Let me tell you about one of the children in one of the schools for which you are responsible; I’ll call him Little Lad (LL), to save any blushes. He’s part of my extended family. He’s 7 and has been in his small village school, recently redesignated as an academy in September, since the EYFS.
Now, it has been quite clear that LL has been struggling at school, in a number of areas, academically and socially, but the school has been saying that he’s fine and has been doing ok. He gets to work, a great deal, with the class Teaching Assistant, despite there only being 11 children in his year group. This TA is known to rub out work that isn’t right, then essentially doing the work for LL, so that it appears as if he’s doing OK. There was very little SENCo oversight for the first two years as a result, so that, when the school Educational Psychologist eventually was asked to look at him, as a result of parent request, there was not an evidence trail to support an early diagnosis of need. This caused a further six months delay while evidence was collated and tests administered. Surprise. Something might be amiss, but needed some further specialist exploration. Further delay.
When LL’s parents decided to have a private, expensive, Occupational Therapy consultation, a number of the very significant tests showed LL in the bottom percentile of achievement. These professional insights were immediately challenged by the school, not wanting to look negligent.
The school actions are, in my opinion, borderline unprofessional. Their poor record keeping has had an impact on any request for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
I have a feeling of a somewhat broken system. Your predecessor chose to alter the curriculum, the organisation of SEND and to throw assessment back at schools, all at the same time, starting in September 2014. Today, I read that you are demanding 100% achievement in Primaries for specific areas of the curriculum, with the threat of Heads being sacked if not achieved.
You and your predecessor are overseeing the reorganisation of an education system within which children are being failed by the amount and speed of change, which has left individual children vulnerable. LL is at least two years behind his peers. In a system where an inability to achieve the 100% needed by the school will put additional pressure on the vulnerable child. I have to say that the system that you are creating is bordering on inhumane. The mantra seems to be “succeed or else”. Children with learning difficulties will be subject to undue pressure to succeed and are more than ever likely to be seen as failures; in fact, the proposal for the Progress Descriptors at the end of each Key Stage suggest that some children will be labelled as “not at national standard”; sub-standard. How can that even have been proposed? SEN children may now be described as “sub-standard”; a Government condoned label.
You don’t have to try to find the words of comfort for LL’s parents, who are seriously worried for their vulnerable child. You don’t have to read senior professional judgements that show specific learning difficulties, then to seek to interpret them to the parents, nor to seek to explain why an EHCP might have been turned down, especially as lack of school evidence was a key factor.
You just tell people to “do better”. I agree, in some ways.
Your system should be doing better, but it is a distracted system and some children, like LL, are suffering and will suffer more as it progresses. I’d rather your Government had developed a coherent system that benefitted all children, before you seek re-election. It's not joined up properly, to make a difference to individual life-chances. It's not inclusive in ethos.