Round and round and round we go…

A few months ago, the Education and Skills select committee published a report on special educational needs. They said:

“The SEN system is demonstrably no longer fit for purpose”

A lengthy debate in the Commons on Tuesday ran along the same lines.

The problems?

1. Teachers in mainstream schools need far more training to understand SENs

2. The statementing process is carried out by the LEA. It also holds the budget. SENs cost money. There is a conflict of interest that leads to delays and difficulties in getting a diagnosis of SEN, and even when parents manage that, the next hurdle is actually to get the provision specified in the statement. This means that a lot of children aren’t getting the support they need to cope at school.

3. The government has been promoting a policy of inclusion in mainstream schools without tackling problems 1 & 2

Because the SEN system is failing to meet children’s needs, at present

87 per cent of exclusions in primary schools involve children with SEN and 60 per cent at secondary.

The Education and Inspections Act 2006 provides that parents commit an offence if their excluded child is in a public place during school hours during the first 5 days of exclusion.

As the Act slithered through parliament, it was pointed out (many times) that this involves parents taking time off work at short notice, and those in the lowest-paid, least secure jobs would probably lose those jobs, especially if their child were repeatedly excluded. It was agreed that the 5 days should be aggregated.

But now we’re told:

The Act introduced provisions that would require schools to provide full-time education after five days of exclusion. Crucially, this was to be based on aggregate days – so that if a child had already been excluded for five days, the school would be responsible for providing education if they were excluded again.

But, after lobbying from teachers, Knight decided this would be too burdensome for schools and that they should only be responsible where an individual exclusion is longer than five days. Parents will now be responsible for ensuring their child is not in a public place for the first five days of any exclusion – even if the child has previously been excluded.

An NUT spokeswoman said:

“If exclusion is to be recognised by the child as punishment then the child’s activities during the exclusion have to be constrained and it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that happens.”

She added that parents should “do something about their child’s behaviour” to ensure that repeated exclusions did not occur.

Quite what the ‘something’ is that a parent can do about their seriously hyperactive or autistic child’s ‘behaviour’ she didn’t say – though I bet plenty of them would love to know. Nor did she venture an opinion on the humanity of punishing a child when they have been excluded because school isn’t managing to include them.

The problem is, “the SEN system is demonstrably no longer fit for purpose” and, as the spokeswoman’s comments make abundantly clear, one of the problems is that teachers in mainstream schools need far more training to understand SENs…

No wonder Ruth Kelly jumped off the roundabout.

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6 Responses to Round and round and round we go…

  1. Carlotta says:

    Thanks for putting all that so clearly. I can help thinking that the above makes it all the more risible that the DfES should want to impose their system upon home educators, (via a prospective DfES consultation on Statutory Changes to Legislative Framework for Home Education) when home educators so effectively take the burden off schools by educating their children according to their abilities and aptitudes, whatever they may be.

  2. archrights says:

    Well, quite, It’s a ridiculously circular situation, and change is so slow in coming. Small wonder that so many parents of children with SENs decide HE is a better option – the damage to children’s self-esteem and, in some cases, mental health wrought by repeated punishment and exclusion is utterly appalling.

  3. Ian Brown says:

    Ruth Kelly had a much more important issue to deal with: trying to stop gay couples adopting children.

  4. Jo Buchler says:

    It’s not just teaching staff who need SEN training but the support staff as well – anyone, in fact, who comes into contact with the child on a regular basis – teaching assistants, midday supervisors and admin staff. Proper training of midday supervisors might be the key to avoiding many of the situations to which children with SENs are particularly vulnerable at playtimes, when there is unstructured time with minimal supervision.

  5. […] Still stuck on the roundabout Read this one first. […]

  6. […] on supply teachers (even ones who haven’t taught for decades) or even classroom assistants. The SEN system is a nightmare. Children (and teachers) are hemmed in by tests and targets, but protest is ignored. […]

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