07 Oct

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It’s been an interesting week with regards to national policy direction. Earlier in the week I chaired a meeting of Special Schools’ Voice, a group of chief executives and chairs of some of the large organisations that support special schools. We meet on a termly basis to ensure we are all appraised of the latest developments coming from Government.

It was quite alarming to hear the picture from across some of the regions. These were the messages that we heard:

National Funding formula – it was noted that this initiative appears to have been delayed until 2018. The Government is determined to rationalise all pupils’ funding to equalise the differences that they perceive are presently within the system. In a nutshell, it would mean that every child would have the same funding attached to them, regardless of where they are within the country. We are uncertain as to what the impact of this may be on different areas! On a similar note, many special schools are presently reporting significant challenges due to an increasing number of children, many of whom have more complex and overlapping needs.

Health Service support – colleagues reported that many schools were becoming increasingly anxious about the perceived removal of health support. This appears to be starting with School Heath Advisors/Nurses but there were also strong rumours about the reduction of support from health professionals including Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, and CAMHs teams. The Special Schools’ Voice executive committee shared schools’ experiences, many of which were particularly concerning.

Education, Heath and Care Plans (EHCPs) – it has been mentioned at various national and local events that over 80% of statements have now been converted to EHCPs. Timelines have generally been adhered to but there appears to be an ongoing challenge in relation to writing appropriate outcomes. To support the health areas within plans it was noted that North Summerset had provided an excellent assessment tool.

19-25 – a number of schools have contacted Special Schools’ Voice very concerned about the Department for Education’s position in relation to no longer allowing Further Education providers to commission courses from their local special schools. There is some excellent practice around the country that follows this model and it would be shame to stop these innovative solutions as a result of perceived prejudices.

Assessment – it was noted that there had been little movement with regards to the publication of the Rochford Review. Rumours circulate that there may be a release prior to Christmas…….

I attend these meetings to ensure our Group is always appraised of the central direction of travel. As the system becomes more and more disparate, there are not as many colleagues within local authorities briefing schools about these wide ranging and significant policy changes. Special Schools’ Voice and New Bridge believe it is much better to try to lobby Government, not only to ensure they are aware of our challenges but also to put our schools and organisations in a position to be able to positively respond. It is essential, as we travel through these very challenging and changing times, that we try keep a degree of continuity and stability.

To think, I used to be a music teacher!!!!

Have a great weekend,