Now that I’m back at home from my visits to London, I’ve had a little while to think about where we go from here as far as education and SEND is concerned. I thought, being as I have a dual investment, as it were, in its success, that I’d put some ideas down on paper, get some discussion going, that sort of thing.
We all know – or those of us with an interest in the area anyway – that there is too little good practice going on that is shared, and that too few people know about it. Too few people feel they can change what goes on, even when they do know about alternatives. It is my personal view, backed up with nothing better than a hunch, that many of the people with good ideas – the people who actually carry them out – are too far down the hierarchical pecking order to get their voices heard. Patchy is the word that is bandied about.
We all know that, in the field of special educational needs and/or disabilities, the consequences of getting it wrong are very great for the children concerned. There is, as the lady said, a moral imperative in the work that we do. So let’s put the arguments behind us and work together to get it right.
I’ve had a bit of a think and I’ve arranged my thoughts into themes, from the general to the particular. I’m very good at big picture stuff, but not so hot on things like details, so don’t expect to see too many of them here – if you have any good ones, add them to the comments below. Because I’ve had many, many thoughts, I shall split them into a couple of posts.
In my view (and if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you will know this already) the government in the form of the Department for Education, needs to look at the purpose of education and whether the system we have is fit for it.
Personally, if the purpose is to fit all of our young people out with the skills and knowledge they are going to need in order to live an independent life as possible, I don’t think we are doing very well. There are pockets of greatness, yes, but pockets are not what we are after, are we?
We have got to a situation where Education is serving itself, rather than the children, and we have an almighty job on our hands to change the prevailing culture. Success comes in many forms, and so does accountability, so that really needs to be looked at.
League tables and end of school examinations and accreditations need to be changed. Alternative forms of accountability need to be considered, and exams/accreditations that allow children and young people with SEND to show what they know in positive way need to be found and celebrated.
If you’ve got any ideas about how we could go about making the system of accountability and exams better, I’d be grateful if you could add them to the comments.
The role of inspection
I wrote to Mr Harford last month about what I would like him to inspect as far as services for children and young people with SEND are concerned, and I agree with many that there is an important role that Ofsted can play as far as ensuring people are getting their best start. However, it also seems to me that Ofsted has a lot to answer for for instilling a culture of fear in our schools, and fear is bad for learning and bad for SEND. So, we need to know that inspectors will look at all sorts of data, the qualitative and the quantitative, when they are making their judgements, and have in mind the most vulnerable as well as the brightest and the best. We need them to challenge the tick box culture that is strangling education. We need to believe that this is what they will do.
If a school isn’t doing as well as it might with their vulnerable kids, what are Ofsted going to do about it? Is there a way where they can help, rather than simply pronounce judgements?
As an aside, I think it would be enormously helpful if the four categories were abolished and sent to the bottom of the ocean in a concrete overcoat. Either a school is a good school or it isn’t. That’s all we need to know, frankly, and the same goes for teachers. Anything else just encourages window dressing.
We need co-operation and collegiate working, not competition. Teachers in different schools need to be able to meet together. Training needs to be improved, inspection simplified, and flexible provision ensured. Above all, we need a culture change. We need to stop seeing children with SEND in a medicalised way.
Thanks for reading. Please do contribute your ideas in the comments.