Assistant Director, Pupil Services
23rd November 2000
RE: Consultation Paper (Summary Version) SEN - Framework for Action 2000-2003
Dear Thanos Morphitis,
This is the Islington NASUWT response to the summary version of the consultation document. There may be parts of the complete paper that the NASUWT supports or opposes, but these are not commented on. When the final consultation document is circulated we would like to have a complete document to comment on meaningfully.
At the meetings with staff, it was suggested that the consultation paper reflects an open mind on behalf of CEA@Islington and London Borough of Islington and that they are not minded towards any of the proposals. Conversely, specific options relating to the future of special schools and their staff have been discussed for some time; these are alluded to in the Asset Management Plan and the Educational Development Plan. Annexe one appears to elaborate on these proposals, but their implications are unclear to us. We would welcome clarification on this before the issue of the second report.
We would like more information on the concept of special schools as "Centres of Excellence". While not doubting the quality of provision in these schools, the term appears to have a new meeting and we are concerned what this would mean for teachers in those schools.
We are pleased that it has been recognised that inclusion is not a cost-saving measure. Unfortunately it is not clear from the report exactly where the large amount of extra resources will be found. Presently there are economies of scale in catering for specific needs on specialised sites. Dispersing these can only lead to a reduction in the quality of service provided or an increase in costs, if not both. This would be most noticeable in the provision of support for low incidence disability.
Regarding provision of services to children with emotional and behavioural difficulties; we welcome all attempts at preventive measures and early treatment. As regards the national agenda, mentioned in the report, it is not the case that there is any intention to "include" children whose violent behaviour endangers the staff who work with them or other children. David Blunkett specifically gave the assurance to NASUWT Conference 2000 that off site units were needed for violent pupils. It would be a shame if attempts to include children with educational needs were confused with this argument.
The report asks how funding should be allocated. We welcome the realisation that low incidence disabilities will need to be funded separately - whether the child is in school full time or on part-time placement. As to the delegation of funds using proxy indicators, we have a concern as to how these will be updated. Martin Johnsons book "Failing School, Failing City" explains the mechanism by which schools with vacant places attract the greatest number of transient and needy children. The present system currently fails to give adequate support to those schools which have accepted the greatest number of refugee children. The precise mechanisms therefore need further discussion. The suggestion to hold back a percentage of the allocation (2%) does not seem unreasonable if it is used for this purpose.
The summary report does not appear to deal with many issues relating to physical disabilities or complex needs. There appears to be no consideration of the practical needs of the children. For example, the learning support / special needs assistants who provide access to the curriculum or meet the physical needs of the child. Not all children will need the full time support of a one-one worker, but many will need the direct assistance of two or three trained staff at various times during the day. At these times, which may not be predictable, they will obviously not be available to work elsewhere. The costs of employing and managing sufficient staff are considerable, but this is without taking into account the structural alterations needed to premises. One secondary school has been nominated the designated accessible school and has carried out an audit of the works needed to make the buildings wheelchair-accessible. The entire inclusion budget was allocated to this school, yet provided less than one quarter of the funds necessary. Structurally the school is not accessible, nor will it be in the foreseeable future, but neither is it able to cope with the needs of children who are currently in Islington special schools.
There are various other issues relating to the conflicting requirements for various therapies and access to the timetable which do not appear to be being considered. It is not the position of a teachers union to comment on these, other than to add that if there is to be a "partnership", it should include those teachers, support staff and therapists who have the specialist expertise and experience. There was not originally intended to be a consultation meeting for special school staff and they were not included in drawing up the report so far.
We were puzzled by one of the "principles" of the report. That is that "all teachers are teachers of children with SEN". Whilst the recognition that appropriate training would be needed is welcome, we must draw your attention to the schoolteachers pay and conditions document which recommends the award of the SEN allowance to teachers of children with SEN. In addition, we believe that many of Islington teachers are already working at their limits and extending demands on them would be counterproductive.
Overall, we feel that the summary report raises more questions than it answers. We therefore welcome the report which should appear in the New Year and would like to receive a full copy of this. We hope that there will be considerable consultation with those directly affected: specifically teachers, support staff, therapists and the children themselves.
Summary of Key Points:
Clarification of diagram in annexe 1
Where will necessary extra funding come from ?
Off site provision for violent children
Lack of resources: structural, staff and medical; to support low incidence disabilities.
If all teachers are "teachers of SEN", when will we begin to receive the SEN allowance?
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