Monday, December 20, 2010

Latest update on SEN Green Paper

The SEN Green Paper is now expected to be published in the New Year and most likely in February, we have been told.

The Government recently published a summary of the responses it received to it 'Call for Views' consultation, which will inform the Green Paper. Click here to read that summary. 

Almost 2,000 people responded to the 'Call for Views' and a large number of them were parents of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

Key themes identified in the responses include:
  • The importance of early identification of needs
  • Ensuring teachers are better trained in SEN as well as increasing access to specialists
  • The importance of more joined up working between agencies
  • The involvement of parents and children in choosing educational provision and plannning for transition
These issues chime well with the things that parents tell us about the challenges of the education system and the key things we highlighted in our response to the Call for Views.

We are currently carrying out some research on the SEN system and how it works for children with autism to help inform our response to the Green Paper when it is published. Keep checking back here for more information.

Also to help with this, please state in the comments section below what one thing you think would make the biggest difference for children with autism in the education system.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pupil Premium

On Monday the Government confirmed details of its Pupil Premium, originally announced back in July.

The level of the pupil premium will be £430 per pupil and will be the same for every deprived pupil, no matter where they live. The total funding available for the pupil premium will be £625m in 2011-12, rising each year until 2014-15 when it will be worth £2.5bn.

In 2011-12, the pupil premium will be allocated to those pupils eligible for Free School Meals, and from 2012-13 it will be extended the reach of the premium to those who have previously been on free school meals too.

Looked-after children will also receive a premium of £430, which will rise in line with the premium for deprived pupils.

Children with autism will benefit from this measure as they are more likely to be eligible for free school meals (although interestingly less likely to be eligible than those with other Special Educational Needs). 18% of children with autism as their primary need, who are on school action plus and 22% of children with autism who have a statement are eligible for free school meals compared to 14.2% of children with no Special Educational Need.

Both mainstream schools and (in the case of local authority maintained special schools) local authorities will have discretion as to how they respectively spend and distribute the funding, in line with the current localism agenda.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gaps in support for Scottish children with autism highlighted by inspectors.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) has produced a new report reviewing the impact the Additional Support for Learning (ASL) Act is having in Scottish schools.

Called ‘Adding Benefits for Learners’, the report concludes that on the whole, the majority of schools are effectively identifying children’s additional support needs, that good strategies built around multi-agency working are in place and that education and health professionals are working together to effectively identify and assess children’s needs.

This is good news for the ASL system in Scotland. However inspectors have also identified that progress has not been universal across all groups of children. They have especially highlighted significant gaps in meeting the more ‘hidden’ needs, such as autism.

One example used of this problem is awareness around the barriers to learning that can have a direct impact on children’s mental health, for example autism, ADHD, long-term medical conditions and being looked after.

Inspectors highlight significant problems with accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provision who can provide direct support to children and young people and advise teachers on appropriate interventions for learning.

The report also highlights issues around the accuracy of the data collected on pupils, the numbers of cases involving a pupil with an ASD who have to use the Tribunal service, gaps in pre-5 training and the consistency of the use of Co-ordinated Support Plans.

NAS Scotland has welcomed the report as it confirms our own concerns that children and young people with autism are often not getting the support the need in school.

The Importance of Teaching – Education White Paper

As reported earlier on this site, the Government has published its plans for reform of the education system in a “White Paper” called The Importance of Teaching.

More details on reform to the system for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) will be available in the SEN Green Paper expected later this year or early next year.

However, the following proposals in the White Paper also have implications for children with autism:

·        Reforms to teacher training
·        Proposals on discipline, behaviour and bullying
·        Changes to exclusion policies and Independent Appeal Panels
·        Admissions and the role of local authorities
·        Special school academies
Teacher training
As the name of the White Paper suggests, the Government places high importance on getting teacher training right. The White Paper highlights the importance of ensuring teachers know how to support children with SEN and says that more details will be in the forthcoming Green Paper.

The National Autistic Society is campaigning for every teacher to have training in autism. We also believe that teachers should be able to access expertise and advice from autism specialists when they need it.

Discipline, behaviour and bullying
The Government is intending to produce shorter and clearer guidance on the ability of teachers to use force and discipline children outside of school. Teachers will be given greater discretion in these areas.

The National Autistic Society will be working to make sure that the needs of children with autism are looked at carefully in that guidance.

Addressing bullying, and particularly prejudiced based bullying, is to become a Government priority. To address this, Government guidance will be simplified and Ofsted will be asked to report on successful approaches to tackling bullying.

We are pleased that the Government wants to focus on prejudiced based bullying, as we know that children with autism are often targeted by bullies. We will be working with Government on bullying guidance.

We have previously expressed concerns about the Conservative Party’s proposals to get rid of Independent Appeal Panels for exclusions. We welcome the White Paper’s recognition that it is important that these Panels remain independent.

However, we note that the Government intends to take away the power from these panels to reinstate an excluded pupil from a school. We would welcome wider views on this. Please comment below.

We welcome the Government’s plans to pilot a new approach to exclusions where a school is responsible for arranging and funding alternative provision for an excluded child.

27% of children with autism are excluded from school at least once, compared with 4% of other children. It is essential that alternative and appropriate provision is found for children with autism, following exclusion.

Admissions and the role of local authorities
Local authorities and the School Adjudicator will continue to have a role in ensuring the coordination of admissions arrangements and fairness, including for academies. The Government will also simplify the Admissions Code, but will continue to apply the principle of fair admissions for Looked After Children and pupils with a statement of SEN.

The National Autistic Society will be watching reforms to the Admissions Code with interest. We have particular concerns about admissions for those without a Statement.

Local Authorities  will continue to have responsibility for disabled children and those with SEN. However, as funding is increasingly delegated to academies, they will increasingly move to a strategic commissioning and oversight role. They will of course continue to fund provision for pupils with a statement of SEN.

Where a local authority has significant concerns about an Academy or Free School in relation to these issues, it will be able to ask Ofsted to inspect the school.

Special school academies
The academies programme will be expanded to include special schools, with the application process open in January 2011 and the potential for special school academies to open from September 2011. The Green Paper on SEN and Disability will consider the issues raised specifically around special schools academies in more detail.

If you have any comments about these proposals, do comment below.