Categories
Education NNPCF work Parent Carer Forums

Children’s Commissioner’s Attendance Audit

Earlier this week, the Children’s Commissioner published her report ‘The Voices of England’s Missing Children‘ – an audit into attendance in England’s schools.

Whilst identifying some of the issues surrounding school attendance and the challenges thrown up by experiences of many during the covid pandemic, the report calls for 100% of children to be back in school at the start of the new school year in September. Perhaps best regarded as a “call to action”, this will be impossible to achieve between now and September and carries significant risks for children and young people with SEND.

If the schools’ system focuses crudely on attendance, the wrong solutions will be pursued and punitive measures used to coerce families to make their children attend school when they are not ready, not properly supported, enrolled in an appropriate setting or in some cases not even assigned to any school. The report has its sights only on school attendance, not the very valid
reasons why many children are not attending school and the steps necessary to support schools and families in getting a child into school – for example a whole school approach or the strategies adopted by the autism in schools project

The report lays out six recommendations for the system relating to attendance covering a wide range of reasons why children may be out of school from exclusions to children who cannot attend because of caring responsibilities at home. We are very supportive of some of the recommendations in the report,
most notably the recommendation that decisions about children’s education need to be made “with children, their families and other adults in their lives.”

However, we have serious concerns about other aspects of the report:

  • Whilst we agree that school is the right place for the majority of children, for some children this is only true if they have access to the right school and / or the right support. The shortage of suitable school places means that many children with SEND are not in the right environment and the well documented issues with the SEND system mean that even those that struggle because they cannot access the right support from education, health and social care services.
  • The report talks about “exclusion as a trigger for intervention” – this is far too late. By the time a child is excluded, the damage is done. The NNPCF have consistently argued for a clearer framework that guarantees early intervention when families identify concerns – NOT when a child reaches crisis point. This principle has formed the basis of our input into the SEND review.
  • The report asks for school leaders to have a “relentless focus on attendance”. This puts the cart before the horse. All system leaders, school, health and social care need to have a relentless focus on the right support – for many children, poor attendance at school is a symptom of poor support. Moreover, additional pressure on children to attend when they are not able to will do nothing but further damage relationships between schools and families and amplify any existing anxieties children may have.
  • Throughout the report, the emphasis seems to be on the child and family to change with little attention given for the need for the school or health and social care services to change, make reasonable adjustments or step up earlier to provide the right support. The Equalities Act is unequivocal that schools must not disadvantage children with protected characteristics, sadly too many do just that

For more of our representations on school attendance see Attendance, behaviour and exclusions – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

Categories
consultations Department for Education Education NNPCF work Parent Carer Forums SEND Review

NNPCF launch SEND Green Paper consultation survey for all parent carers.

The NNPCF have recently launched their parent carer survey on the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper consultation.

They hope to collect as many responses as possible from all parent carers, not just those who are involved in their local parent carer forums.

The responses of the survey will help to inform the NNPCF’s own response to the SEND Green Paper consultation.

Co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia stated that, “The Green Paper is an opportunity to reset the SEND system after the 2014 reforms failed to deliver the improvements that families of children with SEND so desperately need. It is vital that every parent carer’s voice is heard and so we have launched a short, simple survey to gather parental views that we will use to inform our response to the Green Paper. We will, of course, also publish the survey results.”

You can complete the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/J63QX22

The survey should take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete and remains open until the 30 June.

Categories
Committee Education Select Committee SEND Review

NNPCF gives evidence to the Education Select Committee

The NNPCF co-chair Mrunal Sisodia gave evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee on 24 May, when a session was held on the SEND Green Paper consultation.

Mrunal was joined by IPSEA chief executive Ali Fiddy, Local Government Ombudsman Michael King and Imogen Jolley, Head of Public Law at Simpson Millar.

In the evidence session Mrunal spoke to key points on the SEND Green Paper, including:

  • The need for the incentives in the overall education, care and health system to be aligned with the needs of SEND children, young people and their families.
  • The need for improved accountability in the sector to ensure that when needs were not being met issues could be addressed.
  • The need to listen to families and drive early intervention and stop families getting to crisis point before help is given. This increases needs, creates anger, frustration, mistrust, and costs more money.
  • The need for the Green Paper to say more about long term outcomes for young people with SEND beyond education such as employment, community inclusion and independent living.
  • NNPCF support for national standards in SEND provision that, if set properly and implemented effectively, would help to drive greater clarity in what families can expect and what services need to provide.
  • Parental concerns about naming a setting from a suitable list for children with EHCPs.
  • The importance of strong advocacy and independent support for parents, for example through SENDIAS services and keyworking.
  • The role of Ofsted and the desire from parents that no school should be classified as good or outstanding without being good or outstanding for SEND.

You can find a recording of the session here: The Government’s SEND Review – Committees – UK Parliament

Categories
Bills and legislations Department for Education Education NNPCF work Parent Carer Forums SEND Review

The SEND Green Paper: NNPCF briefing

What does it say and what does the NNPCF think about it?

The NNPCF co-chairs, Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia held a briefing on the contents of the long-awaited SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper consultation for parent carer forums on 23 May.

A recording of the session can now be viewed by following the links below:

YouTube recording of the briefing

Slides from the briefing

Mentimeter survey results

The NNPCF have also published their parent carer survey.

They hope to collect as many responses as possible from all parent carers, not just those who are involved in their local parent carer forums.

The responses of the survey will help to inform the NNPCF’s own response to the SEND Green Paper consultation.

Co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia stated that, “The Green Paper is an opportunity to reset the SEND system after the 2014 reforms failed to deliver the improvements that families of children with SEND so desperately need. It is vital that every parent carer’s voice is heard and so we have launched a short, simple survey to gather parental views that we will use to inform our response to the Green Paper. We will, of course, also publish the survey results.”

You can complete the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/J63QX22

The survey should take no more than 10-15 minutes to complete and remains open until the 30 June.

Categories
Care Quality Commision NNPCF work

Care Quality Commision (CQC) presentation 20/04/22

Attended by Tina Emery and Sarah Clarke

Prior to the meeting a quick mentimeter survey was sent out with questions to all forums, about the CQC’s role in the LA SEND Inspections and how forums understood the CQC’s role in the inspections.  A limited number of forums replied due to the Easter holidays, although 65 forums did respond.

The mentimeter survey clearly demonstrated a lack of consistency in forum involvement and understanding of the role of the CQC. Even following a Written Statement of Action (WSoA) and a revisit.

The presentation was received well and generated discussion around the consistency of forums involvement in the inspection process and how could the CQC improve forums understanding and communications between forums and CQC.

This was the first time that the NNPCF have been asked to present to the CQC and the feedback at the meeting was positive and likely to lead to additional coproduction work between the CQC and the NNPCF.

Categories
consultations Department for Education Education Minister for children and families Parent Carer Forums SEND Review

SEND Green Paper engagement events with the Department for Education and parent carer forums

The special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision (AP) consultation was published at the end of March. The NNPCF have been working with the Green Paper team at the Department for Education (DfE) to organise a series of engagement events for parent carer forums to feedback and discuss the plans outlined in the Green Paper.

There are three different categories of events:

A national webinar hosted by NNPCF co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia – 12 noon 23 May

At this event Mrunal and Tina will share the initial NNPCF response to the proposals. The session will step through the Green Paper outlining which proposals the NNPCF supports and which we have concerns about. The session will be interactive, and we will be seeking flash feedback from parent carer forums on their views of some of the proposals in the Green Paper. We will also outline the different ways that parent carer forums as well as individual parents can respond to the consultation and have their voices heard.

To sign up for this event please use the following link: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZModeCvrTwoGNUve-OwXisL0SQaUniHSchz

Regional events hosted by the Department for Education for Parent Carer Forums

The DfE Green Paper team will be attending NNPCF regional events to share the thinking behind the Green Paper and to have a discussion with regional parent carer groups about their thoughts on the proposals. In these sessions the DfE team will offer a short presentation of 20-30 minutes and then will take feedback and questions relating to the Green Paper for the rest of the hour. The objective of these sessions is to offer parent carer forums the opportunity to have frank and honest exchanges with the DfE team. The sessions will not be recorded due to confidentiality reasons.

The schedule of events is as follows:

RegionDateTimeVirtual or in person meeting
North East26 May11am – 12.30pmVirtual
North West   
Yorkshire and Humber24 May10amIn person York
West Midlands16 May1pmVirtual
East Midlands8 June10amVirtual
East of England12 May10am-2pmIn person – Cambridge
London
16 May 10am-12.30pmVirtual
South East20 May10am-12noonVirtual
South West10 May12:30pm-2pmVirtual (Teams)
Please note, any gaps to the table will be filled once confirmed by the DfE.
Details of how to join these meetings will be sent out through the usual regional parent carer forum channels.

National SEND review briefing hosted by Minister Will Quince

We are currently working with the DfE to organise a national webinar. This will give parent carer forums the opportunity to discuss and feedback to the DfE on the proposals set out in the Green Paper. Children and Families Minister Will Quince will host this event. Once the dates have been confirmed we will publish the webinar, with more information including how to register for the session.

Categories
Department for Education Education white paper

Initial NNPCF response to the Schools White Paper

Yesterday saw the publication of the Schools’ White Paper, Opportunity for All (Opportunity for all – Strong schools with great teachers for your child (publishing.service.gov.uk)). This will form the basis of new legislation for schools and part of a package of reforms along with the SEND review.

This paper outlines our initial response to the contents of the document. Many of the key proposals in the White Paper have been discussed in the mainstream media, we will not focus on these broader proposals here, rather we will focus on those elements that are most relevant the children and young people with SEND.

Some key points include:

  • We are pleased that a strong multi-academy trust is defined one that provides a “high quality and inclusive education.” The review, regulation and enforcement of this will be key.
  • The target for 90% of children to meet targets for reading, writing and maths could be a very strong incentive for schools to focus on getting SEND provision right – if approximately 15% of children have SEND, it will be impossible to reach this target without strong SEND focus. However, we do have strong concerns about unintended consequences of this:
    • because this is across the whole system and will not apply to individual schools or trusts there may be incentives for individual schools to schools to off roll or discourage SEND pupils from attending. The accountability, inspection and regulatory framework will need to be strong to counter this.
    • a purely academic measure of success and focus on tests may be harmful to the mental health and well being of many pupils – we would like to see wider definitions of what success looks like for pupils.
  • The “Parent Pledge” may offer additional rights to parent-carers of children on SEN support to get support more quickly. However, the paper is silent on a more diverse range of support such as therapy services.
  • Likewise, the emphasis on targeted support is very welcome – however, the focus remains very strongly on tutoring – we would like to see more about the other non-academic support (e.g. speech and language or occupational therapy) that many SEND children need.
  • We have repeatedly called for greater clarity in the accountability of mainstream schools and in particular academies when it comes to SEND (see our post on our discussions with Baroness Barran NNPCF Steering Group meet with Minister on Schools White Paper – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C.). The White Paper goes some way towards tidying up the current confused accountability in the schools system. However, the responsibilities for ensuring that schools and trusts meet the needs of SEND children remains unclear – it is vital that the role of DfE Regional Directors and Local Authorities are clarified. At the moment, SEND children risk falling through the gaps again.
  • There remains a strong focus on behaviour and attendance throughout the paper – if implemented crudely, this may again prove a disincentive to inclusive schools. We would like to see more said about a requirement on schools to meet children’s needs promptly and an understanding that much “bad behaviour” results from unmet needs.
  • There is no mention of SEND in the remit for the new curriculum body that is proposed – the relationship between this and the minimum standards for SEND proposed in the SEND Green Paper requires greater clarity.
  • Finally, there are several welcome proposals for the SEND community such as the additional training of SENCos, the mention of school mental health teams, the continued focus of Ofsted on off-rolling and the steer towards a broad curriculum featuring sports, music and culture.

We will be working with the Department for Education as these proposals are further developed and we will be organising events for parent carer forums to gather your views over the coming weeks.

Categories
Education

NNPCF Steering Group meet with Minister on Schools White Paper

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.

Categories
Education Support for CYP with SEND

Supporting children and young people with SEND attend school

The NNPCF has been asked to join the Department for Education’s Attendance Action Alliance which was set up by the Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi. Education Secretary launches new attendance alliance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The group brings together senior figures from the world of education to boost attendance at school, particularly for vulnerable pupils.

At the meeting this week, chaired by Schools Minister Robin Walker, NNPCF co-chairs Mrunal Sisodia and Tina Emery were asked to lead a discussion on how to support the attendance of CYP with SEND.

Drawing upon the insightful feedback that we got from parent carer forums in our survey last year survey we conducted on school attendance (School attendance for children and young people with SEND – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C (nnpcf.org.uk)), Mrunal and Tina talked about the reasons for CYP with SEND missing school. These included:

  • How anxiety and mental health issues was the most significant barrier for many CYP with SEND
  • The impact that families not getting the right support had on attendance – not just from schools but also the gaps in social care and health services particularly over the pandemic
  • How fear of covid was less of an issue for parents than many perceived
  • And how the shortage of appropriate school places was stopping CYP with SEND attending school

In addition, we also spoke about the steps local and national government / NHS could take to better support families:

  • More reasonable adjustments
  • A more holistic focus from schools
  • More support for anxiety including better awareness, use and funding of mental health support teams
  • More awareness of the challenges of disability
  • Better training for staff
  • More and better coproduction

Other members of the group endorsed these messages as being aligned with their research and findings.

We also called for a more consistent approach and messages from the Department for Education – children should be supported into school and local authorities and schools must not be allowed to take a punitive approach to school attendance. We highlighted the Autism in Schools project (Autism Schools Project – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C (nnpcf.org.uk)) as an exemplar of the right approach combining coproduction, a cross system approach and being person centred.

Categories
Education NNPCF work SEND Review

SEND Review Update: NNPCF

NNPCF Co-Chairs continue to attend SEND Review Steering Group and represent views of parents and forums but the NNPCF is also heavily involved in the wider sector response to the review.

One example of this is our work with the Special Educational Consortium (SEC) of which the NNPCF is a member.

SEC is a group of organisations who protect and promote the rights of disabled children and children with special educational needs (SEND) and provide a unified voice for the sector. They work with the government, the Department for Education, members of Parliament and other organisations when there are proposals for changes in policy, legislation, regulations and guidance that may affect disabled children and children with SEN.

We believe it is really important that all parental and sector voices are heard by the Review Team and at the last SEC meeting, members were joined by Charles Lang from DfE who is leading the SEND Review. The following key areas were discussed:

  1. Keep it early: early action to identify and meet needs
  2. Keep children in school: focus on the quality of universal provision in settings, schools and colleges
  3. Keep children local: an integrated approach, locally delivered
  4. A recovery programme for all

SEC had compiled a list of 20 asks of the SEND review that the NNPCF have contributed to and which aligns with the messages that the NNPCF have given the SEND review. What we need from the SEND review: NNPCF co-chairs brief Children and Families Minister Will Quince – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

We encourage parents to keep talking to their local forums and forums to keep feeding back to NNPCF top ensure that your views are represented in the SEND review. Please share your views with your regional NNPCF steering group member and you can also send your thoughts to consulation@nnpcf.org.uk.