Inclusion

The Green Paper only mentions “inclusion” as a concept once, but repeatedly discusses “inclusive systems”, “inclusion hubs" and "inclusion dashboards". But how does the SEND Review define inclusion? In the executive summary, the DfE defines “an inclusive system” as:

“improved mainstream provision that is built on early and accurate identification of needs, high-quality teaching of a knowledge-rich curriculum, and prompt access to targeted support where it is needed. Alongside that, we need a strong specialist sector that has a clear purpose to support those children and young people with more complex needs who require specialist or alternative provision.”

The DfE calls this a “continuum of support where needs are identified early and accurately so that the right support is delivered in the right setting at the right time.”

For some, a three-tier system of mainstream, specialist and Alternative Provision is the very opposite of inclusion. For others, it’s more important that a child gets the education they need as an individual to be included in society as an adult, so this will come as a relief.

The worst thing it could have proposed is closing specialist provision but without putting in massive infrastructure funding for accessibility, and without a total rethink of how mainstream is taught so that every child could indeed be educated there. Neither of those two things happened.

The Green Paper uses case studies featuring various schools. For example, a case study about Dixons Academy Trust of 15 schools, some not yet inspected, describes, “true inclusion” as:

“… equal quality of education and experience for all pupils irrespective of need, increasing confidence amongst parents and carers that mainstream school can meet their child’s needs”

Ponder point: what does inclusion mean to you? Will a system of mainstream, specialist, and Alternative Provision achieve it? If not, what are your ideas?

What will be reasonably expected in mainstream?

The Green Paper proposes to use new national standards as outlined in Chapter 2 by Catriona, to provide consistency across the country. It aims to offer clarity on what can reasonably be expected to be provided within a mainstream setting.

To do this they propose:

  • improved mainstream provision, through a highly skilled and confident workforce across early years, schools and further education.
  • the support needed for effective transitions between school phases, , especially into further education, higher education, employment or adult social care services.
  • improved access to wraparound services for families,
  • more timely access to specialist support from health and social care partners where a child or young person requires this.
  • new specialist places, closer to home for those with more complex needs

Ponder point: Would these points improve what can reasonably be expected without an EHCP? What do you think should be included?

The DfE will soon be bringing out more information about reasonable adjustments and ordinarily available provision. In the meantime, read some good examples here.

How is it going to achieve this?

In explaining how this will be achieved the Green Paper (GP) lists a number of funding initiatives, most of which have already been announced in recent months, including the funding we explained here for respite, supported internships and other provision. In summary it includes plans to:

  • invest £2.6 billion, over the next three years, to deliver new places and improve existing provision for children and young people with SEND or who require alternative provision. “We will deliver more new special and alternative provision free schools in addition to more than 60 already in the pipeline”
  • improvements to post 16 transitions discussed by Ruth Perry here
  • replacing the current NASENCO award, which is a postgraduate qualification, with a new SENCo National Professional Qualfication (NPQ) for school SENCos. (we have a post coming up about this soon)
  • improve mainstream provision, building on the Schools White Paper, “through excellent teacher training and development and a ‘what works’ evidence programme to identify and share best practice, including in early intervention” This also includes full academisation, which many do not feel is good for children with SEND. We’ve already written about the implications for SEND in the SWP here.
  • commission analysis to better understand the support that children and young people with SEND need from the health workforce so that there is a clear focus on SEND in health workforce planning.

The final point could surely have been begun months ago - and indeed is something there should already be an understanding of from the work of the SEND/health liaison officers who have been in action since 2014 (more on this later)

Going back to the already-announced respite plans, LAs will be able to bid for a share of £30 million for “10,000 respite places” over the next three years. The Green Paper says,

“This small-scale project will enable innovative approaches to providing support to be evaluated over the course of the three-year programme, with best practice learning being shared across the system so that more families can benefit.“

The difficulty with this is that what works is different for everyone dependent on child, family, location, and ability to get places. Families are already likely to know what will work for them, they just need access to funding or facilities.

Ponder Point: But is it just money that stops families accessing respite? Are the access criteria too high? Is a “respite place” the right way of looking at it? What about more direct payments for respite? Is the right kind of respite available? Is more research needed into what respite options work? Government guidance was last updated in 2011. Maybe some innovative ideas could be suggested by doing some international research? What do you think?

There are no consultation questions for this, so you can include any points in the "anything else" Question 22.

Early Years improvements

Consultation Question 8: What steps should be taken to strengthen early years practice with regard to conducting the two-year-old progress check and integration with the Healthy Child Programme review? 

While early intervention is not confined to the early years, spotting SEND in pre-schoolers is vital - and not easy, especially in a workforce that is less likely to have and SEND training.

The Early Years proposals include:

To explain how the Family Hub would work for SEND, the SEND Review uses a case study of a child who’s “falling behind” (falling behind whom?) and is suspected of having Moderate Learning difficulties (MLD). It explains its vision that the local family hub model would mean nursery staff, with relevant SEND professional training, and the health visitor, work with the family as a team to identify what support can be put in place. This would be helped by everyone involved having access to the right data to make a good decision quickly. As the child moves to primary school, information about the support she’s received goes with her. The school “has access to a speech and language therapist if Daniella needs access to time-bound support.” (whatever "has access to" and "time-bound support" means)

These are sensible proposals but what's stopping this from happening right now? There is plenty of training and lots of resources available already for early years staff. Health visitors are included in SEND Code of Practice guides. Let's not wait for another year before we get this underway because "politics".

Family Hubs, described by Will Quince as “Sure Start Plus”, are still at an early stage of development. They will be expected to provide signposting, service referral and “incorporate evidence-based support for children with SEND into their provision where appropriate”. Again there is a lack of clarity about what this means. Maybe if Sure Start hadn’t been scrapped and many children’s centres closed we’d be further along.

Ponder point: Are these good proposals? What else can be done? If it isn’t already happening, why? And what in the SEND Review proposals will improve it?

Ponder Point: The Green paper is full of statements that show the DfE does understand the challenges faced by families of disabled children – but do you think the solutions suggested will make a wide-scale positive difference?

It also mentions the upcoming Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. Apparently, despite having no disabled children or carers on its experts by experience panel, it’s “looked closely at early help” but it won’t deliver any report until after the consultation period has ended. Hmmm.

"Excellent teaching and high standards of curriculum in every mainstream school" 

The Green Paper states that in 2019, only 22% of pupils with SEN met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by the end of key stage 2. This recognises that the “mission for 90% of children to reach the expected standard by 2030” is pretty unreachable without significant changes in approach, especially given that in 2021, almost 16% of children had some kind of recorded SEND. Many of these children will easily achieve that target, those with profound learning disabilities never will, and some who won’t may not have SEND, but improving early identification and a young age is definitely key.

Ponder point: Will the measures in the Green paper help to achieve this target?

It ain't rocket science, babe

Many of the proposals in the SEND Review are not rocket science or revolutionary. They’re just things that should already be happening as a matter of course. For example, one proposal is to “invest in new research on SEND classroom-based practice…” as well as building on ‘what works’ initiatives already underway in SEND. The aim is to identify and share best practice, including approaches to early SEND identification but after all these years, surely this information is already out there?

I’m assuming (hoping) that before investing in new primary research, they have, or will, scope the existing decades of research and tonnes of good practice. And then, resist the urge to create new resources when there are already brilliant resources from the likes of Whole School SEND and many institutes and charities. They just need to be collated, trained for and acted upon. Once collated, you can then see is anything is missing.

Ponder Point: Is new research needed? If so, what? If not, what has worked for your child or in your classroom?

SENCOs and Teacher training

Consultation Question 9: To what extent do you agree or disagree that we should introduce a new mandatory SENCo NPQ to replace the NASENCo? 

Consultation Question 10: To what extent do you agree or disagree that we should strengthen the mandatory SENCo training requirement by requiring that headteachers must be satisfied that the SENCo is in the process of obtaining the relevant qualification when taking on the role? 

Much of this section discusses teacher training, but there is no specific question about that, just about the SENCO role. So when you answer, you can just add those thoughts in one of these sections, or in the catch-all Question 22.

Early identification starts with teacher training and the Green Paper recognises this. Inquiry after inquiry and review after review have noted that (as the GP echoes) new and existing teachers are not confident in supporting children with SEND.

However, the level of confidence amongst teachers in supporting children with SEND is low. In 2019, 41% of teachers reported that there is appropriate training in place for all teachers in supporting pupils receiving SEN support. This is a significant decrease since summer 2018 when 59% of teachers agreed with this statement.

SEND Green Paper

But still in 2022, Initial Teacher Training is deficient in SEND skills learning. Why? Why after all these reviews and evidence from teachers themselves, has this not been made a priority already? Why did we even need to wait for the SEND Review to plod its way into existence when this was a given? And by the time any of these proposals are implemented, another year will have gone by. This needs to happen now.

The DfE says it’s already delivering a “transformed professional development pathway for teachers, with high-quality training at every step of their career” and aims “to invest up to £36 million in Initial Teacher Training” But while it cites the 2019 ITT core framework as setting “clear, consistent and effective mentoring in supporting pupils with a range of additional needs”, the same document “deliberately does not detail approaches specific to particular additional needs – to reflect the importance of quality first teaching – while also providing opportunity for providers to tailor their curricula to the needs of their trainees.”  

And this is probably responsible for a generation of teachers with no clue of how to spot and support children with SEND. Nowhere in the ITT framework does it echo the SEND Code of Practice's assertion that "every teacher is a teacher of children with SEND". Instead, it focuses on teachers working “closely with the SENCO and other professionals supporting pupils with additional needs.” In other words, it’s not your responsibility—and another reason why SENCOs are so overworked. 

Instead of relying on outdated research from 2003, the ITT core framework needs to be brought into line with the SEND Code of Practice to give teachers and their pupils with emerging SEND a fighting chance. This is more important that any plans for “cutting-edge training.” Just some basic SEND skills would be a good start, and now. 

Chapter three also introduces a plan to dump the NASENCO award in favour of a new National Professional Qualification (NPQ) SENCo qualification. One big issue with the NASENCO is that it really should be achieved before you become a SENCO, not worked towards while doing the role. The GP proposals don’t go this far, but say heads “must also be satisfied” a SENCo is already training for the new qualification. This new NPQ is aimed at bringing the SENCo qualification in line with other teaching training and includes leadership training. But being a leader obviously depends on whether school leaders want the SENCo on their team, doesn’t it?

A big positive in the SENCO proposals is to give “sufficient protected time to carry out their role” and dedicated admin support. Though I'm sure schools will be wondering where the funding to achieve this is coming from. I’m not going to labour too much here because we have an expert post on this coming after this one.

No comment sought

There are a lot of words in Chapter Three that are not attached to any specific proposals. This makes it really hard to understand what’s actually new and within scope for the Green Paper. There are also a lot of proposals in Chapter Three that are not attached to any consultation questions, but that you may like to still comment on. 

This, presumably is what Question 22 is for, but that’s going to leave the DfE with a complete headache when it comes to analysis of the answers. Therefore, I strongly suggest you write out your answers in a separate document with relevant subtitles for Q22 before adding it the government (or our) form. Here are some subtitles below with proposals in Chapter 3 that you might want to include:

Points without proposals: 1

  • SEND Support: Most children with SEND are on the lower SEN Support level, and we know that this is where the DfE and LAs want them to stay. Plenty of incentive to significantly beef up early support you would hope. The government has already announced £45 million plus for “targeted support” for SEND learners. 
  • Assistive Tech: improve access and training for assistive technology in schools 
  • Teaching Assistants: Set out clear guidance on the effective use and deployment of teaching assistants to support children and young people with SEND as part of the national standards. 
  • SEND Governance: update the SEND Code of Practice to strengthen the relationship between the SEND governor and the SENCo. 

Ponder Point: Do you have any ideas about how the DfE may do one or more of these? If so, Question 22 is your best place

2 “Timely access to specialist support”

The Green Paper says steps are being taken to “increase the capacity of the specialist workforce”, including funding 40+ additional educational psychologist trainees a year for the next three years. Pardon my maths, but 120 new trainee Ed Psychs aren't going to go very far for 152 LAs, or very soon, but it’s a start. And what happens in three years’ time?

Ponder point: One of the issues with Ed Psychs is that because of late identification, too much time is taken on EHC needs assessments rather than assessing at an early stage. Ed Psychs get fed up and leave. Will this change that? 

3 Mental Health and wellbeing

Mental health in young people has been a concern for years but since the pandemic, we are in the midst of a deep crisis. CAMHS cannot cope, offer little help for autistic children and the criteria for access seems to be an active suicide attempt. Time and again plans for transformation have been announced and cash poured in, but where it’s ended up no one seems to know. 

In 2018 a Green Paper, “Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision” was consulted on. The most recent information I can find is a new policy Paper this March here. No action. The SEND Green paper includes commitments made in this Policy Paper, but as they are not proposals for this Green paper, why are they here? What good does commenting on them do? Still, if you want to take a look and do this, Question 22 is your best bet. These include:

  • Senior mental health lead training to every state-funded school and college by 2025 
  • Continuing to roll out NHS-funded Mental Health Support Teams for schools
  • £2.5 million per year to support autism diagnosis in the NHS Long-Term Plan. 
  • Inter-departmental work to better understand the therapy and diagnostic needs of disabled children and young people to improve planning
  • Joint needs assessment and local inclusion plans improve joined-up workforce planning across education, health and care so schools and colleges can “access specialist workforce on a targeted basis”. (What does this mean?)

SEND NHS Health Liaison

Another proposal without consultation question is the Designated Clinical Officers (DCOs) and Designated Medical Officers (DMOs) that we wrote about some time ago. These are the go-betweens who are supposed to ensure LAs and health services comply with SEND legal requirements. A thankless task. It took some LAs years to recruit someone for this role. Nevertheless, they are a very good idea.

The Green Paper proposes to 

  • clarify the strategic role and daily duties of the DCMO in an updated SEND Code of Practice. 
  • change the name to a ‘Designated Health Officer’.
  • Create an equivalent Designated Officer in social care, to improve strategic leadership and engagement with the SEND system among social workers,). This senior position is being as is being piloted by the CDC in 30 LAs. “It has the potential to deliver better join-up between social care and other partners, such as the Virtual School Head, and in developing a quality support offer for families of children with SEND.”
  • It mentions work on adult social care, by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to better support transition to adult services for disabled young people (but this is not a GP proposal)

Ponder Point: Are these propsals a good idea? What else can you suggest? Once again, Question 22 is your destination for this.

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Alternative and specialist provision close to home

Consultation Question 11: To what extent do you agree or disagree that both specialist and mixed MATs should co-exist in the fully trust-led future? This would allow current local authority maintained special schools and alternative provision settings to join either type of MAT. 

There’s a lot about AP in this Green paper, after all, it’s in the name. But most is in the next chapter. There is a lot of suspicion that the idea for all Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) to have their very own AP school, is so they can more easily shunt troublesome kids out of their shiny mainstream academies until they can behave. 

Because there are not enough specialist places close to home, many disabled children have to travel long distances or board to get the provision they need. This costs LAs a massive amount in fees and transport costs. The DfE estimates SEN transport at £800 million. It’s a major reason why families end up at the SEND Tribunal, or with their child in inappropriate local provision if they can’t fight.

The Green Paper is concerned that the travel “limits their opportunities to be active members of their local community.” (how many kids are "active members" of their community?) It’s also concerned that they may be in inappropriate independent specialist provision, because of a lack of local state specialist settings. This assumes local state specialist provision would be far more “appropriate” for some reason, other than the cost.

To fix this, the Green Paper has a few commitments that were announced last October to invest a “significant, transformational investment in new high needs provision” of £2.6 billion in capital funding over the next three years to deliver new mainstream and specialist places and improve existing provision, including accessibility. As Matt pointed out however, who is going to staff these new schools? 

The DfE aims to prioritise LAs that need “a new local special free school” to reduce their dedicated schools grant (DSG) deficits. Two birds, one stone… but of course, the LA won’t control the school as they’ll all be part of Multi-Academy Trusts that contain mainstream, specialist and alternative provision, as per Schools White Paper.

Ponder Point: Would local specialist provision fill the gap for all disabled children? What about those with low-incidence needs such as deaf children? Is a local autism school going to work for all autistic children? Why is it that some independent specialist schools have outstanding results that similar state specialist provision can't match?

Further education & preparation for adulthood

Consultation Question 12: What more can be done by employers, providers and government to ensure that those young people with SEND can access, participate in and be supported to achieve an apprenticeship, including through access routes like Traineeships? 

Ruth Perry of Natspec dealt with the proposals for FE in her post here. In summary, the GP:

  • references plans for national standards for transition to post-16
  • mentions “considering” how the proposed NPQ for SENCos in schools “could be aligned to support those with oversight of SEN provision in FE settings”. 
  • references a new expectation for the FE governance guide that every governing body should include someone with a SEND link or a particular interest in the needs of students with SEND. 
  • references plans for improved careers guidance via “Careers Hubs”
  • pledges to continue to work with the SEND sector to develop statutory guidance for local skills improvement plans to improve the employment prospects of young people with SEND. 
  • references the £18 million in supported internships already announced. 
  • references a consultation on the review of post-16 qualifications at level 2 
  • references work with the Department for Work and Pensions to pilot an “adjustments passport” that is owned by the young person with SEND and sets out the support that they require to succeed in higher education or in the workplace. “We will use the findings from the pilot programme to consider whether adjustments passports should be expanded to all young people with SEND. “

So you can see that few of these are new proposals specific to the Green paper, which was Ruth's point.

Ponder Point: Is there enough for improving post-16 provision in the Green paper? This question is only about apprenticeships and traineeships, which is ridiculous. Add your post 16 comments here or in Q 22. And Why is there no mention of disabled students in universities? Why are they STILL not included in EHCPs when apprentices and trainees - who are PAID fgs- are? Doesn't the Government have high aspirations for disabled learners? There is evidence that the Disabled Students' Allowance doesn't do what it needs to- and it's not statutory. We lose too many disabled students to drop out and worse. This is a massive omission. Read what we think about this here.

I will endeavour to add the ponder points to our SEND Review answer help pages in the in the next couple of days so you can add your answers via SNJ if you want to.


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