Session 2010-11
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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 516-iii

HOUSE OF COMMONS

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE THE

EDUCATION COMMITTEE

BEHAVIOUR AND DISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS

WEDNESDAY 27 OCTOBER 2010

GILLIAN ALLCROFT, MIKE GRIFFITHS, RUSSELL HOBBY and CHARLIE TAYLOR

VIRGINIA BEARDSHAW, JOHN DICKINSON-LILLEY, PAULA LAVIS and JANE VAUGHAN

Evidence heard in Public

Questions 126 - 207

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Education Committee

on Wednesday 27 October 2010

Members present:

Mr Graham Stuart (Chair)

Nic Dakin

Pat Glass

Damian Hinds

Ian Mearns

Tessa Munt

Craig Whittaker

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Gillian Allcroft, Policy Manager, National Governors’ Association, Mike Griffiths, Head of Northampton School for Boys and witness for the Association of School and College Leaders, Russell Hobby, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers, and Charlie Taylor, Headteacher, Willows Primary Special School and Acting Headteacher of Chantry Secondary Special School, Hillingdon, gave evidence.

Q126 Chair: Good morning. Welcome to this meeting of the Education Committee. We are grateful that the four of you have come to give evidence to us today. If you’re happy and comfortable with it, we’ll use your first names.

Let’s crack on through the questioning on the subject of behaviour and discipline. When we took evidence last week, we were told that in general standards of behaviour and discipline are improving and that, although there is work still to do, one could be happy with the general direction. Would you all concur with that?

Mike Griffiths: I’ll go first. The evidence collected from groups such as Ofsted would seem to be that is. Clearly, it’s always been an issue ever since I started teaching 34 years ago and, I suspect, ever since Aristotle or whoever was writing about young people being disrespectful compared with the older generation and so on. I suspect it is a bit of a generational thing. My perception would be that in schools, yes, behaviour is improving.

Gillian Allcroft: I would concur with that. It’s what Ofsted has reported. Clearly there is always room for improvement-there are always behaviour issues-but generally it is getting better.

Charlie Taylor: Yes, again, I’d agree. There has always been a sense that this is the worst generation we’ve ever had and that things are getting worse and worse, but I don’t feel that’s the case at all. I think there have been some significant improvements in behaviour. A lot of that is linked to improvements in teaching as well.

Russell Hobby: Yes, I would agree with that, but small incidences of bad behaviour cast quite a long shadow and have a disproportionate impact, so it is right to focus on the minority of cases where we do want to improve it.

Q127 Chair: According to Sir Alan Steer in the various pieces of work that he has done-and almost everyone else agrees-quality of teaching is the most important thing in improving behaviour and discipline. I don’t know whether it’s just since we have had the rarely cover provisions, but there seems to be increasing evidence of TAs ending up taking classes. Someone who is not even qualified as a teacher sometimes takes classes, which must surely undermine the quality of the teaching and thus make it less likely that people will experience consistent behaviour and discipline in the classroom. Have you any comments to make on that, Russell?

Russell Hobby: There are three things that drive behaviour in schools, quality of teaching being one of them; the consistency of the behaviour policy across the whole school and how well that is implemented is another and, of course, parental attitudes towards schools-it is those three things together. Appropriate use of teaching assistants within a good behaviour policy needn’t undermine behaviour at all, but the inappropriate use of people without the qualifications to do it would have that impact. Of course, if you’re not being stimulated in your lessons, you’re more likely to misbehave or to be alienated from school.

Q128 Chair: Is there any evidence that TAs are being used inappropriately and that that is having an impact?

Mike Griffiths: I don’t know whether inappropriate is the right word. In secondary schools, it is not so much teaching assistants as the new breed of cover supervisors that has evolved with the work force reforms. In a school such as mine we need, when we appoint them, to make sure that they are trained, because they are not teachers; they supervise work that has been set by teachers. Clearly, however, it can be an issue. It is something that is worthy of further debate and research about the impact of non-teachers supervising classes at work. Certainly, if there is a significant amount of absence in a school and a youngster has several periods of cover supervision during the course of a day, then I would imagine that that could become an issue.

Q129 Chair: Do you have any comment on that, Gillian?

Gillian Allcroft: No, we have no evidence on that.

Chair: Okay, with no further ado I will cede to Craig.

Q130 Craig Whittaker: Good morning everybody. I want to talk about the new powers, specifically powers of restraint; the permanent exclusions and the independent appeals panels; and the removal of 24-hour notice of detention. Do you agree with the new proposals and do any of you wish to comment specifically on any of those three issues?

Russell Hobby: I suppose the most ringing endorsement I can give for them is that they are fine. The trouble is that it’s not the giving of new powers; it’s how we use powers at the moment, and there is a wide range of existing legislation that isn’t fully exploited to make use of that. In specific terms, the proposals for anonymity are welcome, because a relatively small proportion of accusations actually result in any action being taken and it causes immense trauma. The powers for search are fine. I don’t think the idea of removing notice for detention for outside school hours is a helpful suggestion. I think the impact on parents of not giving them notice would not help the relationship with the school.

Mike Griffiths: At the risk of being rather boring, I think our school, too, would welcome the new powers from the point of view that at least they provide a signal to parents and youngsters that the Government will be supporting schools and teachers in their attempts to make sure that discipline is as good as it can be in a school. Similarly, the search powers are fine, although it is strange that mobile devices such as telephones are lobbed in there at the same time as drugs, knives and whatever else. There is a bit of a confused message there, although I understand why it has appeared. The search is common sense, I would hope, and not a whole series of rules and regulations about it.

I share the welcome for anonymity, particularly because of the incidences of the use of IT, websites and so on as a way of spreading information and, dare one say, malicious gossip. I think anonymity is important. I also share the notion that the item on detention is unhelpful. Certainly, in my school, for simply pragmatic reasons, I will not be allowing teachers to detain youngsters without giving notice. That is partly because there are transport issues for youngsters-in some communities, where there are school buses to catch, it’s just simply not pragmatic-but also because one only has to look into the November evenings and youngsters travelling home in the dark and so on when the parents haven’t been given notice. You only need the first instance of something happening on the way home, and schools will very quickly not want to put themselves in that position.

Q131 Craig Whittaker: Is it fair to say, then, that these are just extra powers in the toolbox of things that are available for schools to use and that it’s entirely down to the head and the leadership team as to whether they use them or not? If that is the case, why do you think that previous tools in that toolbox have not been exercised by teachers?

Mike Griffiths: I’m not sure that they haven’t been exercised by teachers. I think teachers always have used these powers. Detentions are not terribly useful. People tend to try and find a more creative way of dealing with issues, because to get good discipline you need to work with youngsters and get their co-operation. Simply penalising and depriving them of time and so on isn’t always helpful. The only time when I think it can be useful is when that time is used by the teacher to constructively work with that individual child, in a way that they don’t normally have time to, to actually rebuild the relationship. Personally, I am completely against the notion of what I think in some schools is called faculty detention, where somebody else does it. As far as I can see, the only reason for keeping a youngster behind is to enable me, as the teacher, to improve relationships with that youngster, but that’s unlikely to occur if the youngster perceives the detention as being a period of almost imprisonment. Even in such cases, detentions are better held at breaks and lunchtimes than after school.

Charlie Taylor: The thing that concerns me is the going of the independent panels. Having sat in a former life as an LEA representative on those panels, the decisions that actually did get turned over made me think, "Damn right," because the school had run the show appallingly, had failed to follow procedures and things hadn’t been done right. In the 2% or 3% of decisions that do get turned over, I don’t have a problem with that at all.

The hands-on bit concerns me a little, because, as I have seen in primary and secondary schools, you get circumstances where teachers have been trained and therefore they think that it’s okay to lay hands on a pupil. The danger is that that can escalate, things get worse and you then end up with a situation where a pupil gets permanently excluded. So I agree, provided the training is of high enough quality and teachers really understand that it’s the last resort. You don’t want situations where, as soon as there’s a bit of disruption, a bigger teacher just bundles the child out of the room. You don’t want the message going out to any child, "Because I am bigger and stronger than you, I can get you to do stuff." A lot of our children are coming into schools with that sort of message already and the last thing we want to do is reinforce that message at school, as well.

I would add that a very positive bit that came out of that, too, which was the positive touch that the Secretary of State mentioned in terms of being able to comfort children and making that emphatically okay to do. Some schools appear to have a non-touch policy, so you have, say, a child of five, who’s crying their eyes out because they’re missing their mother, and no one is allowed to put their arms around them and give him or her a cuddle. That seems ludicrous, and I am very glad that the Secretary of State has clarified the law on that.

Q132 Craig Whittaker: Are you saying that the initial teacher training is inadequate as it currently stands?

Charlie Taylor: In terms of managing behaviour?

Craig Whittaker: Yes.

Charlie Taylor: Yes, I think there should be more. When I was trained, I probably had about half a day on that in the entire course. It might be a day now, but it’s not much more than that.

Q133 Craig Whittaker: Do you want to pick up on that, Mike?

Mike Griffiths: Yes. My school runs a school-centred initial teacher training course. Where teacher training is based in schools, there is probably a greater emphasis on management of behaviour as a key issue. That is something that I would like to see expanded. Other than that, I entirely agree. My head teacher 30-odd years ago used to say, "Whatever you do-I implore you, I beseech you-don’t touch the children, whatever the provocation." His view, and mine as well, was that as soon as you do, you automatically place yourself and the school on the back foot. The focus is then on the behaviour on the teacher, rather than on the behaviour the child, which led to that response. My view is entirely that we should say to staff, "Whatever you do, you still do not touch a child when you are angry with the child because of their misbehaviour." However, I well remember running under-13 football teams and knowing which child would need a consoling arm around their shoulders after they missed a penalty in the dying minutes of a cup game, and it is just as important to do the same for a child who is missing their parent.

Q134 Craig Whittaker: Gillian, I will ask you my final question, which ties in with what we’ve been talking about. If the Government do go ahead with removing the right of appeal to an independent panel against permanent exclusions, for example, would school governors be confident that they can provide the same level of safeguarding to parents as independent panels?

Gillian Allcroft: I think that the answer is probably no, although not because governors wouldn’t try to do it properly. Governors already have to review certain exclusions, and we already advocate that any governor doing that should be properly trained. Even if governors are confident and doing it properly, there is potential for the perception by parents and pupils that the governors work hand in hand with the head, so even if they’ve reviewed the head’s decision, they’re just going to agree with what the head says. Even if you have agreed it and the head has done everything marvellously and it’s all fine, and you have ratified the decision, there is still going to be that perception that you haven’t because you are just in the pocket of the head. If you get rid of independent appeal panels, the danger is that schools will end up in court. That is going to be a massive cost for schools.

Q135 Craig Whittaker: Do you think we are going to see fewer exclusions on the back of this happening?

Gillian Allcroft: It’s very difficult to say until a few schools have ended up in that situation. Personally, I would keep independent appeal panels because I think that they do a good job.

Russell Hobby: Can I weigh in to reinforce that? It puts schools in a difficult situation. Exclusions are a measure of desperation anyway, so whether they would influence the number of those-it is always the last resort. In terms of natural justice and the way it appears, keeping independent appeal panels will protect schools and make sure they use the right process.

Mike Griffiths: I agree. Although I’ve appeared in front of independent appeal panels and I didn’t like it, I think it is better that they remain because the alternative would be even more unpleasant for me as a head. Although they are not comfortable places to be, my only concern about them is that sometimes they are almost too focused on determining whether every last i has been dotted and every t crossed on procedural items, rather than on the behaviour that might have led to that exclusion. I still think that we probably need to retain them.

Q136 Ian Mearns: I have been a chair of governors for secondary schools for 20 years, and I have sat as a chair of governors at an appeal panel defending the school’s position. I haven’t been turned over yet but I agree with you, Mike, that quite often it isn’t pleasant from the school’s perspective. However, in the different appeal panels that I’ve been to, the running of the appeal panel has sometimes been very good, and at other times, it has been decidedly iffy in terms of the way that the chair has allowed the proceedings to get out of hand. Do you think that there is a role for the appeal panels to be much better trained in terms of their membership?

Charlie Taylor: In the ones that I’ve sat on, I’ve been impressed by the expertise and generally they have gone very well-and I’ve sat on quite a few over the years as an independent LEA rep.

Q137 Tessa Munt: I’d like to ask you a few questions about preventing and managing exclusion, concentrating on the prevention part first. Early identification of risk factors seems to be one of the things that we might concentrate on. What do you think are the risk factors that we should be taking into account?

Russell Hobby: The most obvious risk factor is special educational needs. Children are eight times more likely to be excluded if they have a statement. I’m not saying that is something that justifies it, but clearly we are excluding more children in those circumstances and that is probably where we need to focus a lot of attention. Equally, exclusions are not evenly distributed. Children on free school meals are more likely to be excluded as well. I think we should focus our attention on those points.

Q138 Tessa Munt: Does anyone have anything else to add?

Charlie Taylor: I would simply say, "Ask nursery school teachers." Go to a nursery school and say to the teacher, "Which pupils in your class are going to be causing disruption further down the road?" There was a hideously depressing study-I am trying to remember where I saw it-that got nursery school teachers to predict which children would end up in prison and 15 years later, they were completely right. If we are spotting these problems in nursery school, why do we wait till the children have gone to secondary school before we sling them out or do something about their behaviour?

I would put in a plug for my early intervention nursery at my school, where we take eight pupils who have fallen out of some sort of permanent education, and they spend two or three terms with us. Ninety-six have gone through our unit and only seven have come back with a statement for behaviour further down the road. If you compare that with the recidivism rate of somewhere like Feltham, which I guess is about 80%, it is a pretty good case for early intervention with young children.

Q139 Tessa Munt: Thank you. Now I want to draw you on a little bit further from that, because it strikes me that some of the things that were identified for us were: social and economic status, which is some of the stuff that Russell has actually raised; poor attachment with early carers, which might be a natural conclusion; reading failure; and pupils going through school transition. The education system can perhaps only have an effect on the latter two of those.

A 1974 study stated that reading failure was the only one of all the various indicators that accurately predicted the later incidence of violent and antisocial behaviour. If we look in our own country at the number of people with a very poor reading age who end up in prison, something like 60% or 70% of our prison population have a reading age of less than 10. That is something that we can have an effect on, and I wondered what your comments were about reading and the ability to teach reading to very young children.

Charlie Taylor: I feel strongly about the teaching of a specific reading scheme, and I happen to be very passionate about synthetic phonics. In some ways it is nothing new, but it is about very focused teaching of reading-it’s made a real focus. In both my schools, it’s a way of targeting the children, assessing where they are and moving them on in a very, very structured way. The effects are dramatic and we get some real change. I think a generation of children lost out because of the fancy sort of stuff that I was taught at teacher training college-real books, or letting them look at the pictures and make it up as they went along. Actually, reading is one of those things that you have to teach.

Mike Griffiths: I wouldn’t disagree with any of that, but I think that we have to be careful about cause and effect. Although significant numbers of people end up having a problem who were also poor readers, they were probably also deprived in lots of other ways as well. We have to be careful not to make too simplistic a judgment that because you are not a reader, you will not get on.

In the 1950s, my father was deputy head of a secondary modern school and he remembers the days when people left school at 14 or 15 and went into the army or manual labour. Vast numbers of them could not read or write functionally, but that is not to say that they all ended up in prison. I do not think that it is a necessary consequence, so I think that we have to be careful.

You also mentioned transition. Schools work a lot harder than they used to on transition, but sometimes it is the art of the possible. I was a head teacher in relatively rural Oxfordshire where basically there were about five primary schools that fed into the secondary school of which I was head. There, liaison was fairly straightforward, and you could work with that. My current school’s 2010 intake came from 83 different primary schools, which completely changes the dynamic of how much transition work can go on between them.

I am also aware of all-through schools, which I think you’re interested in, and there is one in our town. It is a bit of a misnomer, though, because although it is an all-through school in one sense, it is only an all-through school for about 30 of the students. They are still joined by about 180 other students at year 7, so it’s not as though the whole school is all-through. I do not know of many cases where a school is actually all-through, with 90 youngsters or whatever going right the way through from age four to age 18. I think in most so-called all-through schools, actually there is still quite a big addition of other youngsters from other places. That might be worth looking at-comparing those youngsters who were part of the all-through with the youngsters who joined. Again, we have to be careful with the data because it is not always as simple as it seems.

Q140 Tessa Munt: I did not want to imply in any way that if you cannot read you go to prison. What I am saying is that the learning experience of reading can perhaps alter people’s futures, and that seems to be a factor so frequently.

Mike Griffiths: Clearly, it is absolutely vital because if youngsters are not able to read well and effectively, they simply cannot access other parts of the curriculum. Of course, if they cannot access the curriculum and if their achievement gets lower an almost inevitable consequence is that they become relatively disaffected and relatively uninterested in lessons, and behaviour becomes a problem.

Q141 Tessa Munt: So what we are saying is that it is possible that instead of concentrating on managing exclusions we could prevent more, perhaps.

Charlie Taylor indicated assent.

Q142 Tessa Munt: Charlie seems to agree, so that would be what I would suggest.

May I quickly look at interventions and managing exclusions through restorative justice, mediation, internal exclusion and managed moves? How often are managed moves and internal exclusion used to prevent final exclusion?

Gillian Allcroft: That varies enormously from school to school in terms of internal exclusion. It can depend on the individual school’s policy and how it is managed.

Q143 Tessa Munt: Are managed moves a good thing?

Gillian Allcroft: They can be. It is a balancing act. They can be a good thing, but on the other hand they can be seen as a way of moving the problem elsewhere without dealing with it. They can be a good thing, because sometimes the pupil needs to be in a different environment, which might help that pupil and move their education on.

Russell Hobby: I think that managed moves are a good thing, because groups of heads and schools work together to take responsibility for a problem, rather than saying, "That child is not my problem any longer." If you are participating in it, you are also accepting children from other schools. I think that, in some areas, they are often hung up by the bureaucratic difficulty of organising it and by whether the local authority is sufficiently stimulating it and helping to co-ordinate things. But as a principle, and as an alternative to permanent exclusion and at the end point of an escalation of processes that include things going on purely within the school, it is a big step forward.

Mike Griffiths: Although I think that, in principle, they and partnership working are a good idea, I am afraid that, in my experience, the local authority has not been involved at all. It is individual head teachers working together to resolve the problem. I have to say that, in my experience, managed moves are rarely successful. The danger is that they can be used to disguise or mask the problem. It is almost delaying the inevitable sometimes. There may be occasions when it is appropriate and it will work and has a good chance of working, but not that many cases have been successful in my relatively limited experience.

It depends what is the reason for doing it. If it is just that something has gone wrong in relation to a particular school, it can work. But if the youngster has a deeper, underlying problem, simply shifting it elsewhere and having a trail of disruption around local schools doesn’t do that youngster any good, and it certainly doesn’t do the youngsters and the staff at the receiving school much good either.

Charlie Taylor: I think that internal exclusion can work well when it is well managed, but when it becomes a sort of school sin bin it can be disastrous. I observed a school where pupils said to each other, "What have you got for second lesson? I’ll see you in the sin bin at quarter past, then, because that’s boring and we’ll have a bit of fun there." But in well managed, well organised schools it works very well and it is very successful.

To briefly go back to the point about transition, I have a very big concern about what happens to exclusion rates between 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds-in other words, between year 6 and year 7-when they dump them between the two. Do children get twice as bad between the last year of primary and the first year of secondary? No, they don’t. We have a problem around that. When we get to 12-year-olds, I think that the exclusion rates are about four or five times higher.

I say to my secondary school colleagues that I think, as a primary head, that there are times when secondary schools could learn from the way in which primary schools run things. For example, there’s a fantastic school in my local authority called Rosedale College, which has a high-level teaching assistant who goes around all the separate classes with an individual class group for year 7 and year 8. That means that when the pupils come into the room, the teaching assistant knows all those pupils and can tell the teacher, "So and so is having a bit of a twitch today. If he starts acting up, I’ll take him out. Leave it to me." That differs from the very difficult situation that secondary school teachers are put in where they have 30 children and barely know who they are, and they have to deliver the curriculum. If someone starts acting up, it immediately becomes a problem and it snowballs. A little bit of primary seeping into secondary would not do any harm, particularly in schools that have very challenging behaviour.

Q144 Chair: The number of permanent and short-term exclusions has been decreasing. Mike, in your evidence to the Committee, you sat on the fence and said that "hopefully" this is because things are getting better rather than because of pressure from the Government and so on. What is the truth here? It is going down. Is that a good thing or does it, in fact, mean that head teachers are just intimidated into not doing it? We have had evidence from teaching unions that heads do not get to understand and feel the true picture that is going on down below and are just rather keen to keep the numbers down and keep their noses clean with the local authority. It is hard to tell from your evidence what you think is really happening.

Mike Griffiths: That’s not a situation that I would recognise at all. In my experience, head teachers know only too well exactly what’s happening in their schools.

Q145 Chair: So Patrick Roach-I think it was-of the NASUWT was wrong to suggest that there was a disconnect between leadership and the front line?

Mike Griffiths: Yes.

Russell Hobby: Just to add to that: the majority of head teachers are also teachers, so they’re on the front line as well as leading the school. So I would reinforce that.

Chair: We move on to exclusions and partnerships.

Q146 Pat Glass: I want to ask a few questions around early intervention and alternative provision, but before I do, Charlie, can you give me the name of that school again?

Charlie Taylor: Rosedale College in Hillingdon.

Q147 Pat Glass: Thank you. Looking at early intervention in both senses, around nurture provision-it was good to hear you talk about that-and intervening before the problem escalates, how important is that in what we have heard in your evidence about a reduction in behaviour problems in schools?

Russell Hobby: It’s vital. We weight our system too much towards the end of the education process, when it’s too late to alter the things that have been embedded beforehand. From universities on down through the system, we need to be paying as much attention to nursery and pre-school activity. As Charlie said, there are some quite strong predictors. There are various studies in the US as well, which connect lifetime income and happiness to the quality of pre-school provision. It raises some interesting questions about the pupil premium as well, which starts at five, as I understand it, rather than earlier. It might be that we could help disadvantaged children more by focusing resources even earlier in their school career.

Q148 Pat Glass: In my experience, nurture provision is very patchy across the piece; in some authorities most schools have nurture provision and in others they have very little. What is the experience among your head teachers? If we think that this is important, should Government be sending out very strong signals around nurture provision?

Russell Hobby: They could send out strong signals about what works and then leave it to schools in the area to react to that evidence. I think that they have an interest in doing that. Particularly when you connect Sure Start and children’s centres with the schools themselves and you manage that journey from three onwards throughout the school career, that is quite effective.

Mike Griffiths: Early referral is important in changing behaviours rather than simply punishing the bad behaviour at the end when it is much too late. I would support what Charlie said in terms of a school like mine, where there are learning support assistants and behavioural support assistants who know the classes and the youngsters, and do follow them or particular groups, so they get to know them and can provide the continuity that perhaps a subject teacher wouldn’t be aware of, which helps.

Even though we’re classed as "outstanding" with behaviour described in the past three Ofsted reports as "excellent," at my school we’ve appointed a behaviour support manager. The idea of that is to identify as early as possible-in our case in years 7 and 8-for which youngsters behaviour is an issue or may develop into one, so that we can target support, teacher training and ways of dealing with those youngsters at as early a date as possible, rather than doing the old finger-in-the-dike thing for two or three years before they become fully grown adolescents and become a major problem. We want to tackle the issue at an earlier stage. More and more schools are trying to do that. Secondary schools are trying to tackle the issue when it first arises, rather than when it becomes a problem.

Q149 Pat Glass: There was an authority that I worked with in a large city that had agreed with its secondary head teachers that every time there was a permanent exclusion, they would have a formal serious case review where other heads would come in and look at, not the incident itself, but what led up to it, and would come out with written recommendations for governors, saying, "This is the thing that you need to put in place to prevent this ever happening again." Do you think that it would be helpful if we looked at it from a structural point of view rather than the child and the incident?

Gillian Allcroft: As governors, we have to put in place what we can to ensure that heads and teachers can do their job properly, and look at intervention and look at staffing complements and decide whether this is somewhere where the budget might need to go. Clearly, we are all facing budget constraints, so there will be issues. The other thing that has obviously worked in authorities is parent support advisers, and having those people in place to help is great. It has been shown that that can help work with behaviour.

Q150 Pat Glass: Moving on to alternative provision, we had Alan Steer here last week, and he said that PRU provision in this country was little short of a national disgrace. My experience is that it is either very good or very poor. Given that we are facing economic restraint, do you think that there is a place for local authorities to share their expertise and pool resources around this? Do you want to start, Charlie?

Charlie Taylor: Yes, I do. I think Alan Steer is right about the wide swings in the quality of alternative provision for pupils. Some of it’s excellent; some of it isn’t. At my school, there is a lot of intervention; we work with the parents a lot. It is much easier to change the behaviour of a three-year-old than it is when your child gets to 15. Parents are a lot more up for changing the behaviour of a three-year-old than they are for a 15-year-old. By the time they get to 15, the die is cast and people are putting their hands up and saying, "Let’s hope they get to 18, so we can move them on." So I think that there is a huge case for that.

We need to put as much resources as we can into looking after those pupils who are getting chucked out of school. There is a real danger that you get into what is called the child deficit model, which is where all the problems get focused in on the children, and you end up with situations where schools are thinking that if they could just get rid of this one child, then everything would be okay until the next one comes along. We should focus in on those children and improve the quality of teaching in PRUs-we have talked about reading-so that we have really focused teaching of reading in PRUs and really focused work on their social and emotional issues.

In the PRU that I run, a lot of time is spent on social issues. The children sit around the table every day for 20 minutes and have tea and toast together. On one level it seems trivial, but what they get out of sitting opposite each other-it is all very twee, with a butter knife and a teapot and that kind of thing-and actually beginning to unravel and being able to discuss the issues that are going on makes a huge amount of difference to their behaviour.

Most of the children now spend only two terms in my school and then move back into mainstream primary schools. During that process, because they still spend a day a week in their mainstream school-we are emphatic about that: they don’t lose touch with that school and they have to continue to wear that school’s uniform and everything else-it means that we can get the teachers from that school in to the Willows, and we can train them and support them to reintegrate that child back. So when the next one comes along, instead of simply pushing them out, they will actually have more resources and a bigger skill set to help them, support them and change them.

Q151 Pat Glass: Russell, coming back to you, given that the panel have seen excellent provision-Charlie’s is one that we haven’t seen, but that we recognise-and given that there is almost a shortage of money and really good staff around this area, is this an area in which local authorities should be looking to pool their resources and their specialities, because staff are crucial?

Russell Hobby: Staff are crucial, and so is the quality of training. The difficulty would be, as Charlie has outlined, the relationship with local schools. PRUs are connected to a group of schools, which can make it harder to pool resources at a large level, but that might be possible at a smaller, community level, and certainly with resource constraints that is an issue to look into. As well as the quality of what is delivered, we need to look at what they are for and why children are referred to these units. That is probably a bigger driver of what is going on. If they are used as a long-term place to put children that we find too difficult to work with, that is exactly the wrong reason to be using them. They are short-term interventions to help someone turn around and go back into mainstream education. If we are sending children with special educational needs there, as opposed to specialist alternative provision, then this is just a big misuse of the PRU set-up. I wonder how some of the issues around quality and impact might be related to using them for the wrong things as opposed to what is being done in them.

Q152 Pat Glass: May I move on very quickly to CAMHS? As a Committee we heard clearly from a number of experts that CAMHS is very patchy across the country and very limited. There is just not enough of it and there are not enough of the really good ones. Because tier 1 services consequently largely fall upon school staff, and given that we are identifying significantly more children with SEN than our European neighbours are, are our staff in schools trained enough to be able to identify the difference between those children who have conduct disorders, those who have SEN and those who are simply under-achieving as a result of many other factors?

Russell Hobby: I think the role of special educational needs, both delivery of the appropriate teaching and identification of those needs, should be looked at in initial teacher training. While classroom management is probably an argument for putting more teacher training into schools, because it is a practical discipline, there is a theoretical basis to some of this work as well and it supports some of the higher education influence in initial teacher training as well. But this takes place also within a wider circumstance that as a society we are more inclined to ascribe categories to behaviour rather than to treat people as individuals. There is a kind of medicalisation of how we talk about children. That is driven by parents wanting to ensure that their children’s needs are recognised and that they get the resources and support, and schools are doing exactly the same thing as well. So there is a bigger picture about how we describe needs within schools and whether we need to go as far as categorising people with medical issues, if that makes sense.

Q153 Pat Glass: Initial teacher training gets blamed for everything. It is three or six months for a PGCE. It is a very short course and there is a lot to learn. Teachers are in school a long time. How important do head teachers feel it is that there should be continuous training around SEN?

Russell Hobby: Yes. Every teacher needs to know. It is not just a specialist role.

Q154 Pat Glass: But head teachers are not spending their money there, are they? And they need to, don’t they?

Russell Hobby: But there are any number of things that we could be spending money on training people in. That is the difficult side of it. There is the role of the co-ordinator and their position on the leadership team within the school as well. So there is a balance. In different schools it will vary because for some schools there won’t be a high incidence of pupils with special educational needs and that won’t be the right way to spend their training budget.

Q155 Chair: May I ask you specifically about CAMHS? Alan Steer referred to new cases where a child had to wait 18 months before being seen and nine months is routine. Do you have examples where there is a really good CAMHS and where it makes a difference?

Mike Griffiths: I think the time lag is the problem a lot of the time with CAMHS. There are often some very good people but it tends to be a problem of time for getting a referral, which is one of the reasons why, as I say, we have appointed somebody, almost our own person, who has expertise in that area. There is also that notion of special needs: although all teachers need to be aware of issues about how to work with youngsters with needs in their subject areas, I don’t think that every teacher needs to be trained in order to recognise the thing in the first place. They need to be aware that a youngster has the condition and be told the best way to deal with that. You refer to training, but we do that on whole-school training days. There is always at least one of those days at my school where there is an emphasis on special needs.

Q156 Pat Glass: So is the average teacher in the classroom well trained enough? Given that, for instance, on average, we are told, there are two autistic children being taught in every class who can exhibit all kinds of difficult behaviours, is every average teacher well trained enough to deal with that?

Mike Griffiths: Every average teacher? All teachers could be trained more in everything. Clearly, it is an area, but it’s the art of the possible. We do what we can and we do what we do. I suspect that most schools have a clear focus on youngsters’ special needs, but of course there are special needs. I would not want it to be equated. This hearing is on behaviour and discipline and obviously the two are not-

Pat Glass: But the two things are almost intrinsically linked.

Mike Griffiths: That’s right. I wouldn’t like there to be a belief that there was an intrinsic link between the two. The two clearly are very different issues.

Q157 Pat Glass: In a sense, what I am trying to explore is this: many of the behaviours that we see in school will be linked with SEN. Are teachers well enough trained and aware to be able to identify the difference? I suspect that Charlie has lots of children who have come through his system who have come through as conduct disordered and who actually have a diagnosis.

Charlie Taylor: Very often what we find is that they have an undiagnosed condition. For example, we had a pupil the other day who was very naughty, but it turned out that she was in the first percentile for speaking and listening. Even though socially she appeared to be quite good at communicating, if you listened to what she said it was very poor and she had slipped through the net. As soon as we were able to recognise that and support the school to recognise that, her behaviour improved considerably.

Q158 Chair: On CAMHS, the mental health services for young people-children not with SEN but with a particular mental health need-the evidence we have seems to be that that does not get met across the board. Is that as scandalous as it looks? If that wasn’t so-in other words, if this Committee or these parliamentarians were to push the new Government to do what the previous Government obviously did not do, would it make a huge difference to children with mental health problems if they got early intervention?

Mike Griffiths: I think it would, because we have been talking for the last 15 minutes about the importance of early intervention, and you are not going to get early intervention if you are having to wait for 18 months to even get the assessment. It is an important issue.

Charlie Taylor: In my school, we had a clinical psychologist who was working there two days a week, paid for by a project from CAMHS. She ran a parents group which was incredibly successful in terms of moving stuck parents, really moving their behaviour on. Unfortunately, the funding for that ran out and now all our mental health support is paid for either by us or by charities who we get to help fund it. But in terms of what we get from CAMHS it’s now become very limited.

Q159 Chair: Would you rather see the money come direct to the school so that you can commission and work under your own control, or would you rather rely on the NHS with an additional central prod into it and hope that it can deliver?

Charlie Taylor: We are supposed to be able to commission through CAMHS, but I thought education recruitment was complicated until you get into health recruitment and everything that goes with it. The bureaucracy and everything else around it is such a complete nightmare that in the end you think it is better if we use the money on what we want. You have to pay them a huge-I don’t know how to put it-pimping fee, I suppose, to get any services into your schools. You end up paying a tip to the NHS for bringing a worker into your school, so in the end we thought we would go direct to the workers and recruit our own people.

Mike Griffiths: I would agree that the best way that we have found to get things to happen is to put the money into the school and the school then buys from wherever it can obtain the service.

Q160 Chair: Because there is this general tension between a sense of central direction and prescription which should guarantee, in a way, the service delivery and if you go to greater autonomy you might be undermining that.

Charlie Taylor: If the money is not ring-fenced, then it may get spent on something else-that is the difficulty. If you ring-fence the money you can provide the service, but then you get all these little pockets of money that head teachers are trying to juggle around with, so it is always difficult.

Mike Griffiths: I think it is a mistake that politicians make to think that prescription guarantees that something will happen. I don’t think it does.

Q161 Pat Glass: May I ask one more question? My feeling and experience around this is that there is too little provision, it is too variable and it is in the wrong place. There is a structural issue-CAMHS sitting in clinics and not in schools and not in homes.

Charlie Taylor: They need to be in schools, because schools have a really good record of getting parents into schools and working with parents and supporting them. It is very difficult for some of the parents in my school to go to a clinical setting and turn up on time for appointment after appointment. The danger is that you get to a situation where they miss two appointments and are kind of rubbed off and it is said that they weren’t ready for therapy, rather than being chased up and told, "Look, we can help you here, but you’re going to have to meet us halfway." There’s a huge amount to be done on going around to houses and getting parents into schools.

Mike Griffiths: My school has four times the national average of pupils with autism-we have over 40 youngsters on the autistic spectrum with statements for autism. I would like to support the notion that parents are absolutely key in behavioural things in secondary school as well as primary school. We always look at it as a triangle of parent, child and school-you need all three corners to be working effectively and we try to work very closely with parents on the behaviour of youngsters. Charlie is right-it is absolutely key at primary, but also at secondary, that you get parents on board. Most parents start to despair of their adolescent child at some point-I know I did-but it is important to get the message through to some parents, "Your 15-year-old adolescent is a pain, but we teachers have seen that many times and, trust us, they grow up to be okay."

Q162 Chair: Will the fact that there will no longer be a requirement to be a member of a behaviour and attendance partnership have any impact?

Russell Hobby: Even if you require people to participate in partnerships, they can be there in spirit but not in body and vice versa, so required partnership working tends to produce no better effects than voluntary ground partnership working.

Mike Griffiths: I agree 100%.

Gillian Allcroft: I agree.

Charlie Taylor: I agree, too.

Chair: Excellent.

Q163 Ian Mearns: We have strayed into parents, which is the area that I wanted to come in on. As a school governor and an elected member of the council dealing with education for a number of years, I have often come across parents who are difficult to categorise. I very rarely come across a parent who literally doesn’t care about their child. They quite often lack understanding about how to modify or moderate a child’s behaviour, but I very rarely come across parents who don’t care. Having said that, even when parents might care, they are quite often still the heads of unstructured and chaotic households. For some youngsters, sadly, the most negative influence on their lives will be their own parents. That is a sad fact of life.

Having said that, when we come across youngsters from chaotic homes, it is very difficult to intervene. We have received written evidence from an educational psychologist, Dr Sue Roffey, who says that "parents often feel blamed, helpless and marginalised in their interactions with schools over issues of school behaviour", and that "parents are often at a loss themselves to manage behaviour well". However, where things are going badly awry, the evidence that we have received states: "By August 2008, no parenting order for behaviour had yet been issued, and Committee staff are not aware that the position has changed since." So these powers are available to local authorities working in partnership with schools, but they don’t seem to be being used when parents are presented with youngsters whose behaviour at school is chaotic. How can we better develop understanding between schools and parents on issues of behaviour? Should different approaches be employed in the different sectors between primary and secondary, or even special schools?

Gillian Allcroft: There clearly is a difference between primary and secondary. As a primary school, you are far more likely to see your parents at the school gate and you are far more likely to know them as individuals on a regular basis. It is therefore easy to build up a relationship and have those quiet words and conversations that are more difficult to have at secondary. I think that all schools, in terms of behaviour, accept that you can’t deal with poor behaviour unless you involve the parents. They have a variety of strategies to deal with them, but what works in one school with one set of parents will not necessarily work in another school. You have to look at the individual context of the school. Going back to what I said in that earlier question, where people have had parental support advisers, they have proved a very valuable role, particularly for those parents who have had a negative school experience and who don’t want to come in and talk to the teachers, however much the teachers would like them to. Having that person, who is not actually a teacher, can be really useful.

Mike Griffiths: I am not surprised that there aren’t that many parenting orders, because in one sense it is an admission that everything has gone wrong. My view is that if you end up with a parenting order, you have lost anyway. As a school, you can only work co-operatively with the parents. If the youngster comes from a dysfunctional family, you need to find whatever help, support and advice you can give, because it is a co-operative venture to get that youngster into secondary schools.

Q164 Chair: Do you think that home-school agreements are a good thing?

Mike Griffiths: I don’t think they are worth the paper they are written on, to be honest. I don’t think that anybody has ever used them productively.

Charlie Taylor: I think they can be used constructively as a starting point for putting down some benchmarks. The way that they are used is then broadened, and it is a way of engaging parents and discussing what your expectations are, particularly when you first meet them when they first come to the school. I do think that the more schools can do to meet those more challenging parents and to make them feel that the school is on their side, the better. Because let’s face it: these are often parents whose own education has been incredibly disrupted. They get a horrible feeling as they walk through the door into school; they feel terrified. When they get to the head teacher’s door, it brings back that terrible feeling-I still get it in my own school, and I’m the head teacher-where the years fall back. I used to knock on my door for the first three months when I got there, because I’d forgotten that I was the head teacher. Parents still have all those feelings, so they walk in already bristling and ready for a fight.

The more schools can do to bring parents in and make them feel more engaged and more a part of the fabric of the school, the better. Many schools do that brilliantly, and those schools that do don’t tend to have constant issues with parents-complaints and arguments. They are working together and understanding that the school is on their side.

Russell Hobby: I think home-school agreements can work as well, but only if they are a living policy and document, not just a piece of paper that is like a mission statement. There are more constructive alternatives. If, as a school, you are trying to apply a consistent policy-which is, after all, what children really need-the fact is that that consistency ends at the school gates and they can then go out into a very inconsistent world where their behaviour is treated in different ways. The home-school agreement is a way of trying to spread that consistency further and trying to invite and engage parents into having a consistent approach to managing behaviour, too.

Mike Griffiths: The most effective schools are the ones that try and build on that relationship by having a good relationship between the parents and somebody at the school, whether that is the form tutor, a mentor or whoever. We tried hard with some youngsters, who had been a problem, to report back on a weekly basis. We tried to report positive things, because sometimes, as has been mentioned, the parents themselves have had negative experiences of school, and they only see it as an almost punitive environment. Getting positive messages back to the parents can be very useful in terms of improving that youngster’s behaviour.

Q165 Damian Hinds: I want to talk about leadership and managing behaviour overall. We have talked already about the role of heads. We are short on time I know, but, Gillian, what is the role of governors in this? Can governors really be sufficiently in touch with classroom reality?

Gillian Allcroft: Yes, I think they can, provided that they know their school. The best governing bodies will absolutely know what is going on in their school. The chair will have a good relationship with the head. Governors will go into school on properly focused visits to find out what is going on. The role of the governors is to set a statement of behaviour principles, and it is then the head’s responsibility to set the behaviour policy, which sets out rules, rewards and sanctions. Those principles are set in conjunction with the head, because the head is usually a governor anyway. The governors set the ethos and the principles, and that should be done in a context of "Where is our school? What is our school like? And what should be the right principles for our school?"

Q166 Damian Hinds: Can you give me an example of such a principle, which would not be a universal principle, but would be different school by school?

Gillian Allcroft: It is possible that some schools operate a no-exclusion policy, so it is possible that one of the principles that governors could lay down is that in their school they would like to adopt a no-exclusion policy.

Q167 Damian Hinds: That doesn’t sound like a behaviour principle; that sounds like a what-you-do-about-behaviour principle.

Gillian Allcroft: It depends how you look at it, doesn’t it? It is saying, "We will promote good behaviour and one of the things that we will try and ensure is that no child from our school is excluded." That would definitely be something that most schools will not have. Clearly that would have to be done in conjunction with the head.

Q168 Damian Hinds: Can I press you on the point about behaviour principles? I understand the point about having principles, but you said that governors would set them. What sorts of principles will they be setting that would not be universal, in terms of behaviour standards, to all schools?

Gillian Allcroft: To be honest, if they would not be universal it is because the principles tend to be around respect and not allowing bullying behaviour and that sort of thing. You would expect that most of the principles, although they will not be exactly the same, would generally speaking work across most schools.

Q169 Damian Hinds: Thank you. What do you look for from your boards of governors in terms of leadership in this area?

Russell Hobby: In terms of variation of principles and how that relates to governors, it is probably more about what you do or do not need to make explicit in a policy. You can take less for granted in some environments, so you may have increasing detail in the behaviour policy or you may need to be reinforcing behaviour. I have been around some of the charter schools in New York, for example, where pupils have to look the teacher in the eye when they are talking to them. In other schools you do not need to make those sorts of comments, so it is more about stepping in at that level.

There probably is some variation, for example, in the level of talkback that you would allow and recommend in different types of schools depending on the culture and the philosophy that existed. There is that air of getting together and deciding how we need to make it work, but nine tenths of it will be in the implementation of the policy and the way the governors support the head teacher in both challenging them to make sure they are consistent and backing them up when they have made the right choices.

Q170 Damian Hinds: Do you think governors are well placed to establish those? I understand what you are saying about the degree of specificity on different rules. Are governors best placed to make those judgments?

Russell Hobby: In a large number of cases they will accept the advice of the head teacher, and they will be backing up and reinforcing that. They are also part of the community that the school has served, and they should be in a position to express how that feels from the point of view of the parents and other members of the community and whether it is set in the right way.

Mike Griffiths: On your question about governance, one of the things I am looking for is intelligent targets. During my first headship, in Oxfordshire, the chair of the governors wanted to set me a target of reducing exclusions. Fortunately, I had a very wise vice-chair of governors who said, "Well, Chair, what we actually want is for the quality of the standard of behaviour in the school to improve. It may be that in order to achieve that, Mike has to increase the number of exclusions over a short period." I think that shows the importance of not being driven by a set of targets, which might look as though they will do one thing. What was actually important in that school was that the standards of behaviour improved, not that exclusions went down, up, or stayed the same.

In terms of leadership, where governors and heads need to work together is on creating the ethos in a school-what the school means and what it stands by. Certainly in my school, one of the key things is that word "respect". We say that respect should be given to all, by all, whether that is students to students, students to teachers or teachers to students and indeed to other staff. It is just as important that it goes both ways.

The key thing with all these policies is that you have to live them. You can have whatever you like in a drawer, as a mission statement and as a policy, but you have to be able to walk into a school and get an immediate feeling-you should be able to tell straight away what the school is like. That is something I would like to see a lot more of in terms of Ofsted, which we have not mentioned. Ofsted should be using professional judgment on some of these things, rather than tick lists and checklists and numbers and so on. I want people who are well trained, can recognise things and have the professional judgment to say, "This is a good school. This is a school where behaviour is excellent," rather than their having a whole series of things that they’ve counted up and which mean, therefore, that the school is excellent.

Q171 Damian Hinds: I want to skip to one last question, which is about language. I am only 40, but I sometimes feel that it’s been 120 years since I was at school. In these sessions, and we’ve already had a number on behaviour and discipline, we hear a lot of talk about appropriate behaviour and inappropriate behaviour, acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, disruptive behaviour, but not bad behaviour. I wonder what your views are on that. Is there too much policy, too much relativism and too much categorising of different behaviours, and not enough talk about what is right and what is wrong?

Russell Hobby: It sometimes helps, though, when you don’t say that a child is bad or good, but that their behaviour is bad or good. That’s some of what we’re trying to do, because if you keep telling someone that they’re bad-

Q172 Damian Hinds: No, not even to describe behaviour. I think that I’m right in saying that in these sessions we haven’t heard the words bad and good or right and wrong being used, even in relation to behaviour. It has always been appropriate and inappropriate, or acceptable and unacceptable. I’m not saying that you’ve said that, but that’s what’s been said in general.

Russell Hobby: I think maybe that’s us trying to separate behaviour from the individual, so that people feel that the behaviour can change. There is also a fair amount of political correctness in the way that we describe things, so fair enough.

Mike Griffiths: I agree with the thrust of your argument. Children need to know what is right and what is wrong. It is as simple as that. We try to ensure that children do recognise that some behaviour is simply inappropriate-[Laughter]-or wrong in a civilised society. We’ve always had such arguments, whether it is the mods and rockers on Brighton beach, or the punk rockers, things have always been happening with adolescent youngsters. We stick with the respect notion-if your behaviour is showing disrespect to somebody, that is wrong. In fact, that is one of the things that the chair of governors at my school says when she stands up at the prospective parents’ evening. Children need to know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong.

Q173 Nic Dakin: There’s a leaked report suggesting that the Government are going to cut ITT in higher education by 85% and transfer those responsibilities to schools. Earlier today you talked about how schools are the best place to train management of behaviour issues and other things, but are schools ready for that responsibility? Do they have the capacity, and do you think that that’s a positive direction for them?

Mike Griffiths: I believe so. I also worked earlier in my career in initial teacher training at a higher education establishment-Sheffield City Polytechnic, as it then was. I think that schools are the best places. The only problem is that a huge level of bureaucracy-a level that most schools can only dream of-affects initial teacher training. That is something that needs to be addressed, but, if that can be resolved, schools are very good places for initial teacher training. I am not saying that they should be the only place, but I think that they do provide an excellent route for many people to go into teaching.

Charlie Taylor: We use the graduate teacher programme a lot, whereby we’ve got teaching assistants to transform into teachers further down the road. I would say that, most of the time, schools can do that work. If they do need support, schools such as mine offer support in training on behaviour to other schools in the authority.

Q174 Ian Mearns: If a school hasn’t got its behaviour programmes right, is it the right place to teach new teachers? Isn’t that a problem?

Charlie Taylor: The difficulty is that, if a school hasn’t got its programme right, it doesn’t matter how well trained the teacher coming in is. If the overarching behaviour isn’t being managed properly, one teacher at the bottom of the tree doesn’t have a hope.

Mike Griffiths: I was also going to make a point about school-centred initial teacher training. In my school, for instance, we have about 18 trainees a year, but they don’t all work in my school. We organise the teaching, the training and this, that and the other, but some of them work in our partner schools. Some of them will have their two teaching practices in other schools and not have either of them in my school. It’s more about whether a school can effectively organise the training, rather than the provision. Such training can also help to address particular geographical needs, because, certainly where I am, there is no second institution that offers degrees and PGCEs for secondary-trained students. That is useful to more mature entrants to the profession, because they don’t have to travel long distances for PGCE provision at a university.

Russell Hobby: Just to redress the balance towards the academic end of things, there are some topics around behaviour that are best addressed in an academic or higher education environment, particularly when you are phasing into some of the more complex needs-health, mental health and special educational needs. Getting a whole view of child development and how children grow and learn may not be the right thing to take place within a school environment. Nor, to go back to another point, would every school welcome the requirement to train teachers. What we are probably talking about is a balance of a school-led provision with suitable academic input.

Q175 Craig Whittaker: But haven’t we already established that the training around things like CAMHS, for example, is minimal anyway?

Russell Hobby: Yes. I’m not necessarily saying it’s happening right at the moment, but it strikes me that there are some topics that you don’t learn on the job. You learn them off the job, and they include some of these mental health issues. Whether they could be improved and done differently is another matter.

Chair: Whether we could inject the academic into the school environment rather than regarding them as entirely separate, perhaps. Thank you all very much for your evidence. It was very helpful, and thank you for coming in.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Virginia Beardshaw, Chief Executive, I CAN, John Dickinson-Lilley, Vice-Chair, Special Educational Consortium, Paula Lavis, Policy and Knowledge Manager, YoungMinds, and Jane Vaughan, Director of Education, National Autistic Society, gave evidence.

Q176 Chair: Excellent. I am so glad that I didn’t have to send the Serjeant at Arms to go and fetch you, forcibly compelling you to appear. [Laughter.] Thank you all very much for joining this session of the Education Committee and our inquiry into behaviour and discipline. You bring specialist expertise. Will you start off by giving us an opening view about your thoughts on this misbehaviour and discipline inquiry, as briefly as you can? I will start with you, John, if I may.

John Dickinson-Lilley: Good morning. My name is John Dickinson-Lilley and I am vice-chair of the Special Educational Consortium.

First, I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for inviting me to give evidence today. I really appreciate the opportunity to do that.

The SEC is made up of 22 voluntary sector and professional organisations. We provide a discussion and debate about special educational needs and disability issues. We define our policies by identifying areas of consensus, and I will be talking about those areas of consensus today.

There are three particular issues that I would like to pick up on: the first is the link between behaviour and the ability of disabled children and children with SEN to access their learning; the second is the importance of making reasonable adjustments to behaviour policies, and the third is exclusions.

In terms of the first issue, I think that the Steer review built on a lot of previous evidence about behaviour in schools. SEC supports the conclusion of his report that for all children behaviour in school is intrinsically linked with good teaching and the ability of a child to access their learning. It is common sense that a child who is engaged with their education and making good progress is less likely to be disruptive or challenging in class. That means that where a child is disruptive, schools should not look at behaviour in isolation and take the disciplinary route, but should look to identify the underlying causes of that behaviour. Furthermore, where a child has a disability or SEN, it means looking at the support that they are receiving and determining whether that support is the right type of support.

We know that there is a lot of confusion in some quarters about the crossover between children with SEN and disability. We think that schools perhaps need to appreciate slightly more the difference between SEN as a legal concept and disability as a legal concept. The confusion means that schools are not always clear about when they should provide a reasonable adjustment and when they should make provision for a SEN. The legal protections afforded disabled children, specifically in schools, are about reasonable adjustments and actually those reasonable adjustments are sometimes critical to ensuring that disabled children can engage in a learning environment.

In terms of exclusions, we know that children who have been permanently excluded are less likely to achieve five good GCSE results, they are less likely to be employed in later life, and they are more likely to enter custody. There is a broad consensus that exclusion from school results in dramatically poorer outcomes for children and has a significant long-term cost for society. We know that disabled children and children with SEN continue to be eight times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than the rest of the school population. In fact, 24 children in every 10,000 excluded have SEN compared with two in every 10,000 excluded without SEN.

We have argued for many years that when a disabled child or a child with SEN is at risk of exclusion, a review of that child’s SEN should be undertaken before they are referred off-site. The review should look at whether reasonable adjustments are required for the disabled child or a child with SEN that, if they are made, could avoid the need to remove the pupil from the school in the first instance. We know that exclusion is only likely to compound the considerable barriers that disabled children and children with SEN face in achieving their full potential.

Q177 Chair: Thank you very much, John.

Virginia, what are your opening remarks? Could you be as brief as you can, please, because we have limited time?

Virginia Beardshaw: I am Virginia Beardhaw, chief executive of I CAN, the children’s communication charity. Our mission is to support all children’s speech and language development, and our special focus is on children who find speech and language difficult. I CAN is a member of the Special Educational Consortium, of which John is the vice-chair. I thank the Committee for inviting me to give evidence today.

I will start by giving some killer facts. There is a clear and proven link in research between a child’s speech, language and communication needs and their behaviour. Children with speech, language and communication needs, SLCN, are at a higher risk of developing poor behaviour and therefore are much more likely than average to be excluded from school. Two thirds of seven to 14-year-olds with behavioural problems actually have SLCN, so it is a very high incidence.

Undetected speech and language difficulties will often manifest themselves as poor behaviour, both at school and within the home. It is just common sense: members of the Committee will understand that if you are not understanding something very well, and if you cannot express yourself very well, school may be a frightening, humiliating and absolutely confusing place to be. Those of us who know this do not find it in any way surprising that children and young people with SLCN act up or opt out. They are highly over-represented in both the excluded and truanting populations, but from their point of view it is entirely logical.

Q178 Chair: That is a very powerful statement, Virginia. Paula?

Paula Lavis: My name is Paula Lavis and I am from the children’s mental health charity YoungMinds. Our particular interest is in the links between behaviour and mental health problems. As you probably know, one in 10 children have a mental health problem, and many children with a mental health problem are excluded from school for bad behaviour. I was really interested in your conversations in the previous session about CAMHS and early intervention.

Q179 Chair: Jane?

Jane Vaughan: I am the director of education for the National Autistic Society. I have three key areas that I feel run on quite well from the previous discussion.

First, the behaviour of children with autism is linked to teaching and learning, and to appropriate support for teachers and learning. Anxiety and stress have a great deal of impact on how you see a child with autism behaving in the classroom. We are talking throughout this session about behaviour, and I think that sometimes we need to think about the individual child and, rather than how we manage the behaviour, what we have to do to return the child to learning. What should we put in to return the child to learning, not necessarily just manage the behaviour? What should we be doing to return to learning?

Secondly, training: Pat’s discussion about training in secondary schools was very interesting. I liked that bit. I feel very, very strongly that it is not just the teachers and special educational needs co-ordinators that need training; we have to get to the head teachers and the governors, because they influence the whole school. That is very important to us. It’s not just the teaching assistants, supervisors and teachers. Let’s get those head teachers and governors involved.

We need to improve our assessment to identify additional needs and special educational need, especially before exclusion. If you are going to exclude a child, you should look at whether there is a special educational need. Is there autism there? Could we do something differently? Could we put something in now, before the exclusion? Also, we talked about alternative provision: there again, assess the child before alternative provision. Let’s have a look at what their need is. Is there something that we have not picked up, especially around autism? We use lots of assessment for learning in the classroom. It is a superb tool for teachers. They don’t need a different tool for children with autism, but they need to know about and appreciate autism so that they can use exactly the same tool in perhaps a slightly different way. So the areas are training, assessment and returning to learning through appropriate support.

Chair: Thank you very much.

Q180 Nic Dakin: I shall pick up on the training theme. Thank you for coming today. You mentioned in those opening remarks several areas-for example, speech and language, mental health, autism and other issues. Do you think that the training that is currently in schools for the staff-head teachers, support staff, teaching staff-is adequate to allow identification of those different needs, and to know the appropriate interventions to get the best out of pupils? If it is not adequate-I saw heads shaking-what needs to be done to make it adequate?

Virginia Beardshaw: We have advocated for a long while, as have others, tools to help staff to identify and assess SLCN in both special and mainstream settings in order to help to identify areas for development. We would also like to see a step change in the initial teacher training and continuous professional development processes for teaching staff to help them to link poor behaviour and speech and language difficulties-and other special educational needs for that matter-to address the cause rather than the effect.

More specifically still, we are advocating the introduction of a screening tool for children at two and a half, linked to the healthy child programme and subsequently at five, prior to the proposed reading test, to pick up children’s communication difficulties early and to introduce a personal plan for the child. That would have general benefits across special educational needs, because communication difficulties are a part of so many different special educational needs and disabilities-autism is a notable one, and 60% of children with cerebral palsy and a very high proportion of all deaf and hard of hearing children, for example, are affected.

John Dickinson-Lilley: The Institute of Education and its teacher development agency have developed new modules which specifically look at SEN and disability. New teachers and initial teacher training should be getting more input around those specific areas. There is also the inclusion development programme which is basically bringing teachers up to the same level through CPD. Overall we are probably starting to move in the right direction at a very, very simplistic level, but we are not even going to start to see the impact yet.

I would like to pick up on one of the points that Nic made, which is about support staff. One of the problems we can see is that TAs are being used at the moment just specifically to manage behaviour, rather than to support attainment. It is clear that the more support assistant time a child has, the further back they are in attainment. A good example of that would be in a classroom environment and, say, filling in a classroom survey. Quite often a TA would do that for a child, so the child is not being integrated into the learning that’s going on with the rest of the class. Making sure that TAs have the right kind of support to support a teacher and the child in getting children to learning points is significant.

Q181 Pat Glass: We know that the National Association of Head Teachers and many others, even I in my time, have said that far too many children with special needs are attending pupil referral units simply because there isn’t the appropriate provision in local authorities. As a Committee we went last week to visit New Woodlands School in Lewisham where they have powers-what is it?

Chair: Innovation powers.

Pat Glass: They have powers to innovate to allow the school to run the pupil referral unit and for children without statements to attend. It was clearly an outstanding school, which was meeting the needs of all the children there. Do you think that there needs to be separate provision for children with SEN? Is it about the culture and ethos within the provision or does there need to be separate provision? If there is a need for separating provision for children with challenging behaviour with SEN from children who have disaffected, delinquent, conduct-disordered behaviour, within the SEN bits do we need to have separate provision for autism, language and all the separate areas around the disabilities?

Virginia Beardshaw: At I CAN, because speech, language and communication needs are of very high prevalence-SLCN is the largest category of reasons for statementing in primary school and applies to more than a quarter of all statemented children-we advocate the classic, public-health-based, waves model. The critical thing-John mentioned this very well-is that mainstream settings need to have very good teaching and learning for all children. Quality first teaching and learning, when it works, is a good way of addressing the needs of many, many children with speech, language and communication needs. For others with greater needs, a targeted approach will be required. What is really needed is for the whole school work force to have the skills to be able to bring special resources to bear to support the child well and make reasonable adjustments.

Then there is a group of children who might need specialist help. That can often be done in mainstream settings, but sometimes it is best for the individual child if that is done outside. For example, I CAN run specialist special schools for children with severe and complex speech, language and communication needs, many of whom have failed in mainstream schools. Sadly, poor behaviour will be a significant component of that failure. I do not believe that there is a right or wrong approach, but it needs to be based on the needs of the child.

Q182 Chair: When you have provision for children who have been excluded from school, which has to be provided structurally, should that be provided collectively so that the children with serious behavioural issues that are not related to SEN-bad behaviour-are put together with children with SEN? Is that the right way, or should we be trying to have separate channels of provision?

Virginia Beardshaw: No; I think wherever possible the needs should be met in the mainstream school. Moving children out should be the exception.

Q183 Pat Glass: Do you think it would be helpful if the Committee made a recommendation that no child with a statement of SEN should attend a PRU?

Jane Vaughan: No; I do not think that that would be helpful at all. I think that for some children with autism, going into a PRU can be very challenging, very stressful and, for some of them, the worst thing that possibly could happen. They will find that their needs are not being met at all, and that goes back to the point we made earlier: before deciding on the provision that the child will be placed in, you have to ensure that you know what that child’s need is.

As Virginia said, we all accept that children with SEN are individual. Children with autism are individual, as it affects everyone in a different way. There is a core diagnostic issue for autism, the triad of impairments and difficulties, but every child is different. Autism affects children differently, as do speech and language difficulties. With person-centred planning, we should be able to support those youngsters in mainstream schools, if that is suitable for them. There needs to be a range of provision. Some children can be supported well in mainstream schools. If we can get them assessed well and meet their needs, if there is good teaching and learning, and if the support services are there, are accessible and are coming into schools to support teachers, then we can do it.

However, there are some children who do need specialist provision. It is the same as going into PRUs; for some children with autism, that is not the right place for them, in which case specialist provision is preferable and will give them the best opportunities in life. Going to a PRU could well destroy their future. However, there are some PRUs that are good at assessing need, and I know some very good PRUs where children with autism are assessed as soon as they come in and put in the right structures, and you see them fly.

Q184 Pat Glass: Given that unfortunately, whichever way we look at it, there are an awful lot of children who have very serious speech and language difficulties, whether or not they have a statement or have been diagnosed, and are perhaps on the semantic-pragmatic spectrum of autism, what one thing could we do to improve alternative provision, such as short-stay schools or PRUs? Do you want to answer that, John? If you had a wish list, what is the one thing you would do? I know what I would do.

John Dickinson-Lilley: To be honest, this is where SEC is quite an interesting organisation; because we’re a consensus organisation, I could give you 22 different answers to that question. I am inclined to write to you after speaking to our members, because they would all want the opportunity to put their little No. 1 in, if that’s possible.

Q185 Pat Glass: Paula?

Paula Lavis: I would say that, obviously, looking at it from the mental health perspective, what I hear from colleagues who work in PRUs is that better links with CAMHS for particular young people are important. I gather, and this is similar to conversations that we had earlier, that there is a lot of stigma around mental health problems. I gather from children and parents in PRUs that a lot of people would like CAMHS to come into PRUs to work with them, rather then expecting children to go to the service, but I guess there would be some who wouldn’t want that, so it’s about being more flexible in how you work with others or how they work with other services.

Q186 Pat Glass: So better, more flexible CAMHS?

Paula Lavis: Yes.

Jane Vaughan: For me, it would be about training and autism awareness, and exactly as you’ve been saying. Looking at training, there should be a tiered approach, so you should have a certain level of training if you are a TA, a certain level if you are a teacher, and there should be a level of training if you are a head teacher or governor-you can tell it’s my thing. If you are working in a PRU, there should be a level of training in awareness of autism and other special educational needs so that you can put in the individual package to get that child accessing learning, whether that is outreach in their homes to support them or whether it is coming into the PRU.

Virginia Beardshaw: I don’t know whether this is the one right answer, but for me, given the high prevalence of speech, language and communication needs, I would say that all children should be screened for SLCN, ideally before they’re excluded; then those needs can be met in the PRU. It is such a pan-SEN and pan-disability issue.

Paula Lavis: May I just add something about training in mental health? In school or a PRU, if teachers or school staff have some ability to identify mental health problems and possibly improve the referrals-so they only refer people to CAMHS who need to be referred-you might not get the bottleneck that you get at the moment in CAMHS.

Q187 Nic Dakin: One of the things that’s come through in what we’ve heard in other witness sessions is reading, which, I suppose, is one of the representations of language at its core. As young people who can’t read are more likely to have behavioural issues, notwithstanding the other situations that they might be in, do you think that it is a key issue? We heard from Charlie earlier about a clear strategy for addressing that in his area. Is it important or is it a distraction?

John Dickinson-Lilley: In my day job, working for RNIB, we know that only 100 titles are available in an accessible format to visually impaired kids in schools. With only 100 textbooks on the curriculum available to visually impaired children, it goes without saying that those children will not perform as well. In a sense, it is connected to reading, but more widely it illuminates the need for training of staff who can identify needs. The same theory might apply, for example, to a child with a hearing impairment, where how they are taught, in terms of acoustics, is more important. Therefore, it is also about linking into the comments I made earlier about reasonable adjustments, lesson planning and the tools you use as a teacher, but using different tools in different ways to ensure that everyone is achieving the right learning points.

Virginia Beardshaw: I think the reading is an important one, but both literacy and numeracy rest on a language base. The single most accurate predictor of a child’s attainment at age five is their vocabulary and their ability to use language. Therefore, there is an inextricable sequence of language skills knocking into and forming literacy and numeracy skills, and, therefore, having a huge impact on attainment and a child’s ability to thrive in school.

Jane Vaughan: With autism, we sometimes have a different angle to cope with, in that a lot of children with autism are very good readers and will read quite fluently. Where the teacher then has to be skilled is to dig deeper and be able to assess the comprehension, because they often have over-expectations. That young person may have learnt and be reading by rote and their comprehensive language may be very low indeed. So, there is a different issue there again, but teachers need to be trained to understand that for a child with autism, that issue might be something that presents.

Paula Lavis: I guess, from a child development and mental health perspective, these building blocks of education are important to get into place early on so you have a better sense of self-esteem, and so you don’t start off your education or early life thinking that you’re an educational failure. You are building resilience so you are much better able to cope with difficulties of life, which would hopefully reflect in your behaviour.

Q188 Nic Dakin: Can you give an example of how inappropriate teaching and learning can impact on a pupil with special educational needs?

Jane Vaughan: I will give you one anecdote of something that happened to me. I gave a child a worksheet and on it, you had to put a cat beside the table and a lamp on the table. This was many years ago. It said, "Draw a line under the table" and, when I turned around, the little boy had actually gone under the table. When I dug deeper, it was not bad behaviour-you could have seen that as him just messing about. It was before I was very knowledgeable about autism and I thought, "What is going on here?" and I realised he had read that totally literally. That could be interpreted as a behaviour issue, because he did a lot of things like that, but really, it was literal understanding.

Q189 Chair: Does anyone else want to come in on that? Quality of teaching for children with SEN, as for other children, is the single most important thing in terms of shaping behaviour in the classroom.

Jane Vaughan: Could you repeat that, Graham?

Chair: We are very keen to explore the quality of teaching because it is so important-that’s what Alan Steer said, and that’s what you have said to us. As Alan Steer put it, "You’d always ask in these matters, ‘What does it look like?’" That’s what we are trying to find out. What does good teaching for children with SEN look like and what does bad teaching look like? What does it look like to disadvantage a child with SEN in the classroom, because if we can’t understand what it looks like, it’s hard.

Q190 Nic Dakin: I suppose the other thing is, are we making improvements? You are working in this arena-do you feel we are moving in the right or wrong direction?

Jane Vaughan: I think in the last five or 10 years, we have moved on hugely-I am especially talking about autism. You see huge improvements in primary schools. Five years ago, some primary schools had never heard of autism but that rarely happens now. You go in and they have heard of it. I am not saying that they are all doing wonderful things, but it is very rare now to go into a primary school where they are not doing something or they are not aware of it. Secondary schools are another, completely different issue.

Paula Lavis: May I say something about projects such the targeted mental health in schools programme? I think that has made huge differences in some areas, possibly to those who were in the first pathfinder. They have been going for nearly three years now. Those huge differences are not just in terms of the school, but how the school sits within the system of services that supports children and young people-obviously, I’m thinking about children and young people with mental health problems. YoungMinds has been involved in some of the training for some of the TaMHS projects, to train teachers in basic things connected to mental health, so they can be reflective on their practice and think how they can best help young people.

Q191 Nic Dakin: So, you feel that awareness is raised on those issues with staff in schools and that the interventions for those sort of students are better than they were 10 years ago, so the outcomes should be better?

Paula Lavis: For some schools. I’m sure that some schools are still struggling.

John Dickinson-Lilley: I kind of build in the point I made earlier. My specialism is in visual impairment. If you think about how you are taught in a classroom, there is a huge dependency on the written word and on being able to interact with a blackboard. For example, I can’t really see any of you particularly clearly, so for me to read on a blackboard would be tremendously difficult. This leads back to the point about training, and why we are all so keen on really high quality training of teachers and teaching assistants. If you aren’t able to physically think about how to make an on-the-hoof adjustment in the classroom-something very simple that includes children-you start to build the potential for a behaviour problem right there. We need to see the impact of improved teacher training, and then work out whether what teachers are being taught now in terms of their initial teacher training and what existing staff are already doing in terms of classroom practice is the right approach, or whether they need more upskilling.

Q192 Chair: What would it look like? We heard from Alan Steer that primary schools are rather better at classroom management and planning where children sit. Secondary schools tend to do that less well. Is it about where you position children, or are we talking about teachers changing how they present the curriculum, or the curriculum itself, to better suit the children? What does it look like? When we have done the training, what will the teachers do that they were not doing before?

Jane Vaughan: I think again that it is looking at the individual, and knowing what to look for and how their SEN may impact on their learning. I can give a simple example. A teacher in a mainstream secondary school was having a lot of difficulty in getting a young child with autism even to come into the classroom. We went to look at it, and after just a little digging we discovered that the child found it very hard to come into the classroom past two particular boys who were themselves quite challenging. There was obviously a slight issue between him and them. He also found it difficult because of his sensory needs to look at the whole classroom and know where to sit. His anxiety levels went straight up as soon as he was in her classroom.

All we did was to try to work out, by talking to him, how we could get over that. We cut a circle out of black paper and whenever that class was coming in, the teacher put that circle under a chair so that when the boy got to the door he could look for the circle and make straight for the chair. That took that problem out completely.

The issue is about making adjustments, and knowing your children and what to look for, especially when children with autism are in mainstream education. If you don’t know autism, you don’t know that they may have sensory needs. You may not know that they are anxious about walking into bright lights, or that they have difficulties anticipating when lessons will end. There are so many things that if you know about them, you realise that something that you think is behavioural could just be their autistic need.

Virginia Beardshaw: I agree with that personalised approach that Jane is advocating. One very practical suggestion for the Committee to consider is building on the general continuous professional development in the inclusion development programme with which I CAN was a collaborator. We wrote the speech, language and communication needs bit of it. I think the inclusion development programme was a good start, but there needs to be renewal, and building on that. It is only if you have that basic level of understanding in the whole school population that you will be able to build the personalised approaches that Jane has told us about so eloquently.

Jane Vaughan: The inclusion development programme has one for autism as well. Last year, every school got that. When I go to meetings or do training, I say, "Hands up who’s seen the IDP in their school." Perhaps 50% or 25% do so, and I am thrilled. Again, what is happening to that training? I know that I am being repetitive, but I am making my point. Head teachers should be saying, "I want all my staff trained in this."

Q193 Pat Glass: May I ask something quickly? I think the IDP was absolutely superb, and I think it got better as it moved on. At the beginning there were issues, but as it moved on it was superb. It is about every teacher. It is not targeted at specialist teachers; it is targeted at every teacher. What can we do that would help that to move on?

Virginia Beardshaw: I think you should recommend a refresher, if I may be so bold. We learned as we went along, so that learning should be applied to move it up a level. I think we fell down a bit in the dissemination plan and programme for it, so I recommend that the Committee looks at that.

Q194 Pat Glass: So what about saying that Ofsted will look at it?

Jane Vaughan: I was thrilled that Ofsted now has to look at SEN, because local authorities do not really have much power in schools. Again, it is back to the head teacher and governors. It would have been great to see some accountability, which is why I talk about this tiered approach. Norfolk, for instance, has developed in its schools a tier of training so that if you are a TA you have so many modules, or if you are a head teacher so many modules. Everybody is expected in their schools to have so much training in SEN. If we had linked the IDP with that, with some sort of sign-off that you had actually completed looking at it on your PC, that would have had much more impact if there was some accountability somewhere.

Q195 Craig Whittaker: As a trainer in my other job, before I came to this place, I know that you have to be very careful that meeting training needs is not just a tick-box exercise, which quite often happens. I think that we have established that training need with teachers is key. We have also learned over the last few weeks that assessors probably over-assess, and because of the training needs quite badly sometimes.

The key for me is provision. I want particularly to talk about CAMHS, because Paula has already said that one in 10 young people have mental disorders in school. Going back to the head teachers as well, Sir Alan Steer’s report clearly says that head teachers complain very strongly about accessing CAMHS. CAMHS is not just about one thing; it is about a range of services that do not always come from a primary care trust, but from a whole range of providers. How would you model a provision that was actually going to provide for all children who need a CAMHS specialist, from low-level support to more complex support?

Paula Lavis: I guess it is also, as you say, thinking about what CAMHS actually is. It is not just about specialist NHS services, which I think often people think of it as being. It goes back to what I was saying earlier about the idea of this being a whole-system approach to mental health. You do not just have the schools, but you have the NHS, and they all work together in partnership to produce a strategy for how they can commission and deliver these services together at their local level. That also needs to be based on the local need, which I think is quite important, because there is obviously no point in putting in place services that you do not need in your service. The other important thing is listening to young people, because they have a lot to tell us, and we can learn a lot if we listen to them about what sort of service they would find acceptable.

Jane Vaughan: We have an issue reported to us by a lot of young people with autism, adults with autism and parents, in that a lot of children with autism have real difficulty accessing CAMHS, because they will say that this behaviour is their autism, when in fact it is actually a mental health problem.

Q196 Tessa Munt: Sorry; this behaviour is-?

Jane Vaughan: Sometimes CAMHS will say that a child cannot be referred because they are autistic, and therefore the behaviour that we are seeing is part of their autism rather than a mental health issue. We know, however, that autism does not mean that you have a mental health issue, and you can have autism and a mental health issue. Because of the lack of recognition of the anxiety and stress around autism, it often deteriorates into a mental health issue, and such individuals are having great difficulty accessing CAMHS.

Q197 Craig Whittaker: So how do we model that provision, to give that provision where needed? That is the key question, really.

Paula Lavis: I suppose we have to see the whole person, not just split-off bits. Our mental health is integral to our physical health as well, so you can’t just split them all off.

Q198 Chair: We are talking about the structure of that provision. What does good provision look like? How is it modelled? Who does what? Who has what responsibility? Who has the lead? Where should the budget go?

Paula Lavis: Maybe it should be a pooled budget. That has always been a bit of an issue, with different agencies contributing to the main pot. It does not take a lot before a bit of that money is pulled off. Often you get lots of project money, so you might get a little pot of money for the short term, which is then taken away because it has not been mainstreamed. It would probably be helpful to have a centralised fund within a local area.

Jane Vaughan: Again, going back to CAMHS, we assume people have been trained in autism, but lots of the CAMHS teams have not. We go back once again to having that training.

John Dickinson-Lilley: I think that, as people have already pointed out, it is really difficult to disentangle mental health disability and behavioural difficulties. There is a real issue in schools about who is responsible for a child’s mental health; we need a bit more clarity about that. One of the key challenges for schools now, certainly with the changes to the structure of the system, is how to develop those partnerships. Not only are the quality and types of services available variable-within counties sometimes-but the relationships may need to be built with the local mental health trust, the NHS and social services to create a bigger picture. There are all kinds of reasons for mental health issues that may be related to disability or to something else. I think that a fundamental role for schools would be to build those partnerships in the first instance, which then links to making sure that children are being assessed at school. That assessment is critical, because we know that children with an SEN or disability are more likely to have a mental health problem than their peers. Getting that identification in place should lead a school to question the need to look at the kinds of interventions that need to be made either now or in the future. It is not only about looking at a child’s SEN or disability in isolation, but at its tangential effects.

Q199 Craig Whittaker: The initial question was about what sort of structure you would put in place, but I am not quite getting it.

John Dickinson-Lilley: I could give you a direct answer to that. It is very hard for us to talk about structure, because of the changes to the education system as it is now. One of our concerns at the SEC is that we are seeing significant defragmentation already in the traditional central support services provided by local authorities-such as educational psychologists and so on-because of the new academies programme. There is potential for further defragmentation with free schools, where schools will be required to commission services. If the money has already been taken away from local authorities, those services will be lost, and if they are lost, how will provision be made? It is an absolutely critical question, but it is one that we are going to find very hard to answer until the Government can give us an answer about how they are going to ensure that this provision will continue to be made while education is being changed in the way that it is being changed.

Q200 Craig Whittaker: That leads nicely to my next question. As a previous Lead Member, one of the key things that I have been banging on about for many years in the local authority is that, with things such as CAMHS and disabled children, we often see money going from vast amounts of pots through different directorates, children and young people’s services, primary care trusts and sometimes justice services, and we often also see a huge amount of duplication of service and huge gaps in the service. The thing that I have been banging on about for years is: why don’t we get one pool of money, tear down those structures and have one overhead cost? And, guess what, all of a sudden we wouldn’t just have service, but a provision right across the board. Surely, in the light of the savings that are needed, that would be the best way forward.

Virginia Beardshaw: I wasn’t expecting to make this point today, but this fragmentation is a real worry. It has been a consistent feature of the system for umpteen years, not just affecting CAMHS. Children with speech, language and communication needs fall through the cracks between local authority-provided services and NHS-provided services arguably more than any other group. As a result, I CAN, the Council for Disabled Children, the National Children’s Bureau and the Communication Trust have made a submission to the Department of Health, in response to the new White Paper, suggesting that the child health commissioning budget, which is the money that pays for CAMHS among many other things, should migrate with the public health budget to local authorities, so that local authorities would be able to take an integrated view of commissioning. That is quite a radical suggestion. It has always been rejected in the past, because of issues around health professionals’ terms and conditions. Those would not apply, because, under the proposals on splitting provision and commissioning, it is only the commissioning budget that need move to local authorities. Health professionals’ terms and conditions could remain the same.

I wasn’t expecting to do this today, but I highly recommend that radical suggestion to this Committee, which is of course known for its independence, and I will make available the letter from I CAN, CDC, the National Children’s Bureau and The Communication Trust, so that you can consider it.

Jane Vaughan: Craig, I would like to think about this a bit more. Can I think about it and write back to you?

Craig Whittaker: Certainly.

Q201 Chair: John, do you want to give an instant response to Virginia’s radical proposal?

Virginia Beardshaw: It’s CDC, so-

John Dickinson-Lilley: It’s slightly more complex for me to give a radical answer-no matter how radical I would like to be on occasion.

Chair: If you have to get consensus of 22, we’re lucky that you say anything at all.

John Dickinson-Lilley: You’re right; it takes a lot of preparation. On provision, one of the difficulties is that, if you look at children with sensory impairment, including children who are deaf, for example, there is a very low incidence; the same goes for children who are blind and partially sighted. As a result, service provision by someone central is actually fairly essential. We’re not necessarily saying that local authorities are brilliant, but we’re not saying that they are terrible either. We’re not even saying who should provide it. What we are saying is that the market is not viable, because you are talking about such a small number of children. The question about how that provision is made is really important and it is something that the Committee might want to reflect on a little bit more. Charities such as the RNIB or the National Autistic Society provide such services and can do a little bit of work in providing some of those services, but we don’t have the capacity or the ability to provide specialist support services. There is a real question there about the viability of those services going forward.

Chair: Thank you, John.

Jane Vaughan: May I just add one more thing?

Chair: No, I’m afraid not, Jane.

Q202 Ian Mearns: There’s a strong correlation between children who have emotional and behavioural difficulties and SLCN. In particular to you, Virginia, can you tell us about the correlation between children’s emotional and behavioural difficulties and their speech, language and communication needs?

Virginia Beardshaw: That is what I was starting to do at the beginning. It always amazes me that, in this field, we always tend to make things too technical. That is why, when I’m talking about behaviour and SLCN, I always say that it is commonsensical that, if you can’t really understand, because comprehension is a big part of language, what is going on in a setting, particularly a setting as formal and as demanding as a school, and if you can’t really express yourself very well-in technical terms, this means receptive language and expressive language-is it any wonder that you either act up, misbehave or absent yourself? Hence the exclusion figures of 60% to 70%-actually, those are the figures for youth offending-and truanting is equally high. I could go off into technical detail, but I would invite members of the Committee to make an imaginative leap.

All those same elements apply in the youth offending and criminal justice system. These kids cope very badly. If we could get into the whole teaching work force, the whole school work force and the young offending work force a realisation of just how many children are not getting it and are not able to express themselves properly, then, I think, we would bring about a sea change that would have a beneficial effect across the whole range of special educational needs, including key areas such as autism, dyslexia, deaf and hard of hearing children and a range of others.

Jane Vaughan: I will just give you an example that I think demonstrates a lot of what Virginia says, with which I agree totally. It was given to me by the SENCO of a secondary school in Surrey.

A young boy who has Asberger’s syndrome accidently dropped his sandwiches as he walked into the dining room. He didn’t realise and went to the other side of the hall. The head teacher came in, saw the sandwiches, realised that they were his and shouted, "Boy, pick up these sandwiches." The young man stood up and said, "Man, you pick them up." Absolutely horrified, the SENCO rushed over to the head teacher, as he was exploding, to say "Let me explain. Let me explain." She got the young man to sit down and explain how he saw the situation according to his understanding of language and his own expression. The person he’d seen had called him "Boy", so he responded with "Man". In his logic, the sandwiches were next to the man, so why would he walk right the way across the hall to pick them up when they were next to the man? I thought that that was a great example of how speech and language communication difficulties can result in a behaviour difficulty.

Q203 Ian Mearns: If I can come back to Virginia, I am delighted that you have raised the issue of non-attendance and truancy, which often goes with youngsters. It seems to me that it is one of the items that we have lost a little bit. We did agree to look at that at the start of our proceedings on behaviour and discipline, but we seem to have lost it somewhere.

Can I take you back to something you said that perturbed me a little bit? You said that if youngsters were screened for speech and language communication needs prior to exclusion, then they could be dealt with in the PRU; but why would you exclude them in the first place? It seems to me that if we identify such needs through a screening process prior to exclusion, what we have actually done is identify a failure in the institution rather the child.

Virginia Beardshaw: Thank you for giving me an opportunity to clarify that for the Committee. Of course, I would always prefer the child’s needs to be met in a school setting. If, prior to exclusion, there is screening for SLCN, then that is exactly what I think could, should and in many cases must happen, rather than the child going to a PRU. But sometimes they will go to a PRU, and there, they will need to have their needs addressed.

I am also glad that you are pleased that I brought up truancy. It is something that we see a lot in our I CAN schools. We’ve had children who have been school refusers for two or three years, and we bring them back. One of the things that I am proudest of is how they can then achieve good GCSE results and go on to college.

Q204 Ian Mearns: Is there one magic bullet for detecting youngsters who have these needs that have previously gone undetected through the systems and through primary and secondary education?

Virginia Beardshaw: For SLCN, which has wider applications across special education needs, we are advocating screening at two and two and a half, linked to the child health programme, and then screening at five on entry to school. We are passionate-we think that would turn things around if, and only if, this isn’t just an assessment and it is followed up by support. We spend far too much in this country and waste a lot of our valuable, most skilled staff’s time just doing assessments and then doing nothing whatsoever about them.

Jane Vaughan: There is the danger therein as well. If teachers are waiting for a child to be assessed and diagnosed, they won’t meet the need-"Oh no, we don’t need to do anything. They haven’t got anything." We need to look at the child and say, "This is your need."

Q205 Tessa Munt: We heard evidence earlier about links with crime for the group of young people who have SEN. There is a phrase from the YJB, which says, "Significant numbers of young people with special educational needs can end up in alternative provision and in turn involved in the criminal justice system, when their needs have either not been identified properly, or they have not been met appropriately in mainstream provision." What kind of interventions are required where a child with special educational needs or a mental health problem is also identified as being at risk of committing a crime?

John Dickinson-Lilley: Again, that links back to the assessment, because although a child might already be diagnosed with a special education need, the fact that there are behavioural issues might mean that there is another underlying special educational need or disability. You quite often find that disabilities, special educational needs and behaviour get overlaid in different ways, so things get missed. One of the most important things is that identification.

One of the things that we’ve found is that if a child has, for example, a behavioural problem, quite often schools progress them through the disciplinary route and forget about looking at curriculum and assessing need. They just look at the child’s bad behaviour and progress them through the disciplinary route with fixed-term exclusions and permanent exclusions. As a result, by the age of 19, 27% of young disabled people are NEET, because, ultimately, they get excluded from the system so many times that the system inherently fails them. We then move on to the causes of crime, with which we are all familiar and on which I don’t really need to comment, including social exclusion and all of the other factors.

We need to get it right at school and keep on getting it right. If you look at the key stages, 42% of children in key stage 1 have a speech, language and communication need. If you look at the same group of children at key stage 3, only 5% have that need, but DCSF research shows that, between the ages of 12 and 17, 38% of that group have a behavioural, emotional or social difficulty. So what you are seeing is a bizarre translation from key stage 2, in which 42% of children with a speech, language and communication need becomes 38% of children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. I allude to the point that was made earlier about secondary education by saying that there is a distinct difference in how secondary schools treat children with special education needs.

Virginia Beardshaw: I saw some slightly bewildered faces among the Committee members, but I have a nifty little chart that shows that miraculous conversion over the summer holidays. High levels of speech, language and communication needs are identified in primary school, but we believe that a massive relabelling takes place by the time they get to secondary school and those very same children are relabelled as having behavioural difficulty. I have that chart here, and I will make it available to the Committee. I just wanted to back you up, John.

Q206 Chair: I’m afraid that our time is up, although there’s much more that we’d like to explore. There is just time for a final word from Paula.

Paula Lavis: There are strong links between youth crime and mental health. Huge numbers of young people with mental health problems end up in the youth justice system. I guess that a lot of those cases may well have been avoided if we had really good early intervention services to pick them up. You can identify those at risk at a really young age.

Q207 Chair: So if you prioritise them at the age of two and a half or five, they won’t end up in jail?

Paula Lavis: Yes.

Chair: On that positive note, I thank you very much indeed for coming to give evidence to us today.