A few reflections - May 2012
Following the speech I gave at the Royal Society, I was one of several speakers at a recent event held at the Royal Society of Medicine. The other contributors were:
- Philippa Stobbs, Assistant Director, Council for Disabled Children
- Stephen Kingdom, Director, Special Educational Needs and Disability, Department for Education
- Brian Lamb, Founding Chair, Achievement for All and Former Chair, Special Educational Consortium
- Lorraine Petersen, Chief Executive, NASEN
- Lynda Guy, Chairman, Golden Lion Children's Trust
- Robert Buckland MP, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism
- Jane McConnell, Chief Executive, Independent Parental Special Education Advice
- Linda Jordan, Disabled Children and Young People's Lead, National Development Team for Inclusion
It was an interesting and varied day which was very well received. It had been hoped that the DfE would have been in a position to give their response and the next step forward following the consultation on the Green Paper. Even though this was not the case, there were excellent summaries of the issues that face all of us involved with children and young people with SEND. All the speakers were engaging and interesting but Lorraine Petersen was especially succinct and full of insight.
There was much agreement about the big issues but some real difficulties in seeing how things might operate and change for the better in practice. So, whilst the integration of services; having a productive and purposeful post-school life; transitions; parental involvement; early identification; leadership and new pedagogies etc all drew nodding of heads, matters such as the Education and Health Plans and Personal Budgets led more to the scratching of them.
My personal view is that we still have some way to go regarding the conflation of under-achievement and SEND. Of course we would all applaud high expectations and sensitive provision to maximise outcomes but if we have 62% of children with SEN achieving the national standard or above (School Funding Reform document) then we should ask some questions. These might include:
- How long must we confuse under-attainment with under-achievement? How high you jump and how far you move forward are two different things.
- How valid were the categorisations in the first place?
- How good are we at identifying temporary or enduring barriers to learning?
- How helpful is it to be undiscriminating between those with cognitive disabilities and those with SEN but without?
- Are we in danger of labelling the increasing numbers of children with the most complex difficulties as under-achievers and where do we stand as ethical advocates for them and their families?
- How good are we at describing experiential objectives (the outcomes of now) with performance objectives (the outcomes of tomorrow)?
- Do we know what quality and quality of life looks like for our disparate individuals?
As ever, it’s easier to ask the questions than give the answers but surely it’s up to members of FLSE and other interested organisations to help define the national and local offers and the criteria by which we can judge the quality and successes of both today and tomorrow.
Till next time,
David Bateson OBE