There was quite a strong SEND school group represented, and who spoke during the meeting and I do follow a range of strong SEND advocates through Twitter.
It is clear, especially from Twitter exchanges, that the recent changes to SEND documentation was causing concern among the group, as reassessment of children with pre-existing statements was not always leading to expected outcomes.
Since the Warnock report in 1978 about the status of special educational needs and her definition that, during their educational lifetime, around 20% of children might exhibit some area of personal additional need, schools have had a duty to describe and cater for the needs of a group seen as potentially vulnerable if nothing was done to support them. Systems were set up around this group, by Local Authorities, to quality assure the systems of referral and decisions.
My concern is those children who are in mainstream schools who might yet not have any specific diagnosis of need, but whose needs are regularly evident to classteachers.
While locality could be a cause of issues, subject to available staffing, essentially a child described as having Special Needs in Cornwall, and with a Statement of Educational Needs applied, would be equivalent to a similar child in Newcastle. The constant across the authorities would have been the case studies developed by the school, in association with the available external experts, using the available tools to describe the child’s lack of progress against the National Curriculum Level Descriptors which were common across all schools, even if some difference might be evident in interpretation. A case study portfolio of evidence of description of the learning and other behaviours, together with interrogation of outcomes and successive decisions and adaptations/fine tunings to evident need, would show how the child was performing compared to peers.
Where Levels and associated descriptors have been removed from September 2014, I am left wondering how schools are now seeking to describe their concerning or evident children with educational needs beyond their peers. If they are being tracked against the new National Curriculum, as there are only end of Key Stage descriptors, it will inevitably just be the programmes of study for the year group that will be available, with attendant descriptors of can or can’t do…
Do teachers know what they are looking for? Here’s a crib sheet.
Are there systems within the school where expertise is regularly shared between colleagues that ensures that the vulnerable learners receive appropriate support and challenge, and not just through the class Teaching Assistants?
It can read as if there are potentially insecure systems in place within which insecure and vulnerable learners could be and may well be failed. The lack of National models has enabled localities to develop systems that appear to be causing concern at best.
Sadly it is the potentially vulnerable who may suffer, but it is a case of “Watch this space”.
It could be a case of the law of unintended consequences at play.