On Monday the NNPCF Steering Group met with Baroness Barran, the Minister for the Schools System on proposals for the schools’ white paper.
Forums feed back to us all the time about the issues that children and young people with SEND face in the current school system and the steering group relayed these messages to the Minister and talked about how schools needed to be more integrated into the SEND system. The points we raised included:
- The fragmentation of the schools system with no clear accountability between local authorities, multi-academy trusts (MATs) and Regional Schools Commissioners leading to CYP with SEND falling through the cracks. Ros Luff, NNPCF steering group member for London said, “There can often be a disconnect between support partners such as between SENCOs & senior leaders, LA SEND & Social Care teams, or between LA’s & health partners and/or schools. When schools become academies the senior leaders may not be aware of all that has previously been delivered for SEND through the LA. There can be issues with having the local knowledge to secure appropriate timely support, along with loss of economies of scale.”
- The need for better integration of MATs into local systems – particularly social care and health services and other support often provided via local authorities (e.g. educational psychology). Zara Bowden, West Midlands steering group member commented, “It’s important to remember that while there is complexity and fragmentation in our school system, this also applies to the wider system that supports our SEND communities. Maintained and non-maintained schools should work with local systems to support families and share information that can help the system improve. I was pleased the Minister understood and took on board the points we raised that reflect this, and how we see the opportunity ahead for this to be embedded as an expected standard practice, of course with space for co-production to happen at local and regional levels.”
- Re-aligning incentives for school leaders with the SEND agenda – at present funding, league tables and inspections often do not focus enough on the needs of SEND
- The need for a more holistic view of what success looks like for children and schools beyond academic just results.
- The need for cultural change in schools when inclusion and diversity are valued by ALL schools and SEND is seen as important as the “core” subjects (e.g. by making sure that SEND is represented on school leadership teams). Fazilla Amide, steering group member for London said, “Changing structures and models are not as important as culture change: changing hearts and minds. It requires genuine co-production, great leadership, clear goals and excellent training and communications. We need people to understand why they need to change and what they need to do to get behind this to achieve the aims.”
- Making sure that personalisation and local character are not lost in a drive for more standardisation
We also highlighted the cynicism that many SEND parents feel about academy trusts – the perception being that they are less inclusive and disadvantage CYP with SEND in pursuit of better academic results.
The Minister understood the points we made and recognised the need for the schools’ white paper, the SEND review and the social care review to be joined up in order to be successful.