The SEND Green Paper, the Schools White Paper, where to start?

There are lots of blogs already out about these 2 papers, from various different angles, but here are my views. Lorraine Petersen OBE will be delivering a response and review of the Green paper on the 3rd of May via Training for Education. It is FREE, you just need to register and will be available after the 3rd of May to watch on demand.

Response to the SEND Review by Lorraine Petersen OBE – 3rd May 2022 – REGISTER HERE

With the various responses I have read, lots of issues have been identified, either through removing areas OR by renaming these areas, but with no explanation on the new definition. There have been lots of concerns raised by those working in schools. These are my thoughts as I look at the documents from different perspectives, as the host of the SENDcast podcast, as the Managing Director of B Squared and with relatives experiencing the SEND system, going through the tribunal process etc.


Let’s start with this statement…

“This government’s Levelling Up mission for schools is that by 2030, 90% of children will leave primary school having achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, up from 65% in 2019”

Opportunity for All…….., Page 8

Then think back to Amanda Spielman’s speech in 2018…

“I have recently been reading “The Tyranny of Metrics” by Jerry Muller. And while I don’t agree with every line of argument, he delivers a powerful critique of a dependence on data at all costs – and especially in public services such as schools and medicine. He warns throughout about the dangers of neglecting human judgement. What I found most interesting was his discussion of Campbell’s Law as it applies to education. For those of you who don’t already know it, Campbell’s Law is the idea that “the more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor” “

Amanda Spielman at the Bryanston Education Summit 2018

We have one section of the Government saying we must get 90% of children to the expected standard. Another part warning of the corruption that happens when we chase these targets. Schools are likely to put a focus on achieving 90% expected standards in reading, writing and maths due to pressures from the DfE and local authorities. Ofsted’s role will be to ensure that schools are working towards these ideals, but without neglecting the wider curriculum and other areas.

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How Do We Judge Success?

My first concern with the new white paper and green paper is how they have chosen to judge success. The report talks about “England achieved its highest ever scores in international comparison studies in both reading and maths” and then the successes in the Phonics screening, key stage 2 results, closing the disadvantage gap and the success of the EBacc.

There is nothing about being ready for employment or being prepared for adulthood. There is no questioning about the suitability of the metrics that have been chosen as the judgement of success. There is nothing about our children’s mental health.

We Should Measure What We Value, Not Value What We Can Measure

We are valuing things we can measure like attainment in English and maths. This is simple to do, we can scale this up easily. Thanks to the invention of exams, we can judge entire cohorts quickly and simply by their performance on a single day and then hold schools and local authorities to account.

What about the things that are important to pupils, parents and employers? Employers have various conversations about the differences between taking on graduates who are not prepared for the workplace or the job role and employing young people at the end of their A levels and training them up. Are schools giving pupils the right skills for their future or are they giving the pupils the skills that look good internationally?

I asked my daughter about the white paper and her response was simple…

“Are they actually trying to improve schools or just their reputation?”

Eleanor Pickles, Year 11

This is a thread that runs throughout education policies at every level. Making changes through fear and pressure and wanting to appear to improve things, not from understanding what is best for their pupils and making a real difference. The Government is simply trying to make schools and education appear better, when judged against specific criteria.

Lots of parents want schools that develop well rounded pupils, schools that have lots of opportunities and experiences and help develop their children to work together and respect each other’s differences. For parents of children with SEND, they want their children ready for the world beyond school. They want their child to be able to access school and enjoy being in school, not the complete opposite which is currently the case for some. This is hard to measure and even harder to turn into a national agenda, so the issues get ignored.

90% Achieving Expected Standard

If we are currently at 65% of pupils achieving the expected standard, to achieve 90% is just under a 40% increase. If I was selling Cookies and wanted to increase my sales by 40%, it will be achievable, I would look at where I sell, my reach etc. Getting 90% of pupils to expected standard is not the same. If I were able to do all the research and quantify the level of effort required to get pupils to the expected standard, I expect the graph to be exponential. The further the child is from the expected standard, the less achievable it is and the more time and money required to get the pupil to the standard.

90% Achieve Expexted Standard

16% of pupils have identified Special Educational Needs, how many others are unidentified? How will schools help these pupils achieve expected standard? Is achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths the single most important thing for these pupils?

More Maths, More English, More School

Apparently, the way to achieve the 90% target is to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. We have obviously moved from quality first teaching, to high quality teaching, and now we are moving on to excellent teaching.

All their research has led them to understand that achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths is the answer to everything. Ther analysis around crime, employment and more has led them putting all their focus on reading, writing and maths, above everything else. I don’t know how they got to this understanding; they should have found a lot more on that journey.

Critical Early Speech and Language Skills

Halfway through the document, we finally get the first and only real mention of speech and language. It is however very short:

“Getting to 90% of children reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in key stage 2 means we must start in early years, with a particular focus on critical early speech and language skills. We will assess the effect of recent reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage on teaching practice and, where necessary, identify ways to go further in ensuring children are prepared for key stage 1, recognising the critical role of early language development in building strong foundations for literacy and numeracy.”

Opportunity for All…….., Page 30

Many children are starting school with poor speech, language and communication skills. There is strong evidence around prevalence, with numbers rising to over 50% of all children in areas of social deprivation having poor language that impacts their wider development. Yet all of this is expected to be resolved by the end of Reception. There is no continuation or focus on spoken language in Key Stage 1 or 2.

In research conducted by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, 66-90% of young offenders have low language skills. People with communication needs can find it difficult to express their emotions and often communicate through behaviour. This can lead to offending behaviour, behaviour leading to restraint. Approximately a third of young offenders have speaking and listening skills below the tested level of an 11 year old and are unable to access education and treatment programmes due to their poor language and literacy skills.

https://www.rcslt.org/wp-content/uploads/media/Project/RCSLT/submission-to-the-public-accounts-committee-mental-health-in-prisons.pdf

The reason for the focus on early speech and language skills is purely so they can get to the expected standard at the end of Key Stage 2. Poor language skills have a huge impact on a pupil’s ability to access education, this will lead to poor behaviour and mental health problems. Once pupils reach Key Stage 1, language and communication skills are forgotten, even though it is a big barrier to education and a big cause of poor behaviour. I really hoped there would be a bigger push around language and communication skills, focussing on the benefits of language skills rather than them being a step towards achieving expected standards at Key Stage 2.

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Behaviour and Reasonable Adjustment

The term “reasonable adjustment” does not appear anywhere within the green paper or white paper. It does not appear within the current Behaviour and Discipline in Schools document.

“Schools must offer a calm, orderly, safe and supportive environment where children are keen and ready to learn, and where teachers are empowered to focus on delivering the best possible lessons”

“We will support schools to secure the fundamentals of behaviour, attendance and wellbeing for all, driving down incidents of poor behaviour and increased absence following the pandemic.”

Opportunity for All…….., Page 9

You could interpret these statements in a variety of ways, but it does have the word supportive in, which is promising. However, within the SEND Review it says…


“This vision builds on the ambition in the Schools White Paper for all children and young people to be taught in a calm, orderly, safe, and supportive school, and links to the revision of the Behaviour in Schools guidance and the statutory Suspension and Permanent Exclusion guidance. For those children and young people for whom a strong behaviour culture alone is not sufficient, high-quality alternative provision will deploy evidence-led strategies to re-engage them in education, improving their attendance and behaviour.”

SEND Review, Page 60

This could read that where pupils don’t follow the school’s behaviour policy, they are moved to an alternative provision. I really don’t like the term “strong behaviour culture”. They could have used clear, but they chose strong, which implies strict and inflexible.

Hopefully the DFE will provide more clarity on reasonable adjustment and how it should be reflected in practice in their updated behaviour guidance, as recommended in the Timpson review.

With more pressure on schools, teachers and pupils to “perform” and achieve, there is likely to be less tolerance for “poor” behaviour. All behaviour is communication, if pupils don’t have the language or communication skills to express themselves, they will express themselves in a different way.

They Missed that Teachers and SENCOs Need Support

There is lots of talk about all the “amazing” stuff the DfE is providing schools around guidance, CPD and qualifications. The biggest thing missing is time. Teachers are overworked, the work life balance is not there, yet here is more CPD, more training and more initiatives you need to do.

Mental Health Support Teams sound great, but when and how do teachers access them? Who takes on the Senior Mental Health Lead? It shouldn’t be a SENCO, they have enough already. Who has the time? The “fully funded” training will typically mean the course is paid for, but the staff cover isn’t. When they have been on the training, where is the time to implement this important area?

They have mentioned protected SENCO time, but were not brave enough to start the conversation about how much time they should have. We have already had the SENCO workload surveys, we already have ideas about the role and how much time is needed.

Schools need more staff to achieve what is set out in the white paper and the green paper.

SENCOs also don’t want to read quotes that good SENCOs are almost impossible to find. There are lots of amazing SENCOs out there who are struggling and leaving the profession. Give them support and make the SENCO part of the leadership team. The responsibility of SEND is a big responsibility and is enough on its own to put them in a leadership position. They shouldn’t have additional responsibility. They have a number of legal requirements with time scales to respond to requests that often fall out of term times. There are very few roles within a school with this level of responsibility. They should be rewarded for their responsibility and dedication. All staff in schools need to be shown, by leaders how important the SENCO role is.

Early Support and Early Intervention

Everyone should completely agree with this concept, but teachers are not fully equipped to do this unless they dedicate their own time and energy on top of everything else. If we look at ITT and a lot of CPD, it is often focussed on subject knowledge and supporting the top 60-70% of pupils. There is a whole other world of CPD around pupils with SEND that often is only accessed by the SENCO. As a company we attend various events and conferences and when the focus is on SEND, the attendees are typically made up of SENCOs, senior leaders of special schools, advisors and local authority teams. No English leads or maths leads and often no senior leaders from mainstream settings. The responsibility of supporting pupils with SEND is often left to the SENCO.

Hopefully this push to 90% of children achieving expected standard will push this need to support pupils with SEND to all senior and middle leaders. SEND hopefully, will become a much bigger priority in schools.

Schools Are Perfect, Children Need to Fit In

This is an underlying message that is throughout both the white paper and green paper. A high expectation of behaviour and attendance will somehow magically fix things. These documents always talk about “All” children, but they typically mean most children. The documents don’t seem to acknowledge pupils who struggle with school. Perhaps they feel that this is covered by the changes around alternative provisions and the alternatives provisions can support these children.

Will it create a two-tiered system? Those who conform and thrive in school settings and those who do not. I am concerned that the reliance on alternative provisions might mean that schools can be less flexible, less rigid and less accommodating as the alternative provision will support those who don’t fit in.

The green paper did acknowledge that parents or families have been blamed for challenges that their children face and treated as a safeguarding concern rather than receiving support. They say this is a failing and needs to be addressed.

EHCP – Big Changes

I am very positive about the proposed changes around EHCPs, a national system will make life easier for everyone. They acknowledge lots of issues and I am hopeful that the changes will reduce the time to till they can access support, reduce the fighting by parents and the emotional and financial drain they face. It will also hopefully mean those who don’t have the financial capacity to fight using the current system can access the support their children need. A single system used everywhere will also make all the support and guidance the various organisations give can be less vague and be directly tied to the different sections of the various forms and processes.

I am hopeful, but also realistic. It is 2022 and local authorities have still not implemented guidance for SEND from 2014. Implementation by local authorities is shocking. The new national system should be easier to implement and have less red tape. The requirement to help this succeed will be  accountability around supporting pupils with SEND.

Consistency and Siloing Needs

The Green paper talked about all the different inconsistencies around the identification of needs. Shockingly some local authorities simply don’t recognise Dyslexia and other needs. Making a national system will make things simpler and fairer across the country, it will hopefully mean that more pupils receive the support they need.

Standardisation is great, but it can be dangerous. If the system sets out the type of support a pupil with autism can access, are they now limited to that support? If a pupil has multiple needs, will they be able to access all the support they need or will they be limited based on their primary need?

Some local authorities already use a pathway style approach and put all children with autism on the autism pathway. The children will often need support for other areas like anxiety or other areas, but this isn’t available as it is not part of the autism pathway. Let’s hope that the national system doesn’t make the same mistakes.

The new system will need to be complex to support ALL pupils, it needs to be simple to manage and simple enough to explain to parents and young people who need to access the support. The information needs to be presented with the correct level of detail to the different stakeholders.

Tutoring

The tutoring sounds great. It is a great to support individuals and small groups in the areas that they are struggling with, but it only supports academic areas. It doesn’t help remove the barriers preventing pupils access the curriculum. There needs to be more support for pupils to remove the barriers so they can access the curriculum, develop communication skills and social skills.

Conclusion

Overall, I feel positive about the Green paper. I like being optimistic. This may change, they could water down things, remove accountability and simply not deliver. Only time will tell.

Changes around the EHCP process are going to be extremely welcome for everyone. A better national picture around SEND and accessing information will support future decision making. There is a lot to be positive about.

It’s the small percentage of pupils who are never covered by these reports that I worry about. The pupils who are school avoiders, their voices and their family’s voices are often never heard.

I am less positive about the White Paper. There are lots of “We wills…..” from the DfE, yet these are things most schools are already doing. Lots of offers of CPD and resources, but no offering of money or time to schools to implement all these changes that are being asked of them. The document talks about schools not doing enough and it assumes that teacher’s don’t know and need CPD, instead of understanding teachers often can’t due to time, money and other factors.


There needs to be more focus on communication and language skills. Spoken language is ignored in Key Stage 1 and above, it is assumed that all pupils are at the expected level. This has a big impact on pupils’ ability to learn, their mental health and their behaviour.

What Does This Mean for B Squared?

The white paper and green paper don’t have a huge impact on B Squared. Robust assessment and early identification underpin the need to assess pupils with SEND in a constructive way, not just “Below”. Schools need to identify areas where pupils need support. We have known and recognised this for years, it is the heart of what we do.

A big push for CPD is great, especially the need for training around SEND so that 90% of pupils can achieve the expected standard, but teachers aren’t time rich. They don’t have lots of time to attend training, let alone time to then implement the new initiatives or ideas. Our Training for Education platform is extremely useful to support schools, especially as the training is theirs forever. The SENDcast is a great way to learn about different aspects of SEND and other areas.

The digital EHCP process and a standardised EHCP process will make things easier for companies to produce information that reduces teacher’s workload. As this standardisation progresses, we will be looking at what information can be included from Connecting Steps or Evisense and how we can update the software to simplify the process further if required.

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