Inclusion and SEND

ASCL position statements

What is the context? In October 2018, ASCL launched an independent Commission of Inquiry to look into how to improve the prospects of the ‘forgotten third’ of young people who do not achieve at least a grade 4 pass in GCSE English and maths at the end of twelve years of schooling. 

In September 2019, the Commission published its final report. The report included fourteen recommendations to help address this issue, covering early years, curriculum and pedagogy, teacher education, and the qualifications system. 

These recommendations included calls for a long-term review both of the English curriculum from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage and of the GCSE exam system as a whole. The Commission also recommended a new approach to end-of-primary assessment and accountability, and the replacement of GCSE English Language with a Passport in English, to be taken by all pupils at the point of readiness between the ages of 15 and 19.

ASCL position: ASCL thanks the Forgotten Third Commission of Inquiry for the expertise and commitment they brought to the question of how we can improve the prospects of the ‘Forgotten Third’.

ASCL fully supports the recommendations in the Commission’s final report, and adopts these as policy.

Why are we saying it? We must do more to improve the life chances of those children and young people, disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds, for whom the current education system simply isn’t working. We must also find better ways to recognise the achievements of all young people. We believe that acting on the recommendations in this report would make a significant and positive impact on these young people’s lives and futures. 
 

What is the context? Statutory Relationships and Health Education for all schools comes into force in September 2020. Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will be statutory in all secondary schools.

The government’s guidance on Relationships Education in primary schools says that schools must teach about different types of families. The guidance uses LGBT parents as one example of a family type, but fails to clarify that there is a requirement for primary schools to teach that some children are growing up with same-sex parents.

ASCL position: Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE), including Relationships Health and Sex Education (RSE), is an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. PSHE (including RSE) should be a statutory, but not prescriptive, part of children’s learning.

It is right that, from September 2020, there will be a requirement for all children to receive Relationship Education and, in secondary schools, Sex Education. We welcome the flexibility for schools to deliver these subjects, which meets the needs of all their communities. We consider it unnecessary for the government to provide standardised frameworks or programmes of study. 

ASCL calls urgently for a clear statement from government that, within Relationships Education in primary schools, children must be taught that there are many types of family, including those with LGBT parents.

Why are we saying it? School leaders must not be used as a shield by the government on this particularly emotive issue. By just including LGBT families as an ‘example’ of the different types of family primary schools might talk about, it becomes an individual headteacher’s decision whether or not to use that particular example.

Government needs to step in and provide clarity by making it clear that primary schools must talk about LGBT families. This will help create an environment where all children feel acceptance and a sense of belonging, and take some of the pressure away from individual headteachers.

What is the context? Recently published reports (from the National Audit Office and the Education Policy Institute) state that 1,041,500 pupils (79.4% of pupils with SEND) did not have EHCPs but had been identified as needing some additional support at school. The vast majority of these children (91.6%) attended mainstream settings. 

Some pupils with SEND are receiving high quality support that meets their needs, whether they attend mainstream schools or special schools. However, recent system reviews indicate that many other pupils are not being supported effectively, and that pupils with SEND who do not have EHCPs are particularly exposed.

ASCL position: We need a broader recognition of the fact that the EHCP process is not the only mechanism for supporting children with SEND. School leaders need to be able to use resources more flexibly in order intervene in an effective and timely manner. 

Why are we saying this? Pupils with SEND are among the most vulnerable in the school system. The quality of support they receive affects their well-being, educational attainment, likelihood of subsequent employment, and long-term life prospects. More needs to be done at a system level to support schools to effectively meet the needs and support the progress of pupils who are identified as requiring SEN support, in ways that are most appropriate to each individual case. 
 

What is the context? The government substantially changed the system for supporting children and young people with SEND in September 2014, under the Children and Families Act 2014. The aims of the reforms were to enable children’s needs to be identified earlier; families to be more involved in decisions affecting them; education, health and social care services to be better integrated; and support to remain in place up to the age of 25 where appropriate.

ASCL position: ASCL calls for a consistent, transparent and high-quality Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) process. 

Why are we saying this? We are concerned about the variability of the process of applying for an EHCP across the country. There needs to be greater consistency and accountability for quality. Clear expectations and consideration by the Department, and a standard EHCP template, would help schools cut down on bureaucracy and support better outcomes for young people with SEND.
 

What is the context? This statement is an expansion of our previous position that all schools in an area should take collective responsibility for exclusions. It was prompted by recommendations made by the Timpson Review that schools should work closely with each other, and with local authorities, to jointly commission high quality alternative provision (AP).

Some areas, such as Tower Hamlets, are already using this model successfully, though it must be noted that this is an area with significantly higher funding than most parts of the country.

ASCL position: School and college leaders should create a culture of inclusivity through ethical leadership.

We believe that all schools need to take collective responsibility for all children and young people living in their local area, including an expectation of regional or local coordination for leading and collaborating on all managed moves, exclusions and the planning and funding of local high-quality alternative provision.

All schools need to reflect on the process they use prior to exclusion; well-informed practice will lead to decisions made in the best interests of children.

Why are we saying it? We believe that schools taking collective responsibility for all local children will help to ensure that children are educated in high quality provision that is most suitable to their needs.

We are concerned about the inconsistency in the funding, quality, availability and type of AP across the country. We are also concerned about inconsistency in the way in which mainstream schools work with each other and with local AP, and the way in which they refer children to AP.

We prefer to talk about collective ‘responsibility’ rather than ‘accountability’, because this implies that the schools are collectively taking ownership for the education of all local children, regardless of which school they started in.

What is the context? The use of online technology, including social media, has grown at great speed. Teachers, parents, policy makers and children do not always fully understand the implications of this for young people’s relationships, safety, mental health and wellbeing. Neither do we know how the vast amounts of data being gathered on young people may be accessed and used, now or in the future. ASCL members want government and technology companies to do more to protect young people and to help them to develop and maintain good digital health.

ASCL position: Schools and colleges have a central role in teaching children and young people about positive digital health. We believe there is a need for a clear strategy to mitigate against the negative impacts of digital content and social media. These effects can be around wellbeing, mental health, safeguarding and privacy, both now and in the longer term.  

ASCL members believe that technology companies should be subject to minimum standards of age-appropriate design, with a mandatory code backed by an independent regulator.

Why are we saying this? ASCL surveyed 460 secondary school headteachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in state and independent schools in January 2018. They were asked about the impact on pupils of social media use over the past 12 months. The results were stark and unequivocal, and included the following statistics:

  • 95% felt that the mental health and wellbeing of a proportion of their pupils had suffered as a result of social media use.
  • Almost all (459/460) had received reports of pupils being bullied on social media.
  • Almost all (457/460) had received reports of pupils encountering upsetting material on social media, such as sexual content, self-harm, bullying, or hate speech.
  • 89% had received reports of pupils being approached by strangers on social media sites.
  • 93% had received reports of pupils experiencing low self-esteem as a result of seeing idealised images and experiences on social media.
  • 96% had received reports of pupils missing out on sleep as a result of social media use.
  • 93% said that new laws and regulation should be introduced to ensure social media sites keep children safe

What is the context? School admissions are governed by the School admissions code which makes clear that oversubscription criteria must not discriminate against or disadvantage children with SEND. ASCL supports a peer approach to admissions shared with schools in the local area.

The School admissions code sets out specific provisions regarding the admission of pupils with SEND, looked after children, and those with medical conditions. An EHCP can name a particular school or college which must have been consulted prior to being named on the plan.

ASCL position: ASCL encourages all schools to work together on admissions to meet the needs of all children and young people in their local area, however diverse their needs may be.

We believe that all schools, local authorities and other education providers should work in partnership to identify appropriate, named provision to meet the needs of all children.

Why are we saying it? ASCL encourages every school to be an inclusive school and to take a whole school approach to inclusion and SEND in its admissions policy.

Until now there was no ASCL policy position on admissions.

What is the context? This statement is in response to the Government’s green paper: Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision. It sits alongside our existing position statement on mental health.

We welcome the green paper as an important step forward in tackling an issue which is a major and increasing concern to school and college leaders and note the recognition that schools and colleges are already doing a great deal to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people. There are, however, many questions left unanswered in the green paper. In particular we are concerned about whether the proposed new Mental Health Support Team (MHST) will be able to offer the right level of specialist help that students need.

ASCL position: We are concerned the proposals to create mental health support teams for mild to moderate needs will not be helpful to schools who need additional support from clinically trained and well-qualified staff. This proposal could divert funds away from this important specialist provision.

Why are we saying it? We believe that these new teams will not be successful in helping schools and colleges promote good mental health and, crucially, support students who need more specialist help unless the people employed within MHSTs are experienced and suitably trained and qualified to carry out this wide-reaching, complex role. It will also be essential that they have fast track access to specialist CAMHS and other support services and are fully supported by a fit-for-purpose, local, specialist mental health service.

Schools and colleges have a central role in teaching children and young people about emotional health and well-being, mental health and resilience, alongside supporting them with these issues. Schools and colleges must also ensure that they signpost specialist services that are available and make appropriate referrals.

It is not the role of education to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. Diagnosis and treatment needs to be done by specialist professionals, who are appropriately trained, qualified and clinically supervised. This area of work needs to be adequately resourced to meet the needs of students before they become acute.

Schools and colleges are already accountable for personal development, welfare and safety of children and young people and should not be held accountable further for EHWB through inspection.

Once schools and colleges are funded at a sufficient level, they can, in conjunction with other partners, play a fuller part in improving social mobility by helping children and young people realise their full potential.

It is not the role of education to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. Diagnosis and treatment needs to be done by specialist professionals who are adequately trained, qualified and clinically supervised.

Schools are already accountable for the personal development, welfare and safety of children and young people and should not be held further accountable for EHWB through inspection.

ASCL believes that:

  • every teacher is a teacher of SEND
  • every leader is a leader of SEND
  • there needs to be a greater investment in the development of SEND CPDL that focuses on the expectation of all staff having a basic understanding of the key skills and knowledge necessary to ensure that every teacher is a teacher of SEND. This needs to be supported by the positioning of SEND at the heart of school leadership and not seeing it as the exclusive preserve of the SENCo

Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, including sex and relationships education (SRE), is an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. PSHE (including SRE) should be a statutory, but not prescriptive, part of children’s learning.

To allow schools the flexibility to deliver high-quality PSHE and SRE which meets the needs of their communities, we consider it unnecessary for the government to provide standardised frameworks or programmes of study. 

ASCL wants all young people to succeed in order to realise their full potential and to create a workforce with the capacity and skills to enable the UK to thrive in a global economy.  We welcome the contribution all type of schools, colleges and universities can and do make to this through collaboration and partnership.  

The evidence we have seen does not support the premise that the further expansion of selection will improve education for the majority of young people. The evidence indicates that it will have a damaging impact on the life chances of the majority who do not attend a selective school.

The expansion of selection is a distraction to the profession’s efforts to ensure that the education system works for everyone.  

The best way to deliver a good school place for every child is to ensure existing schools and colleges have sufficient funding and access to a ready supply of high quality teachers and leaders.

ASCL welcomes the DfE’s support for the Isle of Wight Council to contest the decision regarding term-time holidays. To support members in their decisionmaking we would welcome greater clarity on what constitutes 'exceptional circumstances'. ASCL would also welcome and support the introduction of more robust means-tested penalties as a deterrent. 

In a school led system, it is for each school to determine the curriculum that meets the needs of its students; this includes alternative provision. ASCL agrees that alternative provision for students should be of a high quality, and this should be determined by specialist staff and service providers. ASCL urges the government to ensure that there is equity of access to alternative provision regardless of location, specialists or facilities.

ASCL welcomes the opportunity to support any government initiative to increase the rights of all children, including refugees and asylum seekers, to the highest quality education. This must include sufficient funding and resources to support their specific needs.

Schools accept the need to promote EHWB, but not to treat students (this is the remit of health professionals). Those treating young people for EHWB need adequate training, qualifications and clinical supervision. This area of work needs to be adequately resourced before the needs of students become acute.

ASCL is seriously concerned about the proxy indicators used in local formulas to distribute the high incidence low costs special needs funding. This leads to significant variability in the ability to meet need across the country. ASCL calls for consistency, clarity, predictability and security of funding for the most vulnerable students wherever they are educated.

ASCL welcomes the greater clarity of the new SEND system and its potential to improve the life chances of those children with special needs and disabilities. In order to fulfil their new responsibilities, schools will need:

  • Clear and widely agreed methods for assessing the needs of SEND students and allocating resources
  • Simple and timely access to top up funding to meet the additional needs of High Need students
  • Notional SEN amounts in school budgets that are sufficient to provide for non-High Need SEND students