Monday, December 6, 2010

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.

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