Filed under: Special Needs Education | Tags: Coalition, coalition cuts, disability, education, education cuts, Education Minister, graduated response, Green Paper, Green Paper SEN and Disability consultation process, Guerrilla Mum, improved teaching, Michael Gove, pastoral care, Sarah Teather, school action, school action plus, SEN, sharing best practice, Special Educational Needs, statement of special educational needs
The green paper for SEN and disability states that those children who currently have a statement, less than 3% of children with SEN, will have an education, health and care plan (EHCP) under the new system. There are also plans to improve achievement for children who are disadvantaged through pastoral care. So far, however, there are only very vague indications about how SEN will be provided for in children who fall into neither of the above categories and have less severe SEN. There will be a lot of children in this lower level category of need! Many of these children will have very real SEN requiring specialist support.
I have commented regularly about the limp and woolly provision currently available to unstatemented children with SEN through the school action and school action plus categories of the graduated response process of our current system for meeting SEN. Yet the new system promises to scrap these classifications replacing them with a new tier of provision. Children will be ‘lumped together’ in this category, with some receiving pastoral care because they are disadvantaged, and others receiving support for SEN through ‘better teaching’ and schools sharing best practice. Also, the voluntary sector will be brought in to carry out so far unspecified roles. Remember, this new system will be implemented by health and education services that have undergone savage cuts and will draw heavily on untrained support from the voluntary sector. I don’t believe it is possible to improve provision for children with SEN and disabilities by cutting specialist services and replacing these with an untrained voluntary sector.
I can see a lot of children who need specialist intervention for their SEN receiving little more than pastoral support if the school has nothing else to offer, leading to misery and failure for thousands of children. How do I know? This is exactly what happened to my son under the deeply flawed but infinitely more robust graduated response of our current system.
The lack of clarity surrounding this is simply not good enough. Everyone has the opportunity to influence these policies by taking the opportunity to make representations to the consultation, and write to their MP to ask how, in detail will the plans be funded and implemented.
Filed under: A few thoughts | Tags: 21st century, bankers, big society, Coalition, coalition cuts, Daddy's millions, disability, education, elites, elitism, equality, Fairness, Forestry Commission, Francis Maude, Green Paper for SEN and Disability, Guerrilla Mum, inheritance, public school boys, Radio 4, selection, Special Educational Needs, The Cabinet, The Today Programme, two-tier education system
For those of you who simply wish to read about special educational needs, education or disability issues etc, you should perhaps stop reading now because this post is quite unashamedly political in nature. I was eating breakfast this morning when on Radio 4 I heard yet another government minister/apologist blaming the government’s savage cuts on their ‘inheritance’ from Labour.
It struck me like an epiphany. I’ve got very fed up with hearing this argument recycled, time and time again. Of course they are talking about inheritance because they come from a class in which inheritance (Daddy’s millions) is their birthright, their experience or their expectation. These are people with no understanding whatsoever of what it is like to live in 21st century Britain (don’t forget 19 out of 23 members of the Cabinet are millionaires).
Now, just because I understand now why they think and speak in the way they do, does not mean I feel any less angry or insulted by being patronised in this manner. We are not ‘all in it together’! The society may look big from the top where the Prime Minister and his cronies sit but for people with disabilities and those caring for them our society can be a very lonely place.
My children’s inheritance was genetic conditions, physical, developmental and sensory disability. They are not cushioned from the realities of life by ‘Daddy’s millions’, but they have the same rights to quality of life, family life, and a decent and appropriate education which this government seeks to deny them.
So the next time you hear a government representative or minister speak, listen to the words they use, the callous catchphrases and the spin they employ to try to dupe the public into acceptance of their savagery. Do not be fooled, this is not about saving money to rescue the economy, it is ideological, and it is about deconstructing our public and social structure so that big business can move in and enable those at the top to profit. Today the government is talking about selling off the Forestry Commission. The forests are part of OUR inheritance, for the NATION! Which sector of society do you imagine can afford to buy a forest? Would you rather go to the New Forest or the MacDonald’s New Forest for your holidays (assuming you can afford one this year!)?
How about a catchphrase of my own?
COALITION GOVERNMENT – PUTTING THE GRRR INTO GUERRILLAMUM SINCE MAY 2010!
(And where is the Green Paper for Special Educational Needs and Disability!?)
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Academies, accountability, Andy Burnham, Coalition, coalition cuts, David Cameron, demostrate, disability discrimination, Ed Balls, education, Guerrilla Mum, Idayah Miller, inclusion, Labour Shadow Ministers, Michael Gove, Minister of State for Children and Families, Prime Minister, Sarah Teather, schools admissions policies, selection, SENDT, Special Educational Needs, university fees debate, Whitehall
Over the last two or three weeks you could not miss the dispute over student fees. It has been on our streets, on the radio and on the television. I don’t want to comment on the rights and wrongs of this, but another vital issue in Education is being missed. Nobody has yet marched through Whitehall, occupied buildings or caused a split in the coalition over the issue of Idayah Miller and her disgraceful treatment by the Harris Federation.
Idayah is a symptom of wider principles which are endangered at present. I’ve written before about the lack of safeguards and checks and balances for academies, particularly where it affects SEN. Idayah has been denied a place at the Crystal Palace Harris academy and was told (amongst other things) that in her wheelchair she would take up too much space in the corridor in the event of a fire. The Harris Federation have apologised for the ill judged words of the Head (though I note he hasn’t been disciplined) but crucially Idayah still does not have a place. The only options available to her Idayah are to appeal to the academy itself or to the Minister of State for Education. A recent article from the London Evening Standard can be seen here: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23903236-idayah-is-a-bright-child-one-of-a-spurned-minority.do
The academy cancelled the appeal and referred the family to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDT). Regular readers will know that I warned some time ago that academies do not have the same legal status in SEN Law as Local Authority controlled schools and that SENDT does not have any jurisdiction over them and they could not help Idayah. This leaves Idayah with a right of appeal either to the school, which has already made its views clear, or to the Minister of State for Education. If I were in her shoes I think I would far rather go to a SENDT tribunal (regular readers will know how harrowing I found SENDT!) than go to an appeal with a man who makes dodgy ideological decisions and changes laws he doesn’t agree with using terrorism legislation.
I don’t have first hand knowledge of Idayah Miller or her family and I don’t know about her particular circumstances. All my sources have come from the Press. However, I do have first hand knowledge of what it feels like to be a family with a disabled child or children. You can quite often feel that you are not a part of society and that some of the agencies that are there to help you are actually obstacles to getting the provision you need for your child. I did, however, see some real improvements under the last Labour administration and greater protection for the rights of disabled people i.e the Autism Act, the Equality Act and excellent initiatives such as Aiming High. It’s really worrying to hear the Prime Minister say he wants to get rid of the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Act reflecting our values. The evidence since his government came to power is that their values include ignoring, marginalising, and removing benefits from those who have disabilities. Social mobility? Not if you are disabled, it seems.
I wish that Idayah had had one percent of the coverage given to the university fees debate. I wish that we could also see the same degree of pressure put on the government as has been used to argue against the schools sports partnership cuts or child benefit. Is it that people don’t care? Or that in financially straitened times people look only to their own needs? What about the Big Society? Or does it not apply to people with disabilities?
The government have a chance to prove me wrong. The Green Paper on SEN is due soon. (Transparency website!!!!!). Sarah Teather has a chance to put some of these wrongs right and lets hope she does.
In the meantime, please re-tweet. Please try to raise the profile for the issues I have raised. If you know somebody famous, or anyone with influence, or who has a big Twitter following (even better!!!) then send this post on to them. Next time this could happen to somebody you love. This is the thin end of the wedge.
At the moment the government is not doing anything about this case (or others like it) because they think nobody cares and they can get away with allowing these organisations to fail disabled children. It’s cheaper.
The Green Paper for SEN and disability is due to be published soon and my wish list would be:
• Inclusive schools admissions policies – schools should not be able to socially engineer their intake, and children with SEN and disabilities should be able to attend mainstream schools or special schools according to their needs
• An independent appeals procedure – independent of the school heads, governors, and of the Minister of State for Education.
• Retain SENDT and widen its scope to deal with appeals from Local Authority controlled schools, academies and free schools (when they come in).
• Retain the statement of SEN and the rights it confers on children. Widen availability of process to identify and make provision for children with SEN because appropriate assessment is currently far too difficult to obtain.
• No selection in state funded schools – (do realise this is a more general wish, probably beyond remit of Sarah T…)
• No devolved funding for statemented children – all statements should be funded properly by the State.
The lack of comment from the Opposition is also a worry and I would like to see some of our Shadow Cabinet getting involved in this very important debate.
Filed under: A few thoughts | Tags: concert, experts, Guerrilla Mum, inclusion, Music, SEN
Our son has been rehearsing for a concert and I have been helping to organise it. The organisation putting on the concert has always been very inclusive and those involved in working with the children are very nice people. However things came to a head last week, when one of the organisers criticised some of the children who had individual pieces to do for not being ‘of the required standard’, and sought to exclude some from playing the parts they had volunteered for. This person was not alone in their thoughts. Others within the organisation, however, leapt to the children’s defence, making clear that all children who volunteered would be included and were appreciated for their talents and all that they brought to the production.
However, the children who were ‘not of the required standard’ were not even children with SEN! The whole experience has left me with an overbearing sense of sadness that I am finding difficult to shift. Everyone else seems to have moved on, which is good, and as it should be and we are all now focussed again on getting the production on to the stage. It should be fun! The children are not aware of what happened, are all enjoying themselves and that is great.
I am still very disappointed with the attitudes of the people who criticised the children in such a negative manner. We may have won this battle but we still have a long way to go to win the war and change people’s exclusionary attitudes. I think you are probably used to hearing positive and upbeat messages from Guerrilla Mum but in truth this experience has left me weary. This is because I know my boys face attitudes like this every day, and probably will for the rest of their lives.
This is part of what worries me about free schools and using experts instead of qualified teachers to teach children. The people who were negative about the children in our production were undoubtedly experts in what they were teaching the children. However they were not trained teachers and, nice as they are, they failed the inclusion test completely. That is the lesson I would pass on to those planning free schools in which teachers do not have to be properly trained.
All of the children in the production are having a positive experience and having fun which is the main thing and what I will try to focus on in the next few days.
Filed under: Radio | Tags: Guerrilla Mum, Jenni Murray, Special Educational Needs, Woman's Hour, x factor
I am going to be on BBC Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour tomorrow at some time between 10.00am and 10.45am to join in a discussion about getting help at school for children with special educational needs. I would love you to listen in. Here is the link to the programme details. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007qlvb/episodes/upcoming
Filed under: Book reviews | Tags: book review, Guerrilla Mum, Sarah Broadhurst
I would like to say a big thank you to Sarah Broadhurst (Sarah’s Book Reviews) for her review of Guerrilla Mum. It can be seen here:
Filed under: Education and the new government, Special Needs Education | Tags: coalition cuts, disability, education, ellen power, full inclusion, Green Paper, Guerrilla Mum, mainstream settings, Minister of State for Children and Families, OFST£D, Ofsted, Sarah Teather, SEN, Special Educational Needs, special schools, specialist units co-located, successful outcomes, Teaching Assistant
I am sure that there is a science to reports and reviews of the type of OFSTED’s ‘Special Educational Needs and Disability Review – a statement is not enough’. One would hope that a government body would conduct an efficient survey of SEN and Disability when tasked to do so. It does point out some things I recognise: the inconsistency in the quality of interventions, inconsistency in the threshold at which this intervention is given, and it also says that the parental perception of inconsistency in this respect is well-founded. Apparently the system for identifying and meeting special educational needs in the UK is in need of major overhaul. It says ‘The pattern of local services had often developed in an ad hoc way, based on what had been done in the past rather than from a strategic overview of what was needed locally’. I do recognise these things in my experiences of trying to access appropriate services for my children. These observations are to be welcomed. So why am I not jumping for joy at the prospect of a shiny new system for identifying and meeting the needs of those with disabilities and SEN at school?
Let’s be absolutely clear about something. It is one thing to make these conclusions and then using the report findings to do something to improve educational provision for children who have SEN and/or disabilities – this is what I am hoping will happen. It is something else again to make observations that focus on apparently ‘failing’ or ‘ineffective’ services with the aim of being seen to make ‘legitimate’ cuts. This is what I fear this report will lead to.
I am not helped in forming a positive view of the OFSTED report when I read: ‘The review found that no one model – such as special schools, full inclusion in mainstream settings, or specialist units co-located with mainstream settings – worked better than any other’. This is something about this report that I do not recognise. Both of my children have at some time in their lives been taught in mainstream settings and in specialist units co-located within specialist schools. They have accessed services that were provided to them within the context of a special school, even though they were not actually pupils at the special school. A range of teachers and professionals have worked with our children both in mainstream settings and in specialist provision. They have only been able to access specialist provision as part of, or following a statementing process, and after experiencing significant failure in a mainstream setting. Without specialist intervention I have no doubt that failure would have simply become more entrenched. Once in a specialist placement, their access to appropriate services and specialist teaching made their levels of achievement soar. Access to specialist teaching and therapy has been central to this progress being made. I just do not recognise the claim ‘that no one model – such as special schools, full inclusion in mainstream settings, or specialist units co-located with mainstream settings – worked better than any other’. I fear that this is a precursor to big cuts in SEN provision. It is my own view that this report is indicative of OFSTED being a public body that is out of touch with the general public. I base this on my own experiences of trying to obtain support for my own children, and what I know of the experiences of other parents in the same position.
The dedicated teachers, therapists, Teaching Assistants etc that one finds in specialist placements have chosen to work in these settings with children with special educational needs. They are highly trained and experienced. Should something happen to reduce the availability of specialist teaching placements, this would be an enormous loss to many children with SEN who cannot be accommodated within an inclusive mainstream setting. Teachers in specialist placements are committed to improving the outcomes of these children: it is a failing of teacher training that most teachers do not have the right training to meet the needs of some children with the most severe special educational needs who require specialist teaching. It is essential that we do not lose the opportunity for our children to access special schools or teaching within specialist settings should they need it.
I would be interested to hear what other parents make of this comment: ‘no one model – such as special schools, full inclusion in mainstream settings, or specialist units co-located with mainstream settings – worked better than any other’. Has your child done best within a mainstream setting or did this fail for them? Have you valued the opportunity of having your child educated in a special school? If so what was it about a special school that worked for them? What do you think of your child’s special school? Has your child accessed specialist teaching in a language unit, autism unit, hearing support unit or other specialist unit within a mainstream school? Did this work out for your child? Lets make it a priority to reply to Sarah Teather’s Green Paper: Children And Young People With Special Educational Needs And Disabilities – Call For Views. Or parents can comment on this blog or at firstname.lastname@example.org – lets record our views somewhere – we may well be glad we did!
I hope I’m wrong, but this report is looking more and more like it will result in a weakening of our children’s rights to SEN provision, all in the name of cutting costs. I think there is a risk that the new government will devise future SEN policy or legislation that will further de-specialise special schools and further limit specialist provision within specialist units co-located in mainstream schools – these places are already like gold dust. Is this an OFSTED report, or an OFST£D report?
Filed under: Education and the new government | Tags: Academies, BSF, Building Schools for the Future programme, Coalition, disability discrimination, education, Education Minister, equality, Free Schools, Guerrilla Mum, haves and have nots, inclusive, Michael Gove, Minister for Education, Ofsted, Special Educational Needs, two-tier education system
It’s hard to post about Free Schools without being mean and nasty and hurting people. I don’t mind being mean and nasty about politicians when I have to because they have put themselves in the firing line but I don’t want to upset other parents simply trying to do the best for their children. So, I am not naming the institution I am writing about, I will just use some of their press.
This private school formed by a band of parents following the closure of its predecessor, has been set up with an initial cohort of fifteen pupils in a wing of a 4 star hotel. The staff and Head teacher have almost wholly been transplanted from the old school, and the website looks very like the old one.
I have no problem with parents who choose to opt out of the state education system. However, this is an option they should expect to pay for. Nor do I have a problem with this school setting itself up in a 4 star hotel, and providing the sort of education for these children that the parents have agreed to pay for. I understand that the group undertook considerable fund raising activities to make their dream possible. I am sure it will be a very good school and will provide a good all round education for the children who go there.
The School’s governors have said that the school has applied to become one of the first free schools – a publicly funded, mixed-ability independent school set up to meet parents’ demand, and it will be free from local authority control. These schools will be able to set up their own curriculum, as they don’t have to follow the national curriculum and they will also be responsible for buying in services to meet special educational needs.
This is where I begin to have a problem with this. Michael Gove has funded his Academies and Free Schools projects by taking away money from the Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF) in order to give it to the Academies and Free Schools. In fact, our mainstream state schools that are neither academies nor free schools are set to lose out twice: not only have they lost out after the cancellation of the BSF programme, but also the yearly funding costs of academies and free schools will be met by taking money from existing schools in any area where these schools are set up.
Pause for a moment to think of a select few children enjoying a publicly funded private school style education in a luxury hotel, and compare this to:
- images of children being educated in decrepit school buildings
- school corridors with buckets lined up to catch the drips from leaky roofs
- children in overcrowded portacabins
- children wearing coats in cold classrooms due to broken and ill-fitting windows
Is this not indicative of a two tier education system with a vastly widening gap between the haves and have nots of society?
This new private school say that they have been praised by Ofsted for their policies, but these can not be seen on the website. There is scant mention of managing the needs of children with special educational needs, and nothing about equality of opportunity or an admissions policy. Not wishing to get too political, I happen to like the work done by the previous government in the areas of equality, disability discrimination and special educational needs, and my children have enjoyed these protections in their education. Indeed, these policies are very evidently displayed on their school website and awareness of these issues in their school is generally very good.
The new private school I am writing about here is still a fee paying school, but if it ever becomes a free school, it will end up being funded by public money, and the school, the governing body and no doubt many of the parents will be able to decide how this money is spent. Not the government, not the Local Authority. Now despite huge claims by Michael Gove that hundreds of groups had expressed interest in becoming Free Schools, there were at the last count only 16 set to open in September 2011, about which Mr Gove was reputed to be not very happy. Perhaps, like me, most state schools appreciate the protections offered to the vulnerable by continuing to keep their schools under local authority control? This general lack of uptake does not bode well for the likelihood of free schools becoming a widespread and inclusive model for education.
How can we sit by and let this happen without so much as a whimper? This model is not an acceptable vision of the future of education for me. Whether this model is an acceptable vision of the future of education for Mr Gove remains to be seen. But why provide a luxury education for the few at public expense, if we can’t do it for the many?