Inclusion and SEND

ASCL position statements

What is the context?
During this current period of national lockdown, schools, alternative provision, special schools and colleges may only allow vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers to attend. 

All pupils who are not eligible to be in school should be marked in attendance registers as Code X. As vulnerable children are still expected to attend school full-time, they should only be marked as Code X if they are shielding, self-isolating or quarantining. Any parent may choose for their child not to attend the school setting, be they key worker or vulnerable. Schools and colleges however should encourage vulnerable children to attend. The DfE has directed schools to grant applications for leave of absence given the exceptional circumstances. This should be recorded as code C (leave of absence authorised by the school) unless another authorised absence code is more applicable. This however only appertains to vulnerable children and not those of critical workers.

ASCL position: ASCL believes that the attendance coding system should be reviewed to recognise that families of vulnerable children have the same rights and responsibilities as other families in terms of remote learning. The C code (leave of absence authorised by the school) should either be replaced or have a second definition to ensure that there is no negative assumption about a family’s choice to remotely educate their child.

ASCL also feels that the DfEent should clearly outline what the attendance data for all groups of children will be used for and how it will enable leaders to further support the learning of its pupils. 

Why are we saying it?
ASCL fully supports the collation of attendance data if it is used to ensure the needs of all children are tracked and analysed to enable effective support to be given. However, we feel that by granting leave of absence to this one group of children, school leaders are regarding their absence from school as a deficit even though many vulnerable children, especially if effective risk assessments are undertaken, are receiving impactful remote education.  

ASCL is also concerned that by granting a leave of absence to any child during such a volatile period, parents, carers and school leaders may be seen as discriminating and not treating families consistently, equitably and fairly. It would seem sensible to remove the fear that different coding may be viewed as something that parents and schools might be held accountable for negative circumstances that may impact families.

What is the context?
We are witnessing a mental health crisis amongst children and young people. An already worrying situation has been exacerbated by Covid-19. Ofsted’s second report into the impact of the pandemic across educational settings highlighted the extent to which children are showing signs of mental health issues such as eating disorders and self-harm. 

The government’s proposed national intervention, Wellbeing for Education Return (WER), is intended to provide training to a representative from every school and college. However, this training intended to support return in September is only now reaching schools. In addition to this, ASCL has learnt that the government strategy and funding to put a Senior Mental Health Lead in each school is paused. 

ASCL position: ASCL agrees with the approach laid out in the Mental Health Green Paper to recruit and operate Mental Health Support Teams in every region alongside identifying and training a Mental Health Lead in every school. However, if this roll out is to be delayed/paused, ASCL asks that the local experts trained for the Wellbeing for Education Return (WER) initiative are made available directly to schools as a resource to support staff and pupils for the next 12 months, while we wait for the planned strategy to be rolled out. 

ASCL also asks that the funding identified for mental health training be channeled directly to schools in the interim. At the moment in particular, schools  are best suited to determine locally designed interventions and ensure they can offer a quick response to pupils with the most immediate and urgent needs. 

Why are we saying it?
The government’s current approach does not go far enough, move quickly enough or last long enough to meet the mental health and wellbeing of our children, post-Covid-19. Targeted and sustained support for pupil well-being is essential to meet their growing and complex needs post pandemic. Growing wellbeing and mental health issues are acting as a significant barrier against learning engagement and development across all school phases. These are continuing problems which require ongoing effective funding and support.

What is the context?
Two thirds of local authorities have seen a significant rise in elective home education post-lockdown. The UK has one of the lowest thresholds for regulation and monitoring of home educators in Europe. Nearly 30,000 children were home educated between 2016-17, a doubling since 2011. In 2018 it hit 60,000. The 2020 spike highlights the need for more effective local monitoring to ensure children don't go missing within the system. 

ASCL position: ASCL believes the recent increase in elective home education requires a rapid response from DfE. This response must include:

  • the commissioning of research to identify the reasons behind this increase
  • an enhanced home education infrastructure, including a national register of home educators and additional financial resource to support for local monitoring, advice, and regular review. 

In addition, in the 2020/21 academic year, DfE should make provision for discrepancies in the census caused by the increase in elective home education. Where children return to school part way through the academic year, schools should be compensated in-year and not have to wait for the 2021 census. This will enable schools to provide core education and additional support where needed.

Why are we saying it?
Many children who are educated at home thrive. However, we are concerned that the rapid increase in the number of home-educated children may be driven by factors other than carefully considered parental choice, including concerns related to the pandemic and, in a small number of cases, off-rolling. 

It is crucial that we understand what is driving this increase in numbers, that an appropriate infrastructure is put in place to identify and monitor children being taught at home, and that sufficient funding is provided both to home-educating families and to schools which welcome back previously home-educated children. 

What is the context?
Accountability measures and the ambition to lead inclusive schools appear to be at odds with each other. Whether Progress 8 or Ofsted, the primary assessment focus is on academic attainment whilst research tells us that disadvantage pupils are statistically less likely to achieve compared to their peers. The current educational landscape has therefore established perverse incentives where schools see a negative ‘cost’ to supporting young people who face multiple disadvantage. 

ASCL position:
Current accountability measures disincentivise schools from supporting children who experience multiple disadvantages.   These children are unfairly judged as statistically negative contributors towards these measures. ASCL believes schools must be incentivised, appropriately resourced and recognised for taking effective responsibility for these children.

Why are we saying it?
Headteachers tell us they feel penalised for being inclusive. That the performance measures used to inform the system actively disincentivise schools from welcoming and retaining young people who are experiencing difficulty; difficulties that impact on their academic performance.  A school’s Progress 8 score is the mean average of its pupils’ Progress 8 scores. For all mainstream pupils nationally, the average Progress 8 score will be zero. Low attaining pupils fall below that average even where they are making progress. This makes it less attractive for schools to accept or retain pupils whose circumstances place them at a disadvantage. We believe a system that puts an actual negative value on any child is fundamentally flawed and risks contravening the Equalities Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and in particular Articles 24, 31 and 33, which requires countries to develop an inclusive education system for all children.

What is the context?
Children who are looked after need further recognition and support. A report from the children’s commissioner on Dec 24th 2019 called Pass the Parcel highlighted the continuing issues faced by children in care. It highlights particular concern for the 30,000 living ‘out of area’ who are at increased risk of violence, gangs and grooming. Recent reports relating to exclusions and mental health highlight the need to improve our understanding of what interventions are most effective for young people with dual or multiple needs. ASCL will co-opt a virtual head to sit on the EIE Committee.

ASCL position: Children who are looked after are some of the most vulnerable in our care. They deserve consistent support and provision. There must be a unified national strategy to ensure that these children’s lives are made as stable as possible. This strategy must include Virtual Headteachers acting as consistent advocates to incentivise schools to take on vulnerable children.

Why are we saying it? Looked after children experience multiple vulnerabilities. Currently the quality of provision and practice for these children relates to the local area support and young people’s experience can be a postcode lottery; consistent, good quality provision is required. The issue of intersectionality (several overlapping and interlocking disadvantages) warrants better recognition in our schools and ASCL supports strengthening the role of Virtual Heads to advocate, working proactively with their network of local heads to prioritise the needs of these young people. 

What is the context? In October 2018, ASCL launched an independent Commission of Inquiry to look into how to improve the prospects of the ‘forgotten third’ of young people who do not achieve at least a grade 4 pass in GCSE English and maths at the end of twelve years of schooling. 

In September 2019, the Commission published its final report. The report included fourteen recommendations to help address this issue, covering early years, curriculum and pedagogy, teacher education, and the qualifications system. 

These recommendations included calls for a long-term review both of the English curriculum from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage and of the GCSE exam system as a whole. The Commission also recommended a new approach to end-of-primary assessment and accountability, and the replacement of GCSE English Language with a Passport in English, to be taken by all pupils at the point of readiness between the ages of 15 and 19.

ASCL position: ASCL thanks the Forgotten Third Commission of Inquiry for the expertise and commitment they brought to the question of how we can improve the prospects of the ‘Forgotten Third’.

ASCL fully supports the recommendations in the Commission’s final report, and adopts these as policy.

Why are we saying it? We must do more to improve the life chances of those children and young people, disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds, for whom the current education system simply isn’t working. We must also find better ways to recognise the achievements of all young people. We believe that acting on the recommendations in this report would make a significant and positive impact on these young people’s lives and futures. 

What is the context? Statutory Relationships and Health Education for all schools comes into force in September 2020. Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will be statutory in all secondary schools.

The government’s guidance on Relationships Education in primary schools says that schools must teach about different types of families. The guidance uses LGBT parents as one example of a family type, but fails to clarify that there is a requirement for primary schools to teach that some children are growing up with same-sex parents.

ASCL position: Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE), including Relationships Health and Sex Education (RSE), is an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. PSHE (including RSE) should be a statutory, but not prescriptive, part of children’s learning.

It is right that, from September 2020, there will be a requirement for all children to receive Relationship Education and, in secondary schools, Sex Education. We welcome the flexibility for schools to deliver these subjects, which meets the needs of all their communities. We consider it unnecessary for the government to provide standardised frameworks or programmes of study. 

ASCL calls urgently for a clear statement from government that, within Relationships Education in primary schools, children must be taught that there are many types of family, including those with LGBT parents.

Why are we saying it? School leaders must not be used as a shield by the government on this particularly emotive issue. By just including LGBT families as an ‘example’ of the different types of family primary schools might talk about, it becomes an individual headteacher’s decision whether or not to use that particular example.

Government needs to step in and provide clarity by making it clear that primary schools must talk about LGBT families. This will help create an environment where all children feel acceptance and a sense of belonging, and take some of the pressure away from individual headteachers.

What is the context? Recently published reports (from the National Audit Office and the Education Policy Institute) state that 1,041,500 pupils (79.4% of pupils with SEND) did not have EHCPs but had been identified as needing some additional support at school. The vast majority of these children (91.6%) attended mainstream settings. 

Some pupils with SEND are receiving high quality support that meets their needs, whether they attend mainstream schools or special schools. However, recent system reviews indicate that many other pupils are not being supported effectively, and that pupils with SEND who do not have EHCPs are particularly exposed.

ASCL position: We need a broader recognition of the fact that the EHCP process is not the only mechanism for supporting children with SEND. School leaders need to be able to use resources more flexibly in order intervene in an effective and timely manner. 

Why are we saying this? Pupils with SEND are among the most vulnerable in the school system. The quality of support they receive affects their well-being, educational attainment, likelihood of subsequent employment, and long-term life prospects. More needs to be done at a system level to support schools to effectively meet the needs and support the progress of pupils who are identified as requiring SEN support, in ways that are most appropriate to each individual case. 

What is the context? The government substantially changed the system for supporting children and young people with SEND in September 2014, under the Children and Families Act 2014. The aims of the reforms were to enable children’s needs to be identified earlier; families to be more involved in decisions affecting them; education, health and social care services to be better integrated; and support to remain in place up to the age of 25 where appropriate.

ASCL position: ASCL calls for a consistent, transparent and high-quality Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) process. 

Why are we saying this? We are concerned about the variability of the process of applying for an EHCP across the country. There needs to be greater consistency and accountability for quality. Clear expectations and consideration by the Department, and a standard EHCP template, would help schools cut down on bureaucracy and support better outcomes for young people with SEND.

What is the context? This statement is an expansion of our previous position that all schools in an area should take collective responsibility for exclusions. It was prompted by recommendations made by the Timpson Review that schools should work closely with each other, and with local authorities, to jointly commission high quality alternative provision (AP).

Some areas, such as Tower Hamlets, are already using this model successfully, though it must be noted that this is an area with significantly higher funding than most parts of the country.

ASCL position: School and college leaders should create a culture of inclusivity through ethical leadership.

We believe that all schools need to take collective responsibility for all children and young people living in their local area, including an expectation of regional or local coordination for leading and collaborating on all managed moves, exclusions and the planning and funding of local high-quality alternative provision.

All schools need to reflect on the process they use prior to exclusion; well-informed practice will lead to decisions made in the best interests of children.

Why are we saying it? We believe that schools taking collective responsibility for all local children will help to ensure that children are educated in high quality provision that is most suitable to their needs.

We are concerned about the inconsistency in the funding, quality, availability and type of AP across the country. We are also concerned about inconsistency in the way in which mainstream schools work with each other and with local AP, and the way in which they refer children to AP.

We prefer to talk about collective ‘responsibility’ rather than ‘accountability’, because this implies that the schools are collectively taking ownership for the education of all local children, regardless of which school they started in.

What is the context? The use of online technology, including social media, has grown at great speed. Teachers, parents, policy makers and children do not always fully understand the implications of this for young people’s relationships, safety, mental health and wellbeing. Neither do we know how the vast amounts of data being gathered on young people may be accessed and used, now or in the future. ASCL members want government and technology companies to do more to protect young people and to help them to develop and maintain good digital health.

ASCL position: Schools and colleges have a central role in teaching children and young people about positive digital health. We believe there is a need for a clear strategy to mitigate against the negative impacts of digital content and social media. These effects can be around wellbeing, mental health, safeguarding and privacy, both now and in the longer term.  

ASCL members believe that technology companies should be subject to minimum standards of age-appropriate design, with a mandatory code backed by an independent regulator.

Why are we saying this? ASCL surveyed 460 secondary school headteachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in state and independent schools in January 2018. They were asked about the impact on pupils of social media use over the past 12 months. The results were stark and unequivocal, and included the following statistics:

  • 95% felt that the mental health and wellbeing of a proportion of their pupils had suffered as a result of social media use.
  • Almost all (459/460) had received reports of pupils being bullied on social media.
  • Almost all (457/460) had received reports of pupils encountering upsetting material on social media, such as sexual content, self-harm, bullying, or hate speech.
  • 89% had received reports of pupils being approached by strangers on social media sites.
  • 93% had received reports of pupils experiencing low self-esteem as a result of seeing idealised images and experiences on social media.
  • 96% had received reports of pupils missing out on sleep as a result of social media use.
  • 93% said that new laws and regulation should be introduced to ensure social media sites keep children safe

What is the context? School admissions are governed by the School admissions code which makes clear that oversubscription criteria must not discriminate against or disadvantage children with SEND. ASCL supports a peer approach to admissions shared with schools in the local area.

The School admissions code sets out specific provisions regarding the admission of pupils with SEND, looked after children, and those with medical conditions. An EHCP can name a particular school or college which must have been consulted prior to being named on the plan.

ASCL position: ASCL encourages all schools to work together on admissions to meet the needs of all children and young people in their local area, however diverse their needs may be.

We believe that all schools, local authorities and other education providers should work in partnership to identify appropriate, named provision to meet the needs of all children.

Why are we saying it? ASCL encourages every school to be an inclusive school and to take a whole school approach to inclusion and SEND in its admissions policy.

Until now there was no ASCL policy position on admissions.

What is the context? This statement is in response to the Government’s green paper: Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision. It sits alongside our existing position statement on mental health.

We welcome the green paper as an important step forward in tackling an issue which is a major and increasing concern to school and college leaders and note the recognition that schools and colleges are already doing a great deal to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people. There are, however, many questions left unanswered in the green paper. In particular we are concerned about whether the proposed new Mental Health Support Team (MHST) will be able to offer the right level of specialist help that students need.

ASCL position: We are concerned the proposals to create mental health support teams for mild to moderate needs will not be helpful to schools who need additional support from clinically trained and well-qualified staff. This proposal could divert funds away from this important specialist provision.

Why are we saying it? We believe that these new teams will not be successful in helping schools and colleges promote good mental health and, crucially, support students who need more specialist help unless the people employed within MHSTs are experienced and suitably trained and qualified to carry out this wide-reaching, complex role. It will also be essential that they have fast track access to specialist CAMHS and other support services and are fully supported by a fit-for-purpose, local, specialist mental health service.

Schools and colleges have a central role in teaching children and young people about emotional health and well-being, mental health and resilience, alongside supporting them with these issues. Schools and colleges must also ensure that they signpost specialist services that are available and make appropriate referrals.

It is not the role of education to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. Diagnosis and treatment needs to be done by specialist professionals, who are appropriately trained, qualified and clinically supervised. This area of work needs to be adequately resourced to meet the needs of students before they become acute.

Schools and colleges are already accountable for personal development, welfare and safety of children and young people and should not be held accountable further for EHWB through inspection.

Once schools and colleges are funded at a sufficient level, they can, in conjunction with other partners, play a fuller part in improving social mobility by helping children and young people realise their full potential.

It is not the role of education to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. Diagnosis and treatment needs to be done by specialist professionals who are adequately trained, qualified and clinically supervised.

Schools are already accountable for the personal development, welfare and safety of children and young people and should not be held further accountable for EHWB through inspection.

ASCL believes that:

  • every teacher is a teacher of SEND
  • every leader is a leader of SEND
  • there needs to be a greater investment in the development of SEND CPDL that focuses on the expectation of all staff having a basic understanding of the key skills and knowledge necessary to ensure that every teacher is a teacher of SEND. This needs to be supported by the positioning of SEND at the heart of school leadership and not seeing it as the exclusive preserve of the SENCo

Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, including sex and relationships education (SRE), is an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. PSHE (including SRE) should be a statutory, but not prescriptive, part of children’s learning.

To allow schools the flexibility to deliver high-quality PSHE and SRE which meets the needs of their communities, we consider it unnecessary for the government to provide standardised frameworks or programmes of study. 

ASCL wants all young people to succeed in order to realise their full potential and to create a workforce with the capacity and skills to enable the UK to thrive in a global economy.  We welcome the contribution all type of schools, colleges and universities can and do make to this through collaboration and partnership.  

The evidence we have seen does not support the premise that the further expansion of selection will improve education for the majority of young people. The evidence indicates that it will have a damaging impact on the life chances of the majority who do not attend a selective school.

The expansion of selection is a distraction to the profession’s efforts to ensure that the education system works for everyone.  

The best way to deliver a good school place for every child is to ensure existing schools and colleges have sufficient funding and access to a ready supply of high quality teachers and leaders.

ASCL welcomes the DfE’s support for the Isle of Wight Council to contest the decision regarding term-time holidays. To support members in their decisionmaking we would welcome greater clarity on what constitutes 'exceptional circumstances'. ASCL would also welcome and support the introduction of more robust means-tested penalties as a deterrent. 

In a school led system, it is for each school to determine the curriculum that meets the needs of its students; this includes alternative provision. ASCL agrees that alternative provision for students should be of a high quality, and this should be determined by specialist staff and service providers. ASCL urges the government to ensure that there is equity of access to alternative provision regardless of location, specialists or facilities.

ASCL welcomes the opportunity to support any government initiative to increase the rights of all children, including refugees and asylum seekers, to the highest quality education. This must include sufficient funding and resources to support their specific needs.

Schools accept the need to promote EHWB, but not to treat students (this is the remit of health professionals). Those treating young people for EHWB need adequate training, qualifications and clinical supervision. This area of work needs to be adequately resourced before the needs of students become acute.

ASCL is seriously concerned about the proxy indicators used in local formulas to distribute the high incidence low costs special needs funding. This leads to significant variability in the ability to meet need across the country. ASCL calls for consistency, clarity, predictability and security of funding for the most vulnerable students wherever they are educated.

ASCL welcomes the greater clarity of the new SEND system and its potential to improve the life chances of those children with special needs and disabilities. In order to fulfil their new responsibilities, schools will need:

  • Clear and widely agreed methods for assessing the needs of SEND students and allocating resources
  • Simple and timely access to top up funding to meet the additional needs of High Need students
  • Notional SEN amounts in school budgets that are sufficient to provide for non-High Need SEND students