On the 29th March 2022, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, presented to Parliament the SEND and Alternative Provision (AP) Green Paper.
As part of an ongoing consultative process, this document invites relevant parties to partake in a review of the educational provisions available to students with special needs and disabilities (SEND).
Entitled ‘SEND Review: Right support, right place, right time’, the Green Paper sets out the Department for Education’s vision for a system that supports SEND students as the culmination of a review commissioned in 2019.
The Green Paper, open for 13 weeks of review, aims to be honest about the shortcomings of the current SEND system, to build trust amongst parents and carers and establish reliable and sustainable funding for SEND students.
Below, Whizz Education respond to aspects of the Green Paper that intersect with our aims and values.
Prioritising Learning Outcomes
The report acknowledged that students with SEND currently ‘feel unsupported and their outcomes fall behind those of their peers’.
Digitising and streamlining the process to gain an EHCP is a vital step to ensuring that carers and schools do not feel that they are battling the system to raise standards and outcomes for SEND individuals.
Whizz Education have identified in our own data the need to intervene early in a child’s maths education in order to prevent students from falling irretrievably behind. Early intervention is an important focus of the report.Partnerships and Teacher Training
The report identifies the need to clearly delineate the responsibilities of different actors involved with the provision of education for students with SEND, as well as to rebuild the trust of parents and carers by increasing the accountability of these actors.
The promise to improve SEND expertise among teachers through the introduction of a new SENco National Professional Qualification (NPQ) is part of this process of building trust and relationships. Moreover, the number of professionals gaining Level 3 SENco qualifications in early years settings will be increased.
Whizz Education have understood the importance of training teachers and increasing teaching expertise in diverse settings, internationally. These remain laudable goals, though the return of teaching assistants and the extension of SENco training beyond early years settings continues to be requested.
The Green Paper puts forward a plan to introduce a new national framework for banding and tariffs of High Needs to ensure that the appropriate amount of support is available.
Just as Whizz Education recognise the individual needs of each student, it is important that these measures acknowledge and allow for individuality. As Fiona Goddard remarks: ‘Children and young people do not always fit neatly into specific categories and without tailored support, this can directly impact their desire to succeed.’
Fiona continues: ‘There are many students with complex needs which can complicate access to the right services as their needs do not quite match what is being offered’.
Along with the Local Government Association, Whizz Education hope that a focus on a ‘national’ system will not override the very individual needs and funding possibilities that children encounter in different localities.
Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL)
Whizz Education are keen advocates of using data to course correct.
The implementation of ‘local inclusion plans’ and a ‘local inclusion dashboard’ to measure the success of the programme is encouraging, though it is important to remember that data does not always provide the whole picture.
Dr Louise Karwowski, Director of Education at Cognassist, has expressed her support for consistent and accurate data usage. Likewise, Mark Mon-Williams suggests that research in Bradford has shown data sharing to be a key factor in the early identification of needs.
However, the White Paper’s desire to push for schools to reach 90% targets may run counter to the desire to achieve inclusivity within mainstream schooling. Schools have been doing as much as they can to include SEND students and this article takes issue with the suggestion that it has been otherwise.
The wish to be transparent about shortcomings and to increase oversight will strengthen accountability and boost parent, carer and learner confidence in the long term to drive better outcomes, if the promise is matched with appropriate funding.
It is critical that this report resolves inequalities in the funding that is provided to support students with disabilities and additional needs.
Currently, Fiona notes, ‘inequalities lead to the rationing of vital therapeutic services, such as speech and language therapy, and mental health support.’
The SEND Green Paper unleashes £70 million in new funding but it is essential that this level of funding continues, is supplemented and is targeted towards areas of need, such as early years funding.
How can Technology help?
Thoughtful technology has the capacity to produce learning outcomes and to make funding go further for students with SEND.
Whizz Education’s virtual tutoring programme, Maths-Whizz, has been used by schools, such as Rosekear Primary School, to increase the attainment of students with SEND.
Maths-Whizz can be used to accelerate learning for diverse cohorts of students by scaffolding learning, following a mastery approach, filling gaps, and adapting to individual paces of learning. Read our report on how virtual tutoring supports SEND students here.
Maths-Whizz promotes inclusivity and equitable access to education by continuously improving the programme to produce individual results, for example by adding audio to lessons for students for whom this may be helpful.
Virtual tutoring can be embedded in school routines for a fraction of the cost of human tutoring, particularly when catch up for students with SEND will require more than the National Tutoring Programme.
Finally, Maths-Whizz is designed to entertain. Learning solutions must focus on learners’ wellbeing and sense of achievement as well as that of parents and carers.
Historically, it has been easier said than done to create ‘an inclusive system, starting with improved mainstream provision that is built on early and accurate identification of needs, high-quality teaching of a knowledge-rich curriculum, and prompt access to targeted support where it is needed’.
However, we welcome the aspiration to make the right services available at the right time and when they can make the biggest difference, irrespective of where a young person lives.