From education to employment

SEND and High Needs, Have Your Say: Improving opportunities and life chances for our most vulnerable learners

Kerry Boffey, CEO of The Adult Learning Improvement Network (ALIN) and Founder of the Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (fin)

A potential measure of an advanced modern society may be viewed as to how well that society supports and encourages the most vulnerable of its citizens to improve the quality of their life and achieve their full potential.

All individuals have a voice in society but some voices are listened to and have significant influence whilst others remain ignored and in some cases dismissed.

The game of life is very similar to the game of learning in that if you are winning the game feels good – you want to play, you want to participate, you like the rules and you like the feel of winning.

But if you feel you are losing, then participation doesn’t feel so good, the motivation levels fall and you often want to withdraw from the activity…..or in extreme cases may not want to conform or even be disruptive.

Our learners with physical or learning disabilities or who simply require additional support to help them succeed are often our most vulnerable people. On all socio-economic criteria they are adversely impacted upon whether it be by earning potential, mental or physical health, qualification and career prospects or even to the extent of life expectancy.  

Having gone through various title headings we are now describing our learners who need additional support as those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and for those learners with more complex needs and who are in receipt of an Educational and Health Care Plan (EHCP) this grouping is termed High Needs.

During Ofsted inspections, High Needs has been reported upon separately but in the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) to be introduced in September 2019 it will no longer have its clear focus and reporting brief and it will not receive a specific grade for this aspect of training provision.

Is this decision not to give a specific judgment and grade for this important area of work the best way forward?

It will no doubt be included in future inspections under general support for learners and programmes/courses meeting specific individual needs.

However, this approach is causing some concerns in some areas and there is a belief perhaps both SEND provision is so important to the recipients and wider society that the management, delivery and impact of this work does need to receive priority status, and that at inspection it needs to be directly reported upon and receive its own grade.

The strongest and most effective SEND provision is indeed meeting the needs of its individual learners, is almost certainly coherently planned and sequenced towards the cumulative development of skills and knowledge for learners’ futures, which support them into education, work and adult life.

  • However, without inspection focus, could SEND lose importance and become a lower priority for some providers with the majority of learners who do not require additional support taking precedent?
  • Does this send a subliminal message to leaders and managers that SEND is less significant and as a result require less focus and resources?
  • Is there a likelihood that the inspection of SEND if it does actually take place will like other areas become the remit of generalists?
  • Might other educators have something to learn from the best SEND and High Needs providers, their focus, their practice and their impact upon learners’ lives?

If so, will these inspectors have the knowledge and skills-set to truly identify the intent, implementation and impact in relation to what learners with SEND will know and be able to go on to do by the time they have completed each part of their education and development programme.

Regardless of your position, whether for or against the direct reporting of SEND, I encourage you to respond to the consultation that Ofsted are undertaking on the future of education and skills.

Your voice counts, so if you have a view on how SEND should be inspected and reported upon:

Please respond to the “Education inspection framework 2019: inspecting the substance of education” consultation.

The consultation is now open and runs until 5 April 2019 you can access the full document and respond to the consultation by completing the online questionnaire.

Staff Development and Support

Staff development and support will also be a key element of the new EIF. While we are talking about SEND provision and SEND learners it might be worth considering how you staff are developed to support SEND. We know learners with SEND require a different type of consideration and support to ensure they are able to progress through their learning journey.

The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) offer a range of FREE online courses for providers that include self-assessment tools, resources to support learners with dyslexia and information on sources of support to name a but a few.

These SEND resources that have been co-designed with the sector and funded by the ETF. They can be accessed free of charge from the ETF online learning site – Foundation Online Learning (FOL).

The resources can be used by staff supporting SEND learners and will enhance their skills, confidence and knowledge, consequently ensuring that they will be able to support learners more effectively.

Ranging from information, advice, guidance and skills resources which are excellent for raising awareness of practitioners on SEND considerations, to a detailed and innovative SEND support toolkit – which is particularly useful for those practitioners that are working with SEND learners to help plan their careers. There is also the SEND self-assessment practitioner tool with links to further support and resources to further improve knowledge and understanding.

Other modules are available to support staff working with learners for example, with dyslexia which provides a very good overview about what dyslexia actually is and its accompanying characteristics. These are particularly useful to further upskill and improve staff understanding as to how learners with dyslexia can be assisted to help them realise their potential.

Accessed by many training providers, these extensive resources are certainly worth a look!

Kerry Boffey, CEO of The Adult Learning Improvement Network (ALIN) and Founder of the Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (fin)

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