Are the Changes To SEN Provision A Good Idea

 

Parents to control special education needs budgets

On Monday 14th May 2012 the government announced major changes to the provision of Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision in England. From 2014 parents will be given control over the budgets for their children’s support.  Children will be provided with a Learning Difficulties Assessment (LDA) by the Local Authority either on request or if they are regarded as requiring an LDA. The local authority is then required to put together a robust support programme which will remain in place as long the child remains in education and has learning difficulties until they are 25. In addition parents will be given the option of managing the budget for their child’s support programme.

The government has described it as the” biggest reform of SEN for 30 years” and the changes being implemented will legally force education, health and social care services to plan provision together. In making the announcement Sarah Teather, minister for children and families said:

“Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. It is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post – facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment.”

Under the scheme a number of approaches will be trialed including giving parents the funds directly or leaving them with the local authority.

Alison Ryan, a policy adviser for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, welcomed the new requirement for agencies to plan services together. She did however, raise concerns over the level of redundancies amongst education psychologists and speech and language therapists. She noted that the plans were being implemented during a period of cuts which have:

“eaten into many of the specialist services teachers rely on to help them support children with special educational needs…”

Ryan also said there were worries over the potential impact on forward planning and the ability to co-ordinate as a result of putting budgets in the hands of lots of individuals and families.

“Many parents can be the best advocates for their children’s needs, but you cannot say that for every parent. Sometimes it may be a matter of their own ability to decide on the best type of expert assistance for their children,”

 

Are the Changes To SEN Provision A Good Idea?

Broadly speaking, the proposals appear to be sound. Any parents or teachers who have tried to get a child in their care statemented in order to obtain support will tell you that Sarah Teather is right. The assessment system is currently fragmented and extremely difficult to understand and negotiate. A parent of a girl with Asperger’s who was interviewed on BBC television witnessed that it took three years to get her daughter diagnosed and for appropriate support to be put in place by which time a bright student who needed help had fallen far behind her peers educationally. With set timescales for the assessment process enshrined in law and easy to understand guidelines for parents and support providers the potential will exist for such cases to become the minority rather than the norm and that has to be welcomed as an improvement.

We would however, echo the concerns raised by others. With the levels of cutbacks already taking place in the support networks for children with special educational needs will there be enough specialists to support  all those who need it? If not, then the potential benefits of such a major overhaul to the SEN system will be lost.  Some parties have asked how they will define SEN as there is no official definition.  But, according the DfE’s own guidance notes they are using the terms as defined in the Education Act 1996.  Furthermore, Section 7.2 of the guidance covering the definition of learning difficulties states:

Learning difficulty is the term used in legislation while ‘learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities’ is a deliberately wide definition in common usage in the FE system, and includes people with mental health difficulties, autistic spectrum conditions, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavioural emotional or social disorders, physical, sensory and cognitive impairments and other identified and non-identified difficulties in learning.  All of these conditions could fall within the definition of learning difficulties for the purpose of a Learning Difficulties Assessment.

According to some news reports on this announcement the government is seeking to remove the majority, some 1.5 million children, from the SEN register because they have been misdiagnosed and their conditions are social or emotional. It has been suggested that these children need pastoral rather than SEN support. Firstly, we would question the accuracy of such a sweeping statement. How is it possible to accurately ascertain the numbers who have been incorrectly labeled without reassessing every child already classed as SEN?  Secondly, by the government’s own terms children with emotional or social disorders could still fall under the definition of learning difficulties. Finally, there will inevitably be a large number of children who will have much valued and needed support removed despite having special needs. So we would recommend that robust plans are put in place to ensure that these vulnerable children don’t fall behind. There has been no such announcement made regarding this.

The guidance for local authorities is in effect until the next review in 2013 while the full changes will come into effect in 2014. We would therefore, look forward to seeing clearer plans on how children currently diagnosed as SEN will be re-assessed and a comprehensive framework of support for those with other needs, who will be removed from the SEN register, put in place before we can give the policy our wholehearted support.

Parents to control special education needs budgets

Parents to control special education needs budgets

guardian.co.uk |by Ben Quinn

  • Ben Quinn
  • The Guardian, Monday 14 May 2012
Sarah Teather

Sarah Teather, the minister for children and families, said thousands of families have had to battle for years to get the care their children need. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Parents in England are to be given control over their children’s special educational needs (SEN) budgets, allowing them to choose expert support rather than local authorities being the sole provider.

In what the government described as the biggest reform of SEN for 30 years, the measures will also legally force education, health and social careservices to plan services together.

Sarah Teather, the minister for children and families, said this would prevent parents being forced to go from “pillar to post” in a battle between different authorities and agencies.

The reforms were set out on Monday in the government’s formal response to the public consultation on a green paper that trailed the reforms last year.

Teather said: “Thousands of families have had to battle for months, even years, with different agencies to get the specialist care their children need. It is unacceptable they are forced to go from pillar to post – facing agonising delays and bureaucracy to get support, therapy and equipment.” Legislation for the reforms will be put in place via the children and families bill, which was announced in the Queen’s speech last week.

From 2014, SEN statements and separate learning difficulty assessments, for older children, are to be replaced with a single, birth to 25 assessment process and education, health and care plan.

Parents with such plans would have the right to a personal budget for their child’s support, and local authorities and health services would be required to ensure services for disabled children and young people are jointly planned and commissioned.

Managing the budgets will be optional for parents, and the government will also try out a number several different approaches, either giving money to parents directly or leaving the budgets with the local authority.

Alison Ryan, a policy adviser for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the organisation welcomed requirement that agencies plan services together. But pointing to redundancies among educational psychologists and speech and language therapists, she added though that the measures were being brought forward at a time when cuts have eaten into many of the specialist services teachers rely on to help them support children with special educational needs. Ryan also said there were worries over what the impact on forward planning and the ability to co-ordinate would be as a result of putting budgets in the hands of lots of individuals and families.

“Many parents can be the best advocates for their children’s needs, but you cannot say that for every parent. Sometimes it may be a matter of their own ability to decide on the best type of expert assistance for their children,” she said.

Some 21% of children in England are identified as having SEN– 21% of the school population in January 2010. Only 2.7% have statements. More than half of the pupils, 11.4%, are in the school action category.

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw: Teachers not stressed

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw: Teachers not stressed

BBC |May 10, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter
_

The outspoken head of Ofsted has hit out at teachers who complain their jobs are “too stressful” and make excuses for poor performance.

Sir Michael Wilshaw suggested head teachers needed reminding what stress really was.

Speaking at an education conference, he said heads were better paid and had more power than ever before.

But the ATL teaching union said official figures demonstrated how stressful teaching can be.

Sir Michael told a conference of independent school heads in East Sussex that in the past, poor teaching and poor performance had gone unchallenged.

‘Struggled’

He went on: “We need to learn from this and challenge those who have power invested in them to make the difference, but too often make excuses for poor performance – it’s just too hard, the children are too difficult, the families are too unsupportive, this job is far too stressful.

“Let me tell you what stress is. Stress is what my father felt, who struggled to find a job in the 1950s and 1960s and who often had to work long hours in three different jobs and at weekends to support a growing family.

“Stress is, I’m sure, what many of the million-and-a-half unemployed young people today feel – unable to get a job because they’ve had a poor experience of school and lack the necessary skills and qualifications to find employment.

“Stress is what I was under when I started as a head in 1985, in the context of widespread industrial action – teachers walking out of class at a moment’s notice; doing lunch duty on my own every day for three years because of colleagues who worked to rule; covering five classes in the sports hall when there was no-one to teach them.

“Stress was, in the days before local management of schools, writing letters in triplicate to the local authority asking for a brick wall to be built in the playground or for a bit of extra money to keep an excellent maths teacher – and not receiving a reply for weeks.”

‘Blame’

Sir Michael said that times had changed and that heads were now in charge, with better pay and more independence, power and resources than before.

“We need heads who know what a privileged position they are in now and who can use their new-found independence well – people who roll up their sleeves and get on with improving their schools, even in the most difficult circumstances.

“What we don’t need are leaders in our schools whose first recourse is to blame someone else – whether it’s Ofsted, the local education authority, the government or a whole host of other people.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said Ofsted should concentrate on helping schools improve and stop criticising teachers and heads.

“It is really not helpful for Michael Wilshaw to rubbish the amount of stress teachers are under.

“The pressures on teaching staff and heads are enormous and growing due to the constant churn of government initiatives, tinkering with the curriculum, introducing new tests, and pressure to get pupils through exams to prove their school is performing well.

“And Ofsted is part of the problem with its continual changing of the inspections goal posts, and ridiculous demands for lessons to be exciting at all times.

“Teaching is the occupation with the third highest amount of work-related stress according to Health and Safety Executive figures.”

Segregated UK schools ‘toxic for poor’

Segregated UK schools ‘toxic for poor’

BBC |April 4, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter at the ATL conference in Manchester
 
Schools in the UK are segregated along class lines, creating a “toxic” effect for the poor, a teachers’ leader says.

This was set to worsen as government “austerity policies” pushed more children into poverty, Association of Teachers and Lecturers head Dr Mary Bousted warned.

Teachers alone were not responsible for poor pupils’ under achievement.

The government said many schools had failed to address poor performance.

Dr Bousted said class remained a key determining factor in educational attainment.

In her closing speech to her association’s conference in Manchester, the ATL general secretary described an education system“stratified on class lines”.

“We have schools for the elite, schools for the middle class and schools for the working class.

“Too few schools have mixed intakes where children can learn those intangible life skills of aspiration, effort and persistence from one another.”

She added: “The effect of unbalanced school intake is toxic for the poorest and most dispossessed.”

Dr Bousted hit out at ministers for holding teachers solely responsible for the educational outcomes of the poor.

“If the poor don’t make as much progress as the rich, it is the school and the teachers within it who are to blame.

“This, you and I know, is a nonsense. It is a lie which conveniently enables ministers to evade responsibility for the effects of their policies.”

‘Washing their hands’And she accused Education Secretary Michael Gove and the head of the school watchdog Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, of washing their hands of the causes of educational failure.

Teachers were straining “every sinew”, she said, to raise aspiration and achievement, but struggled against the effects of poverty, ill health and deprivation.

She called on society to look at the effects of poverty on educational performance, saying: “These effects are real, they are present and they are dangerous.”

Instead the coalition government was neglecting young people, with an increase of 110,000 pupils claiming free school meals and predictions of 200,000 more children set to fall below the poverty line, she said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said schools could not solve all problems but many had not “properly addressed poor performance”.

“Union leaders should be challenging underperformance in our schools on behalf of their members, rather than defending a culture of under achievement.

“The public and many teachers in the country will be confused that union leaders dislike the idea of schools being given the freedom to pay good teachers more.

“We are making more money available for schools to support disadvantaged children with the pupil premium. The previous funding system simply didn’t work. We have reformed it so that thousands of children will finally be getting the extra support they need to succeed.”

Schools cannot solve all of society’s problems, says minister

Schools cannot solve all of society’s problems, says minister

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Nick Gibb, the schools minister

Nick Gibb, the schools minister. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA

Teachers are expected to solve too many of society’s problems, the schools minister Nick Gibb has said.

In a speech to the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), Gibb criticised lobby groups for saying schools could help tackle a growing number of issues.

He said children were now more aggressive and more likely to grow up in “fragmented families” without boundaries, but the answer was not to “fill the school curriculum with all the social issues that pressure groups want us to put [in the school day]”.

“It seems that the first answer of many to almost any problem in society is to give a duty to schools to tackle it, be it obesity, teenage pregnancy or knife crime,” he said. “It feels like every other week I am presented with proposals from one well-meaning group or another to add something ‘socially desirable’ to the curriculum.”

Gibb said one lobby group had asked him to make pilates compulsory for pupils. “We could easily fill up the school curriculum with all the social issues that many pressure groups want us to put in the curriculum. Then there would be no time left for the academic subjects that need to be taught,” he said. “My view is that the best way for schools to tackle social problems… is to make sure children leave school well-educated. That is the best way out of poverty.”

In an ATL poll of 1,292 primary and secondary teachers and college lecturers, 73% said their job was damaging their health and wellbeing, and a quarter said they had taken sick leave from work since September.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said the demands placed on those working in schools and colleges was rising. “It is not surprising that so many teachers and lecturers are considering leaving the profession. They are having to cope with endless government initiatives, Ofsted inspections and pressure … to get pupils through tests.”

Teachers have warned that coalition plans to pay teachers according to where they live could lead to lower salaries for those who teach arts, and for primary school teachers.

George Osborne, the chancellor, said in his budget statement last month that he wanted to see public sector pay “more responsive to local pay rates” to help the private sector grow in economically depressed parts of the UK.

A poll of 791 teachers by ATL found that 53% expected this would lead to their salaries being linked to the age group of children they taught, and 62% thought it would result in maths and science teachers being paid the most.

Pupil behaviour worse since abolition of caning, warn teachers

Pupil behaviour worse since abolition of caning, warn teachers

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

School canes

School canes being made during the last century. Corporal punishment was outlawed in schools in 1987. Photograph: Hulton Getty/Getty Images

Children’s behaviour has grown considerably worse since the abolition of corporal punishment 25 years ago, teachers have warned.

Successive governments have failed to introduce an effective way to deal with misbehaviour since striking pupils with a cane or slipper was outlawed in 1987, the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) heard.

Teachers said detentions fail to deter pupils, while exclusions and suspensions are only handed out in the most serious cases because inspectors take a dim view of schools that regularly exclude children.

“The forms of discipline currently available to teachers for dealing with inappropriate behaviour remain totally inadequate,”Julian Perfect, a London teacher told the conference.

Perfect said while he did not support the reintroduction of corporal punishment, it was worth noting there had been “no attempt to introduce any new method of sanction into schools … that has the same effect as a deterrent for inappropriate behaviour as corporal punishment had.”

Children’s behaviour has deteriorated further over the past few years, he said.

“Persistent, low-level rudeness and disruption seems to have become a fact of life in education today and no longer raises eyebrows or seems to merit special attention,” Perfect said, quoting a secondary school teacher who did not want to be named.

Ministers – past and present – have failed to suggest “any novel methods for disciplining pupils” that give teachers’ “meaningful authority”, Perfect said.

The Education Act 2011 gives teachers the right to search pupils for banned items, such as mobile phones. The law also removed a requirement to give parents a day’s notice if their child was handed a detention.

Mary Bousted, ATL’s general secretary, warned that pupils were becoming spoilt “little Buddhas”.

She said parents were failing to define boundaries for their children. “Far too many children are waited on hand and foot. They don’t make their beds or do the hoovering,” she said. “It doesn’t do them any favours if you make them little Buddhas. It certainly doesn’t help them in school because they end up not understanding their responsibilities to other children.”

She added that children had begun to believe their teachers were there to “serve them”.

A poll of 814 teachers, conducted by ATL and published last week, found a third had been hit or kicked by a student in the last academic year.

Pupils going hungry as school meals shrink, teachers warn

Pupils going hungry as school meals shrink, teachers warn

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

School meals

School staff have noticed a rise in the number of children eligible for free school meals, according to an ATL poll. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

School lunch portions are now so small that many children in England are hungry during afternoon lessons, teachers have warned.

Canteens are cutting costs by reducing portion sizes, the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) heard. Some run out of food before all children have been served.

At the same time, teachers said, the number of children eligible for free school meals was on the increase because of rising unemployment. Pupils are entitled to a free lunch if their parents’ joint income is less than £16,000 a year. For many of these children their only daily hot meal is eaten at school.

An ATL poll of 503 school staff found that more than a third had noticed a rise in the number of children eligible for free school meals. Just over three-fifths (62%) said the cost of school meals had risen by up to £95 a year per child. But many warned that portion sizes had been reduced and the choice of healthy options had become more limited.

School food experts said this could have a damaging effect on children’s concentration and behaviour.

One teacher, who did not want to be named, said children at her primary school were served “very small portions and very limited choice. Children who come with packed lunches eat a lot more at lunchtime.”

Another said the portions at her school were very poor. “There seems to be no regular inspection of the food, the kitchens or portion sizes,” she said. A secondary school teacher said schools offered chips, pasta and rice rather than vegetables and salad because that was what cooks could prepare in bulk quantities.

Many schools outsource the running of their canteens to private firms. Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “Private market forces risk taking over what we are feeding the nation’s children. The size of a portion will, to some extent, affect the size of the profits of an outsourced firm … it is absolutely the case that children are going hungry.”

The Jamie Oliver Foundation, a charity that helps the public to make better-informed choices about food, said a nutritious lunch increased children’s concentration, improved their behaviour and made it more likely that they would achieve top grades.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers

%d bloggers like this: