What is next for SEND policy and practice?
Many politicians have a fondness for looking back, hoping to find solutions for today’s problems in actions of the past. With a focus on grammar and ‘knowledge rich’ curricula, the marginalisation of skills-based learning, and the back-and-forth reintroduction of grammar schools, it is hard at times to see even a spark of a new idea.
With massive local authority SEND budget overspends and significant numbers of children and young people waiting for EHC assessments, some of whom are not making it into school at all, this really should be a time for deep questioning, real innovation and creative problem solving.
Reading the government’s green paper SEND review right support, right place, right time it seems that most of what it proposes has been discussed, suggested, or even dismissed before. The proposals at best aim to apply a sticking plaster, rebrand a failing system or go for the quick and cheap options without really addressing the underlying issues. Innovation and creative thinking are nowhere to be seen.
We know it can be overwhelming when the task ahead is gargantuan. Might this be the reason that not only is the proposed solution inadequate but more importantly, the right questions are not even being asked? When looking to understand why so many children, young people and their families feel they are unable to access education that meets their needs surely, we need to start with some fundamental questions.
What is it about the school system that by virtue of its design it actively excludes significant numbers of children and young people? Without looking honestly into this question, we will be hard-pressed to find solutions.
So often the focus of addressing issues around school attendance and academic success is located within the child or young person. We promote the need for them to change, to modify differences, to try harder, to accept the system as it works for most. By doing this the system stays the same and continues to fail and increasingly do damage.
So, how can we be optimistic or at least hopeful that something can change? There is an opportunity to comment on the review, please do; it is a small chance to shape the future.
The other flicker of hope is in the voices of young people, published by the Children’s Commissioner, where you can hear what some marginalised young people have to say about school attendance, They make it clear the system as it is, is not working. School excludes despite its fundamental duty to include.
We still have not asked all the questions; in fact, the most important ones are still silenced. However, we can empower young people to get their voices heard and hold politicians to account for not listening to them.