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SPECIAL NEEDS Another of her concerns is with alternative provision. “All too often I go into schools and children are fitted in to provision, but provision needs to be adapted to individual needs and you need to know what those needs are. “You need to ask whether the provision is being suited to the provider or the student. Does it happen on a Tuesday afternoon because that’s when it’s available? “Where it often falls down is when students miss important learning and have to catch up, and their behaviour deteriorates as a result. The provision might fill an important gap, but is it causing other problems?” Another element she highlights is the lesson plan. “Does everything happen in accordance to the plan? Does the teacher stick to it no matter what? Teachers must follow the learning. No one will condemn you if you swap groups around if the plan isn’t working – responding to the learning is key.

“You need to ask if the provision is being suited to the provider or the student. Does it happen on a Tuesday afternoon because that’s when it’s available?” “Widen your eyes to what intervention is about. It could be grouping of children, it could be more adults in the room. It’s about what you do differently, and checking that it’s working. “There’s also this great myth that Ofsted wants pace... but pace needs to be adapted to each student.” She also warns that any data presented to inspectors needs to be backed up by what they see in classrooms and in work. Her final two points are simple. “We want to see an emphasis on meaningful qualifications. It’s no good collecting accreditation at low levels just to boost points. Often, if students

had concentrated on fewer, they could have achieved more. “We’re also suspicious of labels.You might be told someone has an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), but has anyone looked beyond this label? One ASD child is not the same as another.” But as some NAHT members know too well, not all inspectors are created equal. Janet says that inspectors are trained to look at all these factors, but if they find something that concerns them more, they may focus more on that. “Ultimately, as a school leader, you need to have robust evaluation in place. It’s your job. Never mind the inspector, this is your day-to-day life.”

SEND CHANGES RETAIN FOCUS ON ‘OUTCOMES’

JOHN WALMSEY / EDUCATION PHOTOS

“Two years ago, the Government wanted to enhance outcomes for SEND students and give parents confidence that their children would leave schools ready for life,” says Andre Imich, SEN and disability professional adviser at the DfE. “The changes they wanted to see included better information for parents and a sharper focus on life outcomes, not endless debates on X minutes for this and X minutes for that. “Can they read and write? That’s where the focus should be.” The main focus of the changes stems from the 2011 Green Paper Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability, which is now draft legislation and is due to be implemented in September 2014. There are already 20 pathfinders across 31 local authorities which, with their health sector partners, are testing out the key reforms. These include Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) replacing Learning Difficulty Assessments and Statements. Andre says: “Historically, there has not been much dialogue between education, health and social care, but we need a shared perspective about the needs of the child and their family. This will put parents at the centre of things, ensuring they’re listened to and avoiding the need for them to repeat themselves endlessly.” Post-16, young people can also express a preference for sixth-form college or further education, and can appeal to a tribunal if dissatisfied with elements of the EHCP. Personal budgets will also present a challenge as parents will have a right to know what support costs, and may even want a say in recruitment. But of all these changes, says Andre, the most important aspect remains: “Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes.”

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LEADERSHIP FOCUS ● MARCH/APRIL 2013

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