Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by NASEN

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1  NASEN is the UK's leading organisation for the education, training, development and support of all those working within the field of special educational needs.

  1.2  NASEN has 8000 members throughout the UK and communicates and consults them through its 50 branches, regular newsletters, its website and its specific committees and voluntary officers. NASEN's membership is drawn from all aspects of education including mainstream and special schools, colleges and universities, support services, local education authorities and parents. NASEN represents the voice of its members in a number of national and local forums.

  1.3  NASEN reaches a wide national and international readership through its journals: British Journal of Special Education, Support for Learning, its on-line publication Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs and the magazine Special!

  1.4  NASEN runs a professional development programme throughout the year including courses and seminars and workshops at many of the education and special needs exhibitions around the country.

  1.5  NASEN welcomes this opportunity to submit evidence to the Select Committee, which as you can see, will reflect a diversity of opinion and experience.

  1.6  NASEN would also welcome the opportunity to supplement written evidence with oral evidence.

2.  PROVISION FOR SEN PUPILS IN "MAINSTREAM" SCHOOLS: AVAILABILITY OF RESOURCES AND EXPERTISE; DIFFERENT MODELS OF PROVISION

  2.1  NASEN has a wide range of examples that would indicate that mainstream schools have been supporting those individuals with special educational needs for many years and have provided quality educational opportunities with commitment, confidence and skill for all their pupils. There is a great deal of good practice within this area and NASEN believes this should be championed and used to provide others with the training necessary to deliver this level of inclusive practice.

  2.2  Where schools have built up strong support mechanisms between staff, parents, community and outside agencies, have a supportive ethos, deliver regular and relevant training and have resources that are accessible to deliver a differentiated, broad and balanced curriculum relevant to the needs of children and young people, pupils with a wide range of special educational needs can be successfully taught alongside their peers within mainstream classrooms. Where this is not the case, some children and teachers may struggle to achieve the outcomes despite their efforts.

  2.3  Every child is entitled to good teaching and every teacher needs to acknowledge that they are a teacher of children with special educational needs. NASEN commends the work of Teaching Assistants in supporting these individuals and where they are working closely with the SENCO or Class Teacher they can provide an excellent standard of education. However, NASEN has a growing concern regarding the use of unqualified staff to look after some of these vulnerable children who need well trained and suitably qualified individuals to help meet their needs.

  2.4  Leaders in mainstream schools should acknowledge this by ensuring that the funding they receive for SEN is directed to those children for whom it is meant. Clear, transparent and accountable budget information available for staff, governors, local authorities and parents will ensure that funding is used effectively to meet the needs of those individuals.

  2.5  The SEN Code of Practice 2001 stated that all schools should have a person responsible for co-ordinating SEN provision (SENCO). NASEN believes that this should be a qualified teacher who is a senior member of staff. It also advocates that time to carry out this role should be guaranteed to ensure that the SEN provision of the school is monitored effectively.

  2.6  NASEN welcomed the introduction of the Statutory Inclusion Statement in Curriculum 2000—Inclusion: providing effective learning opportunities for all pupils:

    "Schools have a responsibility to provide a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils. The National Curriculum is the starting point for planning a school curriculum that meets the specific needs of individuals and groups of pupils.

    This statutory inclusion statement on providing effective learning opportunities for all pupils outlines how teachers can modify, as necessary, the National Curriculum programmes of study to provide all pupils with relevant and appropriately challenging work at each key stage. It sets out three principles that are essential to developing a more inclusive curriculum:

      (a)  Setting suitable learning challenges.

      (b)  Responding to pupils' diverse learning needs.

      (c)  Overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils."

  NASEN does have concerns as to how much emphasis is placed on this in some mainstream schools and believes that it should form a central arm of all school improvement planning.

  NASEN would welcome more effective training and support for all teachers (especially during their Initial Teacher Training).

  It also welcomes the initiatives that have developed from the Literacy, Numeracy, Primary and Secondary strategies that support many of those pupils who need additional support especially in English and Maths. However, there is still concern regarding those pupils who are unable to access these programmes as their needs are significant and profound.

  2.7  NASEN also acknowledges that there are some poor examples of classroom practice. Teachers with low expectations, inadequate support, poor resources and equipment will result in poor teaching and underachievement. In schools where pupils with special educational needs are not valued, possibly from inconsistency of funding, ineffective or inconsistent school targets and poor facilities, the needs of these pupils are not met.

   2.8  NASEN welcomed the Ofsted Report—Special Educational Needs and Disability—Towards Inclusive Schools—October 2004 where its main findings acknowledged that there was still a considerable challenge for mainstream schools to be inclusive:

    "A minority of mainstream schools meet special needs very well, and others are becoming better at doing so. High expectations, effective whole school planning seen through committed managers, close attention on the part of skilled teachers and support staff, and rigorous evaluation remains the keys to effective practice. . .".

  2.9  NASEN's members feel that there has been a significant cultural change in schools recognising that Inclusion is no longer an option but a requirement. The challenge for schools is to be able to put into practice effective supportive programmes that support quality inclusion.

  2.10  NASEN is concerned about the erosion of some central support services due to delegation of funding to schools and it is very worried about the effect this erosion may have over time. The conflict between the LEA Area Reviews and desirability to delegate all funding to schools and the need for some services to be provided centrally is a cause for concern for many of our members working in them. If schools are to provide this very specialised support from in school then very effective CPD has to be available to meet all the diverse needs that they may encounter. Tensions between the differing demands of provider agencies need to be addressed.

3.  PROVISION FOR SEN PUPILS IN SPECIAL SCHOOLS

  3.1  NASEN believes that maintained and non- maintained special schools have a very important part to play in the education of young people with special educational needs. For some individuals, the very specialist support and care that special schools can provide, is fundamental to their educational achievement and well being. The opportunity to work in smaller groups, with higher staffing levels, with specialist equipment and resources impacts positively on that individuals educational development.

  3.2  The majority of special schools have a wealth of expertise and experience in teaching children with complex special needs. Where local clusters of school have been proactive in working together, the outreach that many of these schools staff can provide in supporting those individuals in mainstream schools has been well regarded. It needs to be acknowledged that where this is effective and successful there have been flexible funding mechanisms in place to ensure that all schools involved have adequate resources to enable it to happen. NASEN believes that there should be national guidance to LEAs on special school funding to support collaborative working.

  3.3  NASEN acknowledges that not all special schools are providing a high level of education and care. There would appear to be some lack of breadth of expertise and rigor within small local authorities to challenge their special schools.

  3.4  NASEN has concerns regarding the transport arrangements for many out of area pupils and how this might impact on the Extended School agenda currently being championed throughout the country through the Every Child Matters agenda. Many of these pupils would benefit from extended school provision provided by their local community. NASEN is not convinced that this will be available for many of these pupils without transport needs and costs being safeguarded.

  3.5  It would appear that every local authority has a slightly different view of how they interpret "quality inclusion"—NASEN believes that this would be an ideal time to carry out some research on the relative benefits of the many systems that are being used throughout the country. (NASEN Policy on Inclusion—Appendix 1)

  3.6  Special consideration needs to be made regarding the current provision for EBSD pupils. This has become a very challenging area with some schools encountering difficulties under the current inspection regime. It is also important to ensure that these challenging young people receive the good quality education that they are entitled to. Flexibility within the curriculum would be a key to this success.

  3.7  NASEN has examples of excellent practice regarding dual placements, where a child is based in one school (mainstream) but spends part of the week being educated in another school (special). Where staff, parents and external agencies support, plan and regularly evaluate this process the child can benefit considerably. As in 3.2 it needs to be acknowledged that where this is effective and successful there has been flexible funding mechanisms in place to ensure that all schools involved have adequate resources to enable it to happen.

  3.8  The use of further education facilities for post 14 youngsters enables many to access aspects of the curriculum which are not available to them within their school but the quality of this provision is often poor with little evaluation taking place.

4.  RAISING STANDARDS OF ACHIEVEMENT FOR SEN PUPILS

  4.1  NASEN believes that all pupils are entitled to a high quality education which would include the opportunity to develop and progress over a given period of time. This means that all staff should have the highest expectation of all pupils and provide an education that is differentiated to meet their needs. There needs to be a concerted push (national initiative or programme) to educate school staff in understanding the level of expectation they should have for pupils with special educational needs supported by national data.

  4.2  There is increasing pressure on schools to raise standards and many are finding it increasingly difficult to match some pupils levels with the targets for their school. This does lead to pupils being "refused a place" within a mainstream setting. NASEN is aware that many parents have appealed against such decisions.

  4.3  NASEN is concerned that for many learners with special educational needs the current curriculum at Key Stage 3 & 4 is inappropriate both for their needs and for their future in the modern world. NASEN welcomed the debate on the development of secondary education and outlines its views in its Position Paper: "The Future of Secondary Education" (Appendix 2). It is vitally important that when planning SEN provision it is seen as an integral to the whole process and not an afterthought or a "bolt on" to any national educational developments.

  4.4  NASEN has recently been involved in a project with QCA regarding the use of the P Scales within schools. These are widely used in special schools as an assessment tool but with less impact in mainstream schools. NASEN was disappointed that the statutory reporting of these levels was not introduced in 2005.

  4.5  There needs to be a review of the current assessment arrangements especially when assessing the progress of pupils with special educational needs. Both mainstream and special schools need to be accountable for pupils who do not meet national thresholds but recognition must be made that they may not make the same progress in the given period of time. There needs to be an acknowledgement of realistic expectations with less emphasis on "moving up levels". Greater use of value added data would help schools that provide effectively for all pupils. A greater use of assessment for learning and less on summative assessment will aid this process.

  4.6  NASEN recognises the DfES' commitment in their intervention packages that have been produced to support the National Strategies. These have ensured that for many pupils alternative activities have been readily available to support them especially in Literacy and Numeracy. However, there are still many individuals who are not accessing the curriculum at a level that is appropriate for their needs.

5.  THE SYSTEM OF STATEMENTS OF NEED FOR SEN PUPILS

  5.1  NASEN would welcome a review of the current statementing process that appears to differ considerably from one LEA to another. We would support the need to see a reduction in bureaucracy whilst acknowledging the need for a process that ensure transparency for schools and parents. We endorse that a full and through assessment process is key to the individual receiving the necessary support. NASEN would recommend, that as part of a review, examples of good practice were collated from across all local authorities to encourage the consistency of providing a statement.

  5.2  Parental perception appears to be that if their child has a statement they will be entitled to additional support. There are, however, many pupils entitled to some intervention or support without a statement. Parents appear to lack confidence that schools are providing that to which their child is entitled.

  5.3  NASEN also acknowledges that the statementing process is being abused by parents who see it as a route to accessing particular school places for secondary transfer. This is not always the right educational choice for a child's needs and suggests that local strategies for parental preference be re-examined.

  5.4  Looking at the wider issues of the Every Child Matters agenda, there should be a much broader "statement" that includes all aspects of the child's needs and how these might be addressed within a multi-agency framework. However, NASEN acknowledges that the constraints by which we fund educational provision would have to be considered within this process.

  5.5  As more and more financial responsibility is delegated to schools there needs to be more effective systems to ensure that those pupils who are being funded to support their special needs are actually receiving that funding. This needs to be transparent to governors, local authorities and parents.

  5.6  There needs to be a much greater emphasis placed on parents, schools and local authorities working together to ensure the appropriate provision for an individual child. Currently the perception of "fighting" the LEA or school would appear to be how parents view the statementing and tribunal process. If parents believed and trusted that their child's needs were accurately identified and that provision met those needs there would be little recourse to appeal or Tribunal.

6.  THE ROLE OF PARENTS IN DECISIONS ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN'S EDUCATION

  6.1  NASEN believes that the vast majority of parents have a high level of interest in the education of their children and wish to be involved in supporting teachers and other professionals in helping them achieve. One of the challenges is that school staff need appropriate training to work positively and sensitively with the parents.

  6.2  It also believes that there is a significant correlation between the successful education of children with special educational needs and the full involvement of their parents.

  6.3  Legislation and current educational theory have emphasised the importance of the relationship between parents and professionals. This should be seen as a partnership that is characterized by mutuality of respect, understanding and consistency of approach. It is a relationship where parents are different but equal.

  6.4  NASEN is concerned that appropriate emphasis is placed on the responsibilities, rights and entitlements of each party whilst at the same time ensuring that the individual child with special educational needs remains the focus of concern.

  6.5  There is an issue regarding parental preference when selecting a school for a child with special educational needs. Parental perception is that the choices may be limited due to financial constraints or lack of suitable provision for their child. It is accepted that parental choice may not always be in the best interests of the child.

  6.6  Many parents feel they are caught between schools and LEAs and end up "fighting" for what they believe to be right for their child. This is often due to resourcing issues where parents get caught up in disputes between schools, authorities and other professional. More collaboration is needed between schools and authorities in order to meet the range of pupil needs. An improvement and transparency in SEN financial delegation to mainstream schools would help in this process.

  6.7  NASEN is disappointed that the importance of the voice of the child was not apparently considered to be critical in understanding and agreeing the way forward in supporting them to engage in the school system. NASEN strongly believes that in all decisions concerning the child must be actively involved. (NASEN Policy on Pupil Participation—Appendix 3)

7.  HOW SPECIAL NEEDS ARE DEFINED

  7.1  NASEN has been attempting to address the issue of terminology to support our colleagues in Scotland who will be broadening their remit and using the term Additional Support Needs from November. We recognise that no particular term is ideal and that words need to change to reflect changing practice and reduce emerging negative stereotypes.

  7.2  NASEN is concerned about categories of need being used in isolation from the provision needed to meet the need. Education professionals have moved away from the medical model of labels and established terminology to reflect the support the child will require to meet the need.

  7.3  The Every Child Matters agenda is underpinned by multi agency working and commitment to working collaboratively to support the needs of vulnerable children and young people. There would appear to be a variance in definitions between agencies dealing with children and young people with special educational needs. This can lead to misunderstanding and inappropriate support being given.

  7.4  NASEN has concerns regarding the PLASC data codes that all schools use to catagorise their SEN pupils, the interpretation of each code is not consistently applied. The allocation of these codes needs to be carried out professionally and parents and pupils need to be informed of the descriptor that is used by schools.

8.  PROVISION FOR DIFFERENT TYPES AND LEVELS OF SEN, INCLUDING EBSD

  8.1  NASEN welcomed the Every Child Matters Framework and the establishment of joined up services that should meet all the needs of children and young people.

  8.2  Early Intervention is key to any provision that is needed by a child. The provision of a sound foundation for future learning and development is fundamental to a child's capacity to catch-up, keep up and maintain the progress of their peers. If support is available from the early stages of development it reduces the risk of long term underachievement and disaffection.

  8.3  Within NASEN's diverse membership there is representation from many different types of provision to support the varying needs of pupils with SEN. As well as members who work in specified mainstream and special schools, there are those who are working in units, bases and centres that may be attached to schools. NASEN's policy on Inclusion emphasises that:

    "Children are entitled to receive, with a suitable peer group, a broad balanced and relevant curriculum, in the least restrictive environment, that meets their needs".

  8.4  As 3.6 states special consideration needs to be made regarding the provision for EBSD pupils. This has become a very challenging area with some schools encountering difficulties under the current inspection regime. It is also important to ensure that these challenging young people receive the good quality education that they are entitled to which can only be developed from a fully competent and trained staff. Flexibility within the curriculum would be a key to this success. It is apparent that where there has been success, there has been this flexibility in ensuring the curriculum meets the needs of these particular individuals.

  8.5  NASEN has a concern regarding the transition process that young people encounter from children's services to adult services. There would appear to be a lack of support and guidance to ensure that this very difficult time in a young persons life is managed effectively, taking into account the individuals needs.

9.  THE LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR SEN PROVISION AND THE EFFECTS OF THE DA 2001, WHICH EXTENDED THE DDA TO EDUCATION

  9.1  It is too early to be clear about the overall impact of the DDA on schools. Our concern is that, to date, attention may have been limited to structural access issues and has not had impact on curriculum or ethos, which is key, in our view, to meeting the needs of the broader range of pupils with SEN.

  9.2  The DDA is very supportive of those with a recognised diagnosis. It is unclear how much it might support those without.

  9.3  NASEN is concerned that many parents of children and young people with special education needs do not wish their child to be classified as "disabled".

APPENDIX 1:

NASEN: POLICY DOCUMENT ON INCLUSION

OVERALL PRINCIPLES

  NASEN believes that:

    —  Every human being has an entitlement to personal, social and intellectual development and must be given an opportunity to achieve his/her potential in learning.

    —  Every human being is unique in terms of characteristics, interests, abilities, motivation and learning needs.

    —  Educational systems should be designed to take into account these wide diversities.

    —  Those with exceptional learning needs and/or disabilities should have access to high quality and appropriate education.

INCLUSION: THE POLICY CONTEXT

  Both nationally and internationally, there is an ongoing debate about the merits and meaning of greater inclusion for children with special educational needs[1]. This is sometimes defined simplistically in terms of placement.

  Some parents, disabled people and professionals argue that young people deprived of mainstream access are being denied a basic human right to be educated alongside their peers. Others point out that children's attendance at mainstream school does not guarantee their needs are met. They argue that children require an appropriate curriculum, resources and positive staff attitudes and skills to ensure that they are "included" in any meaningful sense.

  At the other extreme, there are those who see inclusion of all children in mainstream schooling as either impractical or else so demanding of resources that it would breach the principle of reasonable and equitable use of resources for the school population as a whole. Recent disability rights legislation has challenged this view, on the basis of equal opportunities and there is developing recognition that inclusion is a lifelong issue, linked to enhanced participation in society. However, there are still issues about how greater inclusion is best achieved and about the pace at which developments should be expected to occur. There are also differing views about the role of special schools in a more inclusive school system.

  In NASEN's view, inclusion is not a simple concept, restricted to issues of placement. Its definition has to encompass broad notions of educational access and recognise the importance of catering for diverse needs[2]. Increasing mainstream access is an important goal. However, it will not develop spontaneously and needs to be actively planned for and promoted. Moreover, inclusive principles highlight the importance of meeting children's individual needs, of working in partnership with pupils and their parents/carers and of involving teachers and schools in the development of more inclusive approaches. Inclusion is a process not a state.

KEY PRINCIPLES

    —  Valuing diversity: All children are educable and are the responsibility of the education service. They should be equally valued whether or not they have special or additional educational needs. Children present a rich and diverse range of strengths and needs. Inclusion is most likely to be achieved when this diversity is recognised and regarded positively.

    —  Entitlement: Children are entitled to receive, with a suitable peer group, a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum, in the least restrictive environment. Wherever possible, this should be in a mainstream school, recognising that appropriate support, advice and resources may be necessary to achieve this. Parents and young people are entitled to express a preference for where that education should take place.

    —  Participation: All children and their parents are entitled to be treated with respect and should be actively encouraged to make their views known so that they can be taken into account. All arrangements should protect and enhance the dignity of those involved.

    —  Individual needs: The development of inclusive practice should not create situations within which the individual needs of children are left unmet. A range of flexible responses should be available to meet such needs and to accommodate their diversity.

    —  Planning: All educational and inter-agency planning should be based on inclusive principles. Inclusion requires ongoing strategic planning at both system and individual pupil level. Considerable effort is still needed to overcome the barriers to inclusion that exist.

    —  Collective responsibility: The principle of inclusion extends into society as a whole. Within educational establishments, local and central government departments, it should therefore be an issue for all staff rather than the exclusive responsibility of a particular group of individuals.

    —  Professional development: Inclusion requires both extension of the application of existing skills and the development of new ones. All staff need to feel supported through this process and have access to a range of appropriate courses, advice and resources.

    —  Equal opportunities: There is a potential tension between an emphasis on those "standards" which lead to a placement in a hierarchy and the pursuit of inclusion. Whilst the two are not incompatible, it is essential that the tension is recognised and that account is taken of all pupils" needs in planning educational development.

SCHOOL RESPONSIBILITIES[3]

  NASEN believes that school managers[4] should:

    —  Seek to ensure that there is an agreed understanding within the school of the broader meaning of inclusion; that it is a quality issue that concerns the entire process of education and not simply where children are placed. Appropriate development goals should be set for this area and progress monitored.

    —  Recognise the links between inclusive education and catering for diversity. This means promoting a whole school ethos that values all children and their families, whatever their individual needs.

    —  Foster a climate that supports flexible and creative responses to individual needs. A lack of success in initial responses should not be deemed an adequate reason to abandon inclusion, but rather as a "starting point".

    —  Recognise inclusion as part of the school's equal opportunities policy and that there need to be clear arrangements for implementation, funding and monitoring.

    —  Ensure that all school developments and policies take account of inclusive principles.

    —  Ensure that the admission of pupils with special educational needs is handled positively and sensitively. While, in some cases, additional support and advice may be necessary to ensure that children's needs are adequately met, all parents and children should be made to feel welcome.

    —  Ensure that appropriate assessment and support arrangements are in place (including appropriately trained staff), both within the school and from external agencies, so that children's needs are properly addressed.

    —  Work collaboratively with local authority officers and other local agencies to identify any existing barriers to inclusion and consider how these may best be overcome.

    —  Recognise that inclusion is the responsibility of all school staff. Developments in practice will need the support of all staff and the school community as a whole. They will need to be consulted and involved in developments from the beginning.

    —  Enable all staff to have access to suitable professional development opportunities which will support the development of inclusive practice.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITIES

  NASEN believes that local government[5] should:

    —  Encourage and develop shared local responsibility and commitment to educating and providing for all children in their area. Local authorities should provide a clear lead but also recognise the role of other agencies (both voluntary and statutory) in providing for children with special educational needs.

    —  Recognise that inclusive education is a key issue that needs to underpin all local developments. Steps should be taken to ensure that all authority staff understand and have reference to inclusive principles in their particular area of responsibility.

    —  Recognise that inclusion is more than mainstream placement and that positive encouragement, effective support and appropriate resourcing are prerequisites to ensure that progress is achieved.

    —  Prepare and maintain strategic plans for developing inclusion within their area and monitor progress. These should identify the expected contribution of a range of partners (including local special schools) towards promoting inclusive practice.

    —  Work with schools to develop more inclusive policies and practices. This should include support at the whole school/management level as well as support and advice to enable staff to respond more confidently and effectively to children with individual needs.

    —  Identify and disseminate good practice in schools with regard to inclusion and provide appropriate professional development opportunities designed to support inclusive developments. This should include staff from different settings undertaking joint staff development.

    —  Monitor progress towards inclusive practice, both at the school and individual pupil level, using both quantitative and qualitative indicators, in order to identify positive developments and areas where increased support and advice may be necessary. As an element of this, they should encourage the active consideration of inclusive options at pupils' annual reviews.

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBILITIES

  NASEN believes that central government should:

    —  Provide a clear lead by ensuring that all policies are based on inclusive principles and value all children and their families. Existing and new legislation and guidance should be audited to ensure that these support and do not undermine (or act as disincentives to) the inclusive process.

    —  Ensure strategic links between government departments in order to support the co-ordination of inclusive practice at the local level.

    —  Identify inclusion as a quality issue for local authorities and schools and ensure that appropriate indicators are included in any framework used for inspection and monitoring at both these levels.

    —  Recognise that inclusion means valuing diversity and having the flexibility to respond to it. Any framework for measuring this should take this into account. Methods for assessing pupils and school standards should encourage and not discourage inclusion.

    —  Set a clear national framework for the further development of inclusion, so that progress can be monitored over time. This should include a range of relevant national indicators.

    —  Support the development of good practice through research, dissemination and the provision of appropriate funding. The importance of both initial training and continual professional development to promote good practice in this area should be recognised.

    —  Monitor patterns and trends to ensure continuity of provision and parity of opportunity within and across different authorities.

    —  Recognise the links between the development of greater inclusion and the need for adequate and sustainable funding for education as a whole.






1   The terms "children" and "young people" are used throughout; however it is recognised that similar principles apply to all learners across the 0-19 age range and to all educational establishments. Back

2   The issue of inclusion applies equally to a broader range of young people with individual needs and the term "diversity" is therefore used, where appropriate, within this policy document. Back

3   In NASEN's view, similar responsibilities apply to preschool and post 16 education providers. Back

4   In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, these duties are shared between the Head Teacher and the governing body. In Scotland, they lie with the Head Teacher. Back

5   In England, Scotland and Wales, Local Authorities; in Northern Ireland, Education and Library Boards. Back


 
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