The following advice was written by another parent;
“By joining Twitter I’ve reached some amazing people that I could never otherwise have hoped to, but it is important to be careful what you tweet and to remember:
1. There is no Edit button
2. Anyone can read your tweets. Even if you restrict your account, there is nothing to stop someone taking a screenshot and sharing.
3. Deleted tweets do not remain deleted. They can be recovered.
Take care what you share on twitter.”
This list isn’t definitive, but the people below can help to connect you with others. Please ask questions or for help if you ever need it. There’s a vast array of expertise within this list and all are dedicated to making things better for children and young people with SEND. Welcome to #TeamSEND!
I’d not attended a #BrewEd event before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I did know was that considering the people who were involved and those attending, that it would be a really special #SEND day. So the thought of travelling all the way from Kent to Wales didn’t matter, I just really wanted to be a part of it.
I’m still processing it all, I’m still feeling ‘alive’ with everything I learned, the people I met, the conversations had, the camaraderie, the passion, commitment and most of all, the truly inclusive feel of the day. I wanted to share what I took from the day and I encourage anyone who might be considering attending a #BrewEd event, to do it!
Traveling from London to Wales with Rachel Rossiter was so much fun. We chatted about everything SEND and had a lot of laughs along the way too. Arriving at Chester station, we were greeted by Gareth Morewood, who organised #BrewEdHawarden and who very likely knew instinctively that we might be a bit stressed from the travelling (he’s very good at that!) and met us wearing his chauffeurs hat and a big, welcoming smile. From that moment on, I felt welcomed, relaxed and ready to go!
That evening I met Terry Culkin, a down to earth, interesting and friendly guy who was so easy to chat to and be around. The four of us met up with Lizzie Jamieson for dinner at the venue and had a look around the rooms to help prepare us for the next day.
Everything was set. Everyone was prepared and as people began to arrive, the atmosphere simply grew from the one already set by Gareth to naturally include everyone else. I have no doubt this was a conscious aim, but I wonder how he managed to achieve it with what looked and felt so natural and fluid. Inclusion is often a mystery to many, but despite the room being full of ‘strangers’ #BrewEdHawarden proved it’s always possible.
Perhaps it was due to Gareth’s meticulous planning of everything from the lanyards to the raffle prizes, from making sure that not only the logistics were covered, but also that everyone felt prepared and relaxed and most importantly, in their own individual ways. Perhaps it was the trust people have in him and in the #BrewEd ethos. Perhaps it was because it was an event based around SEND. Perhaps its all of those things and more.
And we’re off!
Over the past few years I’ve been asked to provide training, speak at events and conferences and these have been around various subjects including ADHD, Parent partnership/coproduction, autism from a parents perspective, our journey through the SEND system and on ‘challenging’ behaviour.I very much doubt anyone who knows me would ever describe me as shy or quiet! However public speaking is very different.
These opportunities have taught me that parent’s voice is valuable and valued. That I can unashamedly share that I have a diagnosis of ADHD and people still want to hear what I have to say and that some people view a lived experience as being the best way to learn. These opportunities have raised my confidence immensely and have given me the confidence and the push I needed to finally launch ChatterPack@ChatterPackUK with my (very talented Designer!) daughter so I can share knowledge and what works from both an ADHD perspective and via my professional role in speech & language therapy.
The following is an overview from my perspective, of a day which I will remember for a very long time and for all the right reasons!
I was honoured to be asked to speak and decided to use this opportunity to bust some myths around ADHD whilst also highlighting #ITakeMyPillsBecause a campaign close to my heart. Thank you to everyone for opening your hearts and minds and challenging what you ‘see’ and what you ‘know’ about ADHD.
Taneisha talked about supporting autistic children from the perspective of a mother of an autistic child and as a SENCO
Taneisha is warm and caring, one of those people you just naturally relax around. What she taught me was so valuable and it wasn’t just about autism and how she supports her son, parents and children in her school. The most powerful thing for me was when she spoke about polarised views and how these can be really unhelpful. She talked about how there isn’t one single way which is right for all families and children and how this applies to her work. For example by recognising a parent’s decision or view might be perceived as unhelpful, but by valuing the ‘little things’, focusing on the outcome and recognising that every family and situation is different that partnerships can develop and outcomes for the child can improve.
“I might want something for my son, but other parents/carers might want something different”
Cat (who I’m sure is a secret Speechie!) ran a music workshop, which was brilliant and so much fun!
She demonstrated the multiple foundation skills which are practiced within simple, fun and motivating activities and perfectly demonstrated the power of the pause………….The whole room was totally engaged and fell silent!
I love how she encourages others to consider the skills which can be developed when we trust children to take control of activities. Also to give things like these a go, that motivation is key and to have fun!
Lizzietook the reigns for a planned pairing with Tom, who for personal reasons sadly couldn’t make it.
The talk was inclusion-driven and jam packed with passion. It demonstrated how age and experience has no bearing on knowledge or professionalism and rightly so, highlighted the lack of opportunities to gain experience and expertise in SEND during initial teacher training. Lizzie then thanked Jon Reid and Jo Billington for encouraging her to focus on SEND during her studies.
Most importantly for me, this talk reminded us all that inclusion isn’t about disability, SEND or non-SEND, children or adults, but that it’s about, includes and involves everyone. It’s about belonging, participation and community.
Rachel an experienced and knowledgable SENCO talked passionately about high expectations for pupils with SEND and barriers in the way.
Rachel made clear the distinction between those with complex needs and diagnosed SEND and that those were not the pupils she was referring to in her talk.
She asked if it’s possible that there is an over identification of SEN (namely MLD), rather than a recognition that basic good and inclusive teaching could support many of these children to access the curriculum? If this is the case and if it’s addressed, it could potentially have a huge impact on those currently being identified as having ‘MLD’ in relation to high expectations. Rachel referred to the rise in teachers discussing and using methods which have been used successfully for many years by teachers who take a more inclusive approach. This is a positive move as it has the potential to develop inclusive practice in more schools.
I enjoyed listening to the success stories driven by shifting priorities and using outcome driven solutions.
Bethlyn spoke about the importance of parent partnership and inclusion.
She shared many simple, cost free ideas on ways which schools can be more inclusive as well as highlighting what parents have to offer. Bethlyn asked questions such as “Do you know what your parent know?” A powerful question when considering working together and utilising the skills of the whole community.
I couldn’t agree more with her approach to challenging opinions around ‘SEND parents’ and liked how solution focused this talk was, always returning to ideas on building on what is already in place. My favorite part of this talk was when she described a hypothetical inclusive day from the perspective of a child.
Lucytalked about outcomes and asked who are they for? Mine? Yours? Ours?
Throughout this talk, Lucy demonstrated a real passion and drive to learn within her new role as assistant SENCO. The thing which stuck with me the most, what her openness and honesty around how much learning she still has ahead. Honesty like this is so important when working with vulnerable children and their families and can really promote positive partnerships to develop and grow.
Lucy spoke about positive outcomes. Also about the various stakeholders involved in education and how this can sometimes lead to educators measuring the wrong things. Outcomes must be as individual as the child is!
Barney talked about how children with SEND are becoming ‘commodities’
Using his excellent research skills and years of experience, Barney illustrated his talk using a range of quotes from articles and publications. He presented some deeply concerning evidence on how decisions around vulnerable young people’s futures are being made. The quote which struck a chord with me, what when he said how easy it is to ruin children’s life chances by focusing on grouping children by disability rather than individualising. He described how a 14 year old deaf child who achieved a reading age of 11 years. The average for deaf children is 7 years and he asked, “is this a good outcome?‘ The answer was without doubt ‘NO’ but I feel its so important to highlight these things in order to keep challenging views.
“The problem with grouping children by their disabilities, is that we judge them against all the other children with the same disability. Not as an individual. Not by where they’re at & who they are”
Rachel talked about her journey with home education via a Q&A with Gareth.
Rachel’s journey, for me, demonstrated how, by using starting points whilst always moving forward and not staying static, progress from some very difficult starting points, can and is being made.
Rachel’s talk covered the ‘Low Arousal’approach (further explained by Gareth) and how it’s so important to change the environment and numerous other things in order to lower anxiety. Then healing and progression can begin. I loved hearing about how she is always looking forward to the next steps, no matter how small they might be. That mistakes happen, we’re all human! That not all learning happens in school. How small adaptions to Language can make huge differences & how sometimes, parents really are the experts.
‘When a person is drowning that is not the best to teach them how to swim.’ David Pitonyak
This quote from Rachel was the quote of the day for me.
Terryis an immensely talented artist and a very approachable, supportive and friendly man.
It was mesmerising watching Terry draw our ‘toons’ and he added an incredible element to the day seeing the messages given via the talks come to life. I can’t wait to see the finished results!
Last but never least Gareth The man who made it all happen.
Gareth’s hilarious, welcoming and naturally inclusive nature relaxed everyone right at the start and set the scene for the day. His unconditional kindness and immense knowledge was freely shared with everyone and I particularly enjoyed the discussion about the importance of low arousal, anxiety and emotional regulation. The work he’s doing withAndy McDonnell sounds not only very interesting, but also very important. You can read more about it here.
Gareth is not only a genuine and lovely guy, he also deeply cares about improving education for vulnerable children, their families and for educators. He must have used this quote from Damian Milton at least 10 times throughout the day and its a great one!
“Personalisation not normalisation”
A final thank you.
Thank you David Bartramfor donating a copy of his book Great Expectations to everyone who attended. Also to Lynn McCannwho’s book ‘How toSupport students with Autism Spectrum Condition in Secondary School’ was also kindly donated and which I won in the raffle!
Thank you to the #SEND community who were unable to attend, but who supported us all via Twitter. You were definitely all there in spirit! Finally thank you to the wonderfully supportive and friendly delegates who tweeted along and made the day so special and rewarding.
Everyone with same goal. The same aim. As one. (P.s yes, those are Kazoos. A leaving gift from Cat!)
The meeting was not only an opportunity for the few parents who attended, but views, opinions and ideas were also gathered from parents across the country within the working group Parents Alliance for Inclusion. Those which directly related to Ofsted’s new inspection framework were discussed during the meeting.
The following is an overview of the discussions held during the meeting and does not include everything which was discussed. Some more significant concerns are being addressed via other, appropriate methods. Parents present at the meeting: Claire Ryan, Jo Billington, Helen Weston, Barney Angliss, Bethlyn Killey and Jonathan Jones, HMI.
The meeting began with a quote from Lesley Cox “inspection is primarily about evaluating how well individual pupils benefit from their school. Inspectors will test the school’s response to individual needs by observing how well it helps all pupils to make progress and fulfil their potential.” (How Ofsted evaluates SEND provision in schools 2016. file:///Users/admin/Downloads/nasen_conference_050216.pdf )
We felt this was a contradiction and asked why this decision had been made?
Jonathan responded that there is lot that schools can do that can’t be measured because it may take time to have an impact. The example given was work schools might do around obesity and that personal development is around the school’s provision not around the impact of that provision.
Parents suggested that additional topics, which also come under that heading including social development, equality and diversity, all have a direct impact and feel require both measuring and inspecting. Parents added that they are concerned that preventative measures around mental health difficulties are absent from the framework.
Jonathan discussed a few points in relation to this and said that ‘relationships’ were looked at during inspections. Parents asked how this is done? Jonathan Jones HMI said one of the important aspects of inspections is to both observe and to speak to the children directly about whether they feel safe at school.
Parents detailed how methods used to gain parent and child’s views within inspections are often insufficient. Parents then offered suggestions, so that inspectors could ensure the information gathered is accurate. Jonathan Jones HMI agreed to take these concerns and ideas back to Ofsted.
Next, there was discussion around reducing the need for schools to produce data. The examples given were around the amount of time it takes to go through the data, rather than inspectors seeing the results for themselves. Parents said that they want more assessment, more outcomes and more data, especially for children and young people with SEND, not less. Parents feel that the framework looks more inclusive, but without the accountability, will it work in reality and will it be consistent? Children with SEND are often working in small steps and those steps need to be visible to Ofsted. The concern is that if OFSTED don’t look at these small steps, they will go unrecorded.
Jonathan said that one of the biggest reasons for this decision was because there was so much time in inspections was being used in trying to validate internal data, accuracy can’t be easily measured. Ofsted are proposing that we don’t look at data, but instead Inspectors look at progress in other ways. Ofsted don’t want to look at numbers on a board, but unique individual progress. He also said that just because Ofsted are not looking at internal data, that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
Parents asked why Ofsted separate out personal development when it is always individual, particularly for children with SEND? Jonathan said that Ofsted aim to make the system simpler and said that parents want to know what the behaviour like in school. He said that Ofsted use hard data for this, and that schools say they cannot separate out personal development from other aspects of school performance. Ofsted will ask schools what they are actually doing around personal development, what provision are they making?
With regards to outcomes, Jonathan Jones HMI said that it refers to a narrower view than, for example, the SEND Code of Practice. When Ofsted speak about outcomes, they are referring to the end of KS1, KS2 etc.
Parents asked why, as this decision does not seem a sufficient signpost for schools, why outcomes can’t be the same for everyone? Why are the outcomes different in the framework than those in the SEND Code of Practice? Parents then referred to a quote around differentiation from, ‘Creating a Culture how School Leaders can Optimise Behaviour’, Tom Bennett 2011. This is a concern, as in practice this could be turned into a ‘tick box’ exercise and in some cases, it is being taken literally. There are teachers who don’t differentiate at all and therefore exclude vulnerable learners from lessons. Not all teachers have the ability to adapt language or the task to remove barriers, therefore it’s not necessarily the wording of some points within the framework, it’s the individual interpretation of it.
Jonathan said that Ofsted are interested in seeing if, when thinking about the curriculum, if teachers have provided a sequence and a structure that enables all learners to understand. There is some research due soon around lesson observations and work sampling where more of this will be teased out. He then went on to give an example of an inclusive curriculum and task. However parents felt that the framework ought to include what each point does and doesn’t mean via providing practical examples in order to clarify.
Parents moved on to talking about children’s experiences of inclusion and said how we learn from our children as they’re in school, not us. A parent then read out a child’s view of inclusion which began with “My children’s experience of inclusion is that it doesn’t exist.” Parents reminded Jonathan Jones HMI that when considering seeking opinions from vulnerable children, who already don’t feel safe in school and asking them to talk to strangers after, as many schools do, being ‘prepped’ for Ofsted inspections, that they likely won’t ever tell an inspector how they really feel.
It was suggested that one way inspectors could gain a real understanding of how children feel, how they are supported and if they are included, is to talk to their peers instead. Peers are very insightful about the experiences of other CYP and by talking to children about how they perceive those with SEND, would be very insightful. However Inspectors would need to listen carefully to responses in order to identify any patterns. For example around any negative impressions of what their disabled peers can and can’t do and whether these are in fact, an issue with a lack of inclusion.
Many children with SEND absolutely have a voice with their medical Health professionals. They have also often have a very good understanding of how inclusive a school is. Parents asked why OFSTED don’t talk to them or include them within inspections?
Jonathan said that one of the things Ofsted are hearing within consultation responses, is questions asking for confidence that there is consistency between inspectors. Ofsted are trying to address that through training.
Parents referred to a FOI request which contained questions about training of inspectors and said that this has been blocked by OFSTED. It was felt that this undermines transparency between schools and parents. Parents went on to discuss what is meant by ‘enhanced training’ which some inspectors have as part of their training.
Jonathan said that all Inspectors have a SEND aspect to their training and that Ofsted always ensure that a SEND aspect is included in all areas of training but that Ofsted provide enhanced training to those who are inspecting specialist settings.
Parents gave an example of a child who might spend time in mainstream and a specialist setting. Also others with complex needs who are full time in mainstream schools and therefore, expressed how parents are confused by this decision. Parents also asked if ‘enhanced training’ and expertise were the same thing? Does 1.5 hours of enhanced training mean that the Inspector has SEND expertise and shouldn’t all Inspectors have this training?
Parents went on to discuss diverse needs with communication, interaction and the impact this has on accessing the curriculum. Parents asked how Inspectors could be confident that the curriculum is inclusive, that lessons are presented appropriately and therefore, why Inspectors don’t have speech and language therapists as part of their team? Jonathan Jones, HMI engaged in a discussion around this. He raised concerns about cost effectiveness and how a speech and language therapist could speak to the quality of education.
Parents responded saying how this relates to quality of education and included how many children with SEND are being taught by Teaching Assistants, not teachers. Also that EHCP’s across the country state provision must be ‘embedded into the curriculum or lessons’. It is therefore the responsibility of education to meet these needs and without expertise around language at all stages of planning and inspecting, Inspectors cannot confidently state that the curriculum or the delivery of it, is appropriate for all learners and inclusive. Jonathan agreed to take this back to Ofsted to discuss further.
Parents added that the new framework has removed the duty to provide BSL interpreters for inspections, why? The teachers of the deaf cannot interpret for them, so how will Inspectors gain the children’s views? Jonathan noted this and said he will take it back to Ofsted.
Discussion moved onto parents asking about “understanding and not disconnected facts” and if that could be made more explicit in the documents? Jonathan said Ofsted have done quite a lot of training with inspectors and school leaders on cognitive psychology and how learning takes place. This is in the public domain.
This developed into a discussion on the research used to inform the new framework. One of the parents noted that of the more than 321 pieces of research cited in the framework, none focused on SEND and none related specifically to learners in specialist provision. There is reference to mental health and literacy difficulties within the research, but nothing specifically focusing on SEND.
Parents questioned how the framework can claim to be ‘evidence based’ and ‘inclusive’ (both words used frequently in the framework documentation) if no research related to learners with SEND had been used to support the framework. Parents suggested that this oversight implies that learners with SEND are so insignificant to OFSTED that they don’t even warrant inclusion at the level of basic research. In addition, the relationship between the framework and the research could be interpreted as if the decisions were made first and then research was found to support it. As if it was retro-researched rather than being research-led.
Parents went on to explain how many teachers will view the framework as ‘gospel’. They will not have the time or the skills to be able to critically review its contents in terms of the quality of the supporting evidence. They are likely to feel that it must be adhered to and may not have the skills or experience to confidently adapt it to be inclusive or appropriate. Parents highlighted how some school staff would benefit from explicit examples of expectations in relation to children with SEND.
Parents asked, in light of this if the consultation should be extended? Jonathan Jones, HMI said that it is not his area and that he cannot comment, however he will take everything said back to Ofsted.
Moving on, parents referred to the parent’s group set up to have parent’s voice heard within the consultation period. All parents should have an opportunity to be involved and feel their voice is valued. However, many don’t. Many don’t have a voice at all, but if Ofsted work with parents and value their voice, it could be a positive demonstration to schools on inclusion of all.
Jonathan was asked if alongside continued formal discussion such as the meeting, if Ofsted would consider working with parents on something practical which Inspectors could use during inspections. Parents have many cost free and simple ideas on ways Inspectors can look at inclusion in school and this could be a positive and helpful way for both parents and Ofsted to work on lines of communication in order to inform and support schools to do the same.
One idea was to develop a leaflet or a list for inspectors to use during inspections containing ideas such as:
Inspectors asking children for their views on their disabled peers.
Involving and asking health professionals.
Checking inclusion via attendance on school trips and if parents had to attend or not. School events such as performances, visitors etc. This could be done by checking home/school contact books for key dates.
Looking at complaints to governors.
Asking for evidence that all reasonable adjustments have been considered and checking on how many have been put into practice effectively and appropriately.
Are schools offering appropriate opportunities, individual support or reasonable adjustments for parents to ensure equality of opportunity to participate
Parents said that this could encourage schools to think deeper about how they include vulnerable children and children with SEND. There is good practice in some schools and there needs to be many more opportunities to share what works. School to school support could work, but Ofsted need to demonstrate that they are serious about inclusion. Jonathan said he will take this back to Ofsted.
Parents referred to how reference to SEND is within an appendix and separate to the framework. The points within this section should apply to all learners and all families and it shouldn’t be a separate ‘SEND thing’. It should be in the main framework too and it’s not clear that it relates to mainstream SEND provision. It looks like it applies only to specialist provision, units attached to mainstream etc. Jonathan agreed this could have been worded better and will take it back to Ofsted.
Parents went on to quote “being whole and undivided” (Amanda Speilman) we need to talk about all schools, all children, all inspectors. We need to ensure that all inspectors have deep knowledge of SEND. This led to discussing discriminatory school policies such as 100% attendance and how discriminatory it is for children with chronic health and mental health needs. How some schools are rewarding with e.g. passes to jump the queue at lunch time and how this could only create divide rather than an inclusive community. Will OFSTED look at 100% attendance reward schemes and other potentially discriminatory policies?
Parents continued to discuss this topic including behaviour policies, zero tolerance and Jonathan agreed to take this back to Ofsted. He said that Ofsted do look at attendance, but that the pressure schools feel around this has not come from Ofsted. He said that there is an issue with consultants e.g. those offering help to implement the new framework and often that is how myths are perpetuated.
Parents said the issue with potentially discriminatory policies link with the need for Ofsted to employ experts within their Inspection teams. This is in order to ensure the quality of education provided, that all learners have appropriate, equal access to the curriculum and that this is within an inclusive environment. Parents suggested that as well as speech and language therapists and BSL interpreteurs, educational or developmental psychologists should be involved when inspecting behaviour policies and their impact on children. Jonathan Jones, HMI agreed to take this back to Ofsted.
Thank you to Jonathan Jones, HMI for meeting with parents, for engaging in an open and honest discussion and for agreeing to take these concerns back to Ofsted in order to discuss them further.
We look forward to hearing Ofsted’s answers to our questions very soon!
Finally, thank you to Barney Angliss, Helen Weston, Jo Billington, Bethlyn Killey who attended the meeting with me, and to Matt Keer, Katherine Runswick-Cole, Jayne Dillon and Emma Dalrymple who helped behind the scenes. Also thank you to the dedicated parents from the group Parents Alliance for Inclusion for their support and ideas to offer Ofsted. One big team effort and hopefully, we shared as many parent’s views as we could squeeze in!
As a result of the following letter to Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector of Education, parents met with Ofsted’s Jonathan Jones HMI. Questions posed and the answers given coming soon.
Dear Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector of Education.
I am writing to you about OFSTED’s new inspection framework and the ongoing consultations, which began in January 2019. In order to achieve “an approach that leaves plenty of space for diversity, but nevertheless makes it possible to recognise and discourage things that just aren’t good enough.” (A.Speilman 2018) careful consideration must be given to the improvements required in respect of children and young people with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities).
OFSTED’s 2018 annual report set out how our most vulnerable children and young people with SEND are being failed at disproportionate levels. Indeed, when discussing your 2018 annual report, you warned that provision for these pupils is disjointed and inconsistent with thousands missing out on vital support to which they are entitled.
Pupils with SEND are seven times more likely to be permanently excluded than those without SEND and pupils with an EHCP (education health and care plan) are 6 times more likely. Your report rightly echoed these concerns along with others. “Mental health needs are not being supported sufficiently. The quality of education, health and care (EHC) plans is far too variable. Critically, the gap in performance and outcomes for children with SEND is widening between the best and the worst local areas.” (OFSTED 2018)
The National Deaf Children’s Society found 9 in 10 parents feared for the future of their children’s education. Only 30.6% achieve a GCSE strong pass – Grade 5 or above – in both English and maths, and 57% fail to reach expected levels in reading, writing and maths in Sats tests at the end of primary. More than 70% of autistic children attend mainstream schools. Ambitious about Autism found that 60% of teachers in England do not feel they have had adequate training to teach autistic children and 35% of teachers think it has become harder to access specialist support.
However, Nick Whitaker HMI, specialist advisor for SEND says: “Children who have SEN and/or disabilities are part of the big picture that makes up a school; there is no division here. Academic excellence, and effective SEND provision, are all part of the same picture and a school cannot be truly outstanding if it’s letting some of its pupils down.” (High Standards and Highly Inclusive 2018)
It is therefore deeply disappointing that of the 321 pieces of research used to inform OFSTED’s new inspection framework, none had SEND as the main focus. Also of concern, is that the only information around inclusion within the draft school inspection handbook is: “Schools should have an inclusive culture that facilitates arrangements to:
identify early those pupils who may be disadvantaged or have additional needs or barriers to learning
meet the needs of those pupils, drawing, where necessary, on more specialist support, and help those pupils to engage positively with the curriculum
ensure pupils have a positive experience of learning, and achieve positive outcomes.” (S234 draft handbook, OFSTED) OFSTED seek to inspect how leaders and staff create “a safe, calm, orderly and positive environment in the school and the impact this has on the behaviour and attitudes of pupils (S278 draft handbook, OFSTED)” however this cannot possibly be realised until the rise in potentially unlawful behaviour policies, which go against the meaning of inclusion are still in force. Placing inclusion at the heart of OFSTED’s new framework, could potentially be the start of real change for our most vulnerable learners. Inclusion benefits the whole community and will reduce pupils experiencing avoidable mental health difficulties, high rates of exclusion and unacceptably low attainments of SEND pupils. As a result, inclusion would raise academic achievements and outcomes. OFSTED seek to “ensure pupils have a positive experience of learning, and achieve positive outcomes.” Pupils who are suffering emotionally, those who do not have the vital provision necessary and those who are regularly or permanently excluded from accessing education cannot possibly achieve this aim.
There are highly inclusive schools rated ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED, who describe their approach as “battering with kindness” and “unconditional positive regard”. A Head Teacher of one of these school says, “It is my drive to see every child who walks through my doors here at Parklands succeed. I am not talking about exam results; I am talking about contributing to society. Prior to my appointment at Parklands, there had been 150 exclusions in 2014 alone. In 4 years, this was cut to 1. After gaining outstanding; we now take on children from excluded settings, offering a second (and in one case a third) opportunity to succeed. There is another way! As schools we can’t be allowed to off role or to exclude just to get behaviour ‘good.’ Where do these children go? What expectations of contributing to society are we making? Follow positivity and understand the needs of the children so we can make society better for everyone.” (Chris Dyson)
Inclusion and education in mainstream schools is a right for all, however implemented with the correctly and with the right intent, it benefits, involves and includes everyone within the school community. There are numerous ways Inspectors can encourage and ensure schools are constantly reviewing, adapting, improving their inclusive practice. Many of these are cost free, they simply take a will to listen and adapt.
Parents from all regions are eager for this to become a reality. Will OFSTED meet with a group of us? Will you work with us as partners and give us the opportunity to help shape how the new framework is put into practice in a highly inclusive way?
You can read the full blog via the link below or via specialneedsjungle.com
Discussion around various forms of punishment used in schools, are commonplace on Twitter. Recently many have been inspired by the Ban the Booths campaign https://banthebooths.co.uk/ The thing that has struck me about these conversations, is that there appears to be numerous interpretations of the common terms used. Isolation, seclusion, inclusion are often used to describe the same thing, yet both in terms of legalities and arguably, outcomes, they are all very different.
As a parent to 3 children and young people, I fully support the Ban the Booths campaign. Not because I disagree with isolation, I don’t, but I do disagree with long term isolation, which is what the campaign aims to address. Why do schools feel isolation is their only option?
“When under pressure to solve a behaviour issue the urge to do something, anything can be overwhelming, especially if you are fresh out of ideas. I’ve done this in the past, undoubtedly to meet my own needs. I can both support my colleagues, but also show I’m tough and uncompromising. Sadly, the issue at hand remained unsolved and this, ultimately supports no-one as the issue remains no less likely to re-occur again in the future.”
After numerous conversations and reading blogs from people with various views, I am left with many questions:
Are schools aware if what they are doing is isolation or seclusion?
Are schools aware that separating a child from a class in order to help them calm in a supportive way, is not being questioned and accepted as being necessary at times?
Do schools who use isolation, or any other punishment, understand the possible legal implications if the child has SEN?
Do they understand the possible impact for those who have experienced trauma, mental health difficulties etc?
Do all schools, or teachers within the same school, have the same definition of what ‘disruption’ is?
Are some schools isolating for (e.g.) a physical threat to themselves and/or others, or for (e.g.) breaches of strict uniform policies? If so, would opinions change on what is and what isn’t an acceptable reason to use isolation, or to punish at all?
“A child in care gets taxi to school. Taxi sometimes late = day in isolation. Child in handed down shoes with Velcro not laces = day in isolation. Just to be clear, booths not filled with violent kids. Filled with collateral damage of system that rewards lack of inclusion.”
What is Seclusion?
‘The supervised confinement and isolation of a person, away from other users of services, in an area from which the person is prevented from leaving.’ (Department of Health, Para 87 P and P 2014) Any use of seclusion is likely to contravene Article 5 of the Human Rights Act: The right to liberty and security and its use in any setting should be questioned. Seclusion should not be used as either a treatment or a punishment. (CAPBS)
Schools and education authorities have had a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled pupils since 2002 (originally under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and, from October 2010, under the Equality Act 2010). This duty is likely to relate to the majority of pupils with SEND in schools. Therefore, It would not be acceptable for example, to punish a child with ADHD for acting impulsively, for not being able to sit still or for not being able to focus and complete work on time, nor to expect them to sit silently and still within an isolation or seclusion room. It would not be fair to punish an autistic child who has reacted badly to change of routine or sensory overload. Or for those with sensory difficulties who cannot wear the same uniform as everyone else. It is likely that any blanket policy will discriminate against those who require reasonable adjustments.
We don’t seclude, we only isolate…….don’t we?
If a person is isolated and prevented from leaving a room of their own free will then this meets the accepted criteria for seclusion, even if it is called by a different name such as time out, isolation, chill out, or support. It is also important to consider that a child may feel unable to leave, even if the door is unlocked via a perceived threat of what might happen if they leave.
What is the difference between seclusion and isolation?
Isolation suggests someone is in an area away from other people and in some cases, is on their own. Seclusion would mean they are isolated and also confined to that area. Elected isolation however, can be a positive and helpful tool within an inclusive environment. Inclusion doesn’t mean being present 100% of the time, so options to take time out, can be really helpful and can take many forms. Such as an exit pass, allowing young people to access quite spaces in order to calm before returning to the group or class.
I think it’s fair to say, that if a child needs time out, the skills of the ‘supporting adult’ will likely reflect on the outcome. Do they instinctively understand how young minds might work? Do they know not to bombard with language or questions? Are they able to keep their own emotions in check and know when to keep their distance? Are they patient and when ready, able to support they young person to identify what went wrong? Can they help identify triggers and areas for development, so that together they can make a plan for support to change the outcome next time?
“Sending our children to a room to cool off ends in a chat, some love, repair, reset and move forwards. Isolation in schools can end in more isolation, judgments from adults, cards marked, unforgiving environments preventing any possibility of change happening.”
We all need to isolate ourselves at times, but as adults, we are able to self monitor our emotions, to recognise when we need to sit on our own and when we are ready to return. We are able to put preventative methods in place and in order to enable our young people to do the same, they will need time, teaching and guidance through compassion and care.
So what is the advice for schools who isolate or seclude?
The most recent non statutory advice, Advice for Head teachers and staff in all schools (DfE, 2014) suggests schools could adopt a policy which allows disruptive pupils to be placed in an area (an isolation room) away from other pupils for a limited period. It says use of this strategy as a disciplinary measure should be clearly stated in the school’s disciplinary policy. The advice adds that only in an exceptional circumstance should any use of isolation that prevents a child from leaving of their own free will be considered.
I refer back to Lucie Lakin’s quote above and ask, is this what is happening when a child is isolated for wearing the wrong uniform? For constantly forgetting equipment for class? For being cheeky or rude to adults or peers? Are reactive-only and restrictive practices the only way? Are they the only or right way and do they work, for those who are aggressive or constantly disruptive?
“I haven’t been to isolation. I’m a bit scared about being sent there though.”
” Some teachers don’t ask for reasons, or give them a chance to explain. They just say ‘i’m not interested in your excuses, go to isolation’. Its unfair to not at least let them try and explain. Makes me feel annoyed.”
13 year old with SEND commenting on peers being sent to ‘insolation’.
What is the desired outcome of isolation?
Will isolation teach a child how to self monitor their emotions? How to recognise when they are not coping? How and when to isolate themselves, or seek support in order to prevent further incidences? Will it teach trust and respect for themselves, their peers, the adults around them?
Firstly, and most importantly, inclusion has nothing to do with punishment. Describing the use of isolation booths as a way to achieve inclusion, is a contradiction of terms and goes against the meaning and aim of inclusion.
“Inclusion is a universal human right. The aim of inclusion is to embrace all people irrespective of race, gender, disability, medical or other need. It is about giving equal access and opportunities and getting rid of discrimination and intolerance (removal of barriers).A number of educational establishments have found that a move towards inclusive education has led to an improvement in general educational standards. This is backed up by research.”
What if funding directed towards punishments such as isolation and in some cases, seclusion, were redirected towards pastoral care and support?
What if young people were given the opportunity to experience consequences which taught them a better way?
What if young people were asked to find solutions and involved in their development in an active way?
What if we aspired to achieve an inclusive community, rather than one which involves long term, or inappropriate isolation?
Everyone’s ADHD journey is very different. The following advice is based on my experience as an adult with ADHD and a parent to a young person with ADHD.
I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult 12 years ago at the Maudsley Hospital, London. The team there spent time during and after the assessment to discuss my new diagnosis with me. However after that day at the Maudsley, I didn’t get any further support at all for over 10 years. I didn’t know any other adults with ADHD and at times I felt quite alone in my journey. I had a child with ADHD, but dealing with your own diagnosis and working out what that means to you can be very different.
Over the years the medication I’d first been prescribed (Straterra, Atamoxetine) became less effective. Recently, under the guidance of an ADHD specialist Psychiatrist, I changed my medication (to Elvanse, Lisdexamfetamine). This change was a positive, but also a very difficult experience for me.
14 years after diagnosis, I felt like a newly diagnosed ADHDer all over again and those ‘lost’ and ‘alone’ feelings crept back in. I searched around for information online to help me through this stage in my journey, but quickly realised there is very little information on what to do after diagnosis, what to expect during titration of medication or what is ‘normal’ during this time.
Now this period has passed, I wanted to share a few of my top tips for anyone newly diagnosed, trialling medication or those who are supporting someone else through this.
Find your tribe! We are out here and there is so much information and support within the ADHD community.
Titration of medication is very different for everyone. Some don’t notice any difference until they reach the right dose, others struggle massively until they reach the right dose. You shouldn’t ever feel ‘drugged’ or lethargic. If you do, that might mean the dosage needs adjusting so speak to your Doctor or Psychiatrist.
Try (and I know this is very hard for us) to be patient. You can’t do everything at once, or expect everything to change/improve right away. The stage after diagnosis and whilst trialling medication takes as long as it takes. It is different for everyone.
Set reminders on your phone, write post-its, ask family members to help, or do whatever you need to in order to take your medication regularly, on time and to remember to re-order it. Some medication can impact on sleep, so make sure you take it early enough for it to have worn off by bedtime. I leave my medication near my toothbrush so I don’t forget it. I also use Siri, reminders on my phone (which can be set to remind daily) and Google home for reminders for upcoming events and daily, easily forgotten things (e.g when cooking)
We aren’t invincible! Take one day at a time and give yourself small, realistic steps to accomplish each day. This can help to raise confidence and helps with the procrastination…… Sometimes! If you don’t manage your target that day, be kind to yourself and try again tomorrow. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and as your mind clears, you can increase the challenges. Just always be your own best friend.
Set a reminder to note down how you feel each day and what you have accomplished. That way you can see how you are progressing or what you need to do to move forward. I use notes on my phone because although I bought a nice new note book, it is still in the packaging….somewhere!
Don’t make any big decisions or choices during this stage. This includes shopping! Amazon delivered many random things to my house for a few weeks during titration. It didn’t make my Husband happy, especially when the new bed for the spare room arrived straight after the new vegetable planter!
Some people find that after diagnosis they re-evaluate past experiences. I certainly did. Diagnosis brought back experiences throughout childhood, school, work and with family members and so much suddenly made a lot more sense. I called this ‘re-boxing’ and it gave me a sense of relief, self-forgiveness and an understanding that I hadn’t experienced before.
If we begin to experience sense of clarity about ourselves and how we want to do things differently, it’s only natural to want our loved ones to recognise that too. I found it incredibly frustrating that my family couldn’t automatically see that I had changed and that I was no longer the same forgetful, clumsy, disorganised person I was before. I had changed and I wanted them to simply accept that. However, I needed to show them I was different, demonstrate via my actions that I had changed.
We have huge feelings and if you’re like me, you’ll want to keep hold of those, not that we have much choice! We experience negative emotions to a much higher degree, but we also experience positive ones just as much too. If you start to feel anxious, or angry, a few simple steps might help.
– STOP! Think ‘what is this feeling?’ Identify it and name it.
– Ask yourself for evidence to either support it and then for evidence against it.
– Is it justified? If not, try deep breathing and to calm. If it is justified, by focusing on it, thinking and looking for ‘evidence’ can lead to a solution.
– Be in this moment, here and now. What can you feel/hear/smell/ see etc. All of this will help ground you and work out your next move.
– Once you have identified the feeling (try and avoid using ‘anxious’ as it can be too general) and if it is justified, allow yourself to feel it, but also plan a way to move on. Is it your problem? Or someone else’s? Is there anything you can do about it? Or do you need to let it go?
Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything! Try saying things like ‘I’ll let you know’ (and then set a reminder!) That way you can think carefully and clearly in your own time.
SELF-CARE!! This is possibly the most important. Exercise can give a sense of calm like nothing else can. Getting started can cause non-stop procrastination though, so you’ll need to be tough with yourself. Getting a gym buddy might help, but tell them at the start not to accept any excuses! Self-care is also about the food you eat, the time you allow yourself for a bubble bath, to listen to your music, watching your favourite Boxset. Its time for you, guilt free.
Don’t burn out. New found clarity and energy can make us feel invincible, but burn out can lead to meltdown. Meltdowns are so distressing and can take a very long time to recover from, but they are often a way of letting us know that we need to stop for a bit or slow down.
Sleep is vital, but can be tricky. Try a fixed night time routine, avoid screens or anything that might alert rather than relax you. Weighted blankets can help. Dim the lights, warm drink, soft music etc. You can also ask your Doctor about Melatonin, which isn’t a sedative, it just helps get your brain ready for sleep.
If you need to talk to a therapist, make sure it’s an ADHD specialist. My therapist also has ADHD and she has an intrinsic understanding, which has helped avoid and move past any additional explanation or unhelpful suggestions. She has also explained why other therapies haven’t worked before – because they weren’t adapted for an ADHD way of thinking. Even mindfulness needs adapting for us, so if you’ve tried some approaches and they didn’t work, that might be why.
Know you are not alone. I started these tips by saying ‘Find your Tribe’ and I am saying it again, because it can be truly empowering. Finding other ADHDers has given me the strength to go public with my diagnosis and to be proud of my unique brain.
Q&A With Jonathan Jones, HMI.
High Standards. Highly Inclusive.
The following Q&A with Jonathan Jones, HMI, Specialist Adviser, was inspired by the blog written In September by OFSTED inspector Nick Whittaker, HMI, Specialist Advisor, SEND. High Standards and Highly Inclusive
Nick Whittaker, HMI starts his blog by saying;
“I was struck by a phrase someone used in a discussion back in the summer – ‘big-hearted schools who welcome SEND students and see their Ofsted rating drop’.
I’d like to unpack that a bit.
I believe, and Ofsted’s inspections of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision in schools are built around this idea, that the experience of pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities is a bellwether of the school’s performance.
Children who have SEN and/or disabilities are part of the big picture that makes up a school; there is no division here. Academic excellence, and effective SEND provision, are all part of the same picture and a school cannot be truly outstanding if it’s letting some of its pupils down.
We’ve been told that some schools are refusing pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities because they are concerned that this will be reflected in their Ofsted rating.
Schools should be truly inclusive. And by that, I mean inclusive in the real sense, including children and their parents:
in setting targets linked to the child’s education, health and care (EHC) plan or SEN support plan
as part of collecting information about what is important to the child, now and in the future, and how best to support them.”
Q&A with Jonathan Jones, HMI.
The recent OFSTED blog on inclusion was very much welcomed, especially at a time when so many children, young people and families are struggling to get appropriate education. However, there is a great deal of confusion around how ‘inclusion’ is assessed and ‘scored’, also which schools, approaches and evidence are targeted to provide the necessary information.
I have gathered questions from parents via social media, parent support groups and email. The following are a summary of these, as well as some suggestions from parents to aid the development of these inspections.Jonathan’s responses are in purple.
Will an inclusion rating be separate to an overall score?As can be seen in our EIF slides, a separate rating for inclusion is not being proposed in the EIF 2019.
How is ‘success’ measured? Do OFSTED consider NEETS, pathways into adulthood and exam data?Inspectors currentlyconsider the impact of funded support on the outcomes achieved by children and young people with SEND, the expectation is that the identification of SEN leads to additional or different arrangements being made and a consequent improvement in progress. The grade descriptors for ‘outcomes for pupils’ include an evaluation of how well pupils are prepared for the next stage of their education, training or employment.
As ‘inclusion’ as a concept can be difficult to define, what specific training do inspectors have in order to rate this accurately?In the common inspection framework, inspectors must evaluate the extent to which the education provided by the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school including those with SEND. All inspectors receive specific training and on-going updates. Specialist inspectors receive an enhanced level of training.
How do schools evidence that they have considered all individual needs and reasonable adjustments throughout the school day?In judging pupils’ personal development, behaviour and welfare, inspectors evaluate the experience of particular individuals and groups, such as . . . pupils with SEND, looked-after children, those with medical needs and those with mental health needs. The common inspection framework makes it clear that inspectors, ‘must look at a small sample of case studies about the experience of these pupils’.
How do they do this for special events such as school trips, sports day, seasonal celebrations? Rewards and motivators such as 100% attendance awards? Does this data include how many children are unable to attend these events, or how many parents are required to attend to provide support needed? To what degree are they included and is this appropriate? Inspectors are required to consider how well leaders and governors promote all forms of equality. Inspectors gather and evaluate a wide range of evidence, including evidence from discussion with pupils and parents, information provided by school leaders, and written comments from parents, including the free-text responses recorded on parent view.
How do inspectors gather information about non-official or unlawful exclusions, including sending children home for school events, only allowing them in for a small part of the school day, forced home education or off rolling? This is especially concerning as some parents don’t realise that this is unlawful and therefore don’t report it. Inspectors gather and evaluate a range of evidence about attendance and exclusions. This includes the scrutiny of the school’s attendance records and the reasons for non-attendance. Inspectors, ‘will assess the school’s use of exclusion, including the rates, patterns and reasons for exclusion, as well as any differences between groups of pupils. Inspectors will gather the views of parents, staff, governors and other stakeholders’.
Seclusion vs Inclusion:
How do schools evidence when, how and for how long seclusion has been used, and will OFSTED be looking at this data? Can OFSTED comment on the use of small, closed or locked rooms and tents used to contain and seclude distressed CYP. Such as the use of ‘Blue Rooms’? Can OFSTED comment on the use of restrictive practices and restraint in schools? Will this data be inspected and impact on an inclusion rating? Ofsted published guidance for inspectors in March 2018. This guidance is called, ‘Positive environments where children can flourish, a guide for inspectors about physical intervention and restrictions of liberty’. This guidance applies to all social care inspections and to the inspection of schools.
Appropriateness of curriculum:
Some CYP with learning difficulties, significant language needs and functional difficulties, who attend specialist schools don’t have access to an adapted curriculum. Will OFSTED be looking at inclusion in specialist settings too? HMCI has made it clear that the effectiveness of the curriculum will be central to evaluating the quality of education in the new education inspection framework. This will include all specialist schools. HMCI has stated that the curriculum is the ‘substance’ of education and inspectors will consider the design and implementation of the curriculum and its impact on the outcomes achieved by all pupils.
Will they include specialist and mainstream schools rated outstanding? Currently, state-funded and non-maintained special schools judged to be outstanding are not exempt from inspection under section 5 of the 2005 Education Act. Mainstream primary and secondary schools judged to be outstanding are exempt from inspection under section 5. However, HMCI has powers to inspect at any time under section 8 of the same act. An exempt school may be inspected where, for example, concerns are raised about standards of leadership and management or HMCI, or the secretary of State, has concerns about the school’s performance.
The following are interesting suggestions which are useful in the thinking about how we gather the views of children and young people and their families. They will be welcomed as part of the formal consultation period beginning in spring 2019.
Include outside professionals in inspections. Such as Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists. They can provide expert opinion on whether the school is inclusive in terms of their area of expertise and in relation to individual needs.
Inspectors could look in home/school contact books of both SEND and non-SEND CYP around specific dates such as school trips, to compare attendance and success. Also, at e-mails, texts and home/school communication in its wider form.
Inspectors could ask parents and CYP specific questions. Perhaps have a SEND panel made up of CYP, but arranged so they are encouraged to, and able to speak freely. Another suggestion is to have a ‘happiness survey’.
British values such as peer perception of their disabled classmates. Do schools focus on teaching CYP about acceptance and difference? Do they monitor opinions and actions of peers? Some parents report peers saying things like ‘X can’t do that’ rather than ‘how can X join in too?’
Comparing the % of SEND parents in PTAs, attendance at parent evenings, complaints, the spread of CYP with SEND across sets in subjects, but also compared against their needs and potential.
Asking parents and schools about home-school communication and inspecting flexibility and effectiveness. Monitoring any key positive or negative descriptions given.
Asking all members of staff, including caretakers and lunchtime supervisors about CYP with SEND to monitor their understanding and acceptance.
Look at how many CYP are highlighted for support before they begin to fail.
Look at the percentage of CYP with similar diagnoses and the levels of support they receive. Obviously needs will differ, but is it predominantly the CYP who outwardly express distress who receive support? Or do those who internalise distress have their needs recognised too?