One of the things I was very interested to read yesterday was Ofsted’s annual report. Reading Ofsted reports is not something I would ordinarily do with much gusto (unless, of course, it was a school I worked in and I knew that someone was going to say something nice about me), but yesterday, given that I have become more and more interested in strategic pronouncements from our inspectorate, I read it with interest.
And what should I find there? Lo, and behold, much to my astonishment, a whole section about SEND. After the last few years, since I have been able to be outward looking enough to notice, the silence on matters SEND, from all sorts of educational establishments and offices has been, frankly, deafening. I, for one, am heartened that the spotlight has shifted its focus and started to shine our way.
Some of the report was good to see. The unacceptably high number of school exclusions that concern SEND of some kind. This is unacceptable. I agree. The continuing rise in home education for many of these young people and the concern raised about LA’s ability to keep an eye on them and make sure everyone is OK speaks to me of how many people’s right to an education is being ignored.
It was alright for us. Along with so many since 2010, we had the option to send our child to a special school. With an EHCP, he was able to get into one, and an excellent job it did too. I recognise that we were part of the rise in numbers of families choosing the specialist sector for their children. I’m very grateful that so many have read our story, and that it has played its part in heightening awareness of the difficulties many of us face, every day, in dealing with the education system. Without that special school, our son may well have found himself in some sort of time-warp, when children with his kind of disability were deemed ineducable, and I would definitely have been mentally crushed.
But many, the majority, of children with some sort of special educational need or disability do not find themselves in so fortunate a position. The majority of young people with a SEND of some sort do not have an EHCP, and neither are they educated in the specialist sector. As such, and I quote, these children:
…often have a much poorer experience in the education system than their peers…parents reported that they had been asked to keep their children at home because leaders said that they could not meet their children’s needs.
Many children who have SEND present very challenging behaviour…The number of pupils who have SEND and were excluded [from school] was typically high.
This is, indeed, unacceptable.
We are told that:
Higher than average rates of exclusion were also common [in failing schools]. However, this was sometimes seen as a positive step and linked to leaders taking a robust stance on behaviour.…
I don’t know, but it seems to me that we have got a bit of having your cake and eating it going on with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. Which is it? In, or out? Exactly which children are we talking about here?
Why is this is so difficult? And so difficult to emphasise?
The underlying causes of poor behaviour in children are not always evident, and therefore there is always a risk of misidentification.
I’ll finish with this quote, which was written in the context of shared British values and jumped out at me when I read it, and remembered with sadness all the little souls I have taught and I thought about my own children and their lived experience through this inspection period and wondered exactly which shared values we were thinking of.
…there are…those who seek to isolate young people from the mainstream, do not prepare them for life in Britain, or worse, actively undermine British values.
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Maybe one day I’ll come up with a few solutions, and we can start building that better system for us all.