“Our education system must ensure that the most vulnerable children have their needs met. Parents, of children with special educational needs, face a system that is overly complex and varies too much by postcode.”
The statement above from the HTRT manifesto is bound to have had some people muttering ‘what about the other students’? The typical binary interaction will follow and people will use the most extreme cases to prove their point – on both ‘sides’ of the argument.
It is quite clear that it would not be in anyone’s interest to support some and not all of our young people. However, what is abundantly clear is that the current education system is struggling to meet the needs of young people with special educational needs and this is having an effect on everyone – the young people themselves, their families, the other students, the staff etc.
It doesn’t take many conversations with school leaders and parents to realise we have a problem but no one knows the real size of the issue and exactly what provision is needed to fill the obvious gaps we have at present. We all accept that the money available is tight and we really don’t want to see any of it wasted. Therefore, we must gather and analyse the data available and listen to the parent voice about their experiences to ensure we get it right this time.
When we listen to the experiences and concerns of the parents/carers, that are having to manage the current system of EHCPs, it is obvious that it has become something that was never intended. The delays caused by the now overly bureaucratic processes are leading to frustration and young people being failed. The hours of time filling in the paperwork is taking highly skilled SENCOs away from the job where they can have the biggest impact; supporting and developing the practice of teachers in the classroom to meet all needs.
A streamlined and simple system of an ‘assessment of best provision’, supported by centrally located multi-disciplinary teams, should mean that the child gets the support they need to be a success quickly and efficiently.
A personal gripe is that the really challenging area of SEMH (Social, Emotional and Mental Health) has to be addressed quickly. It is almost unbelievable how many private institutions there are being used across the country at great expense to local authorities and great profit for the owners. Millions of pounds are being spent and in some cases the provision is excellent but not all. Regardless of the quality it is still a fact that the challenges could be met more cost effectively and efficiently if the national needs are planned for properly. The lack of high quality and reasonable cost provision is causing some schools to hang on to young people at the detriment of all concerned as they have nowhere to get support and others to have draconian behaviour policies that leads to huge differences in student intake within the same small locations.
Although we see and hear different things that cause Twitter storms I strongly feel that if the provision and support available, in this really difficult area of education, was of the quality and quantity required most of these would stop.
On top of this there are numerous other factors impacting on our most vulnerable young people:
Schools with young people with EHCPs get ‘taxed’ £6k in notional funding for every one,
the accountability framework is far tougher to navigate with an inclusive intake,
there is continued overall underfunding of education and
some schools behave in ways that homogenises their intake to the detriment of other schools.
I hope that whoever gets in power they don’t focus on yet more structural or assessment change; throwing out what has gone before, just because ‘the other team’ did it, is not helpful. I can assure you that not everything done by any government is wrong and it is about time that we were mature enough to accept that and build rather than unpick what has happened previously. A focus on the challenges we have now rather than creating new ones would be a strong start for our new elected government.