Final Friday, Faculties Week ran an interview concerning the SEND system with Tony McArdle, an adviser to the Division for Training. It wasn’t a nice learn – nevertheless it was an essential one. The general public doesn’t usually hear from McArdle, and he provided an essential glimpse into the way forward for the SEND system.
Nonetheless, whereas McArdle is correct to say that the SEND system “manifestly doesn’t work any extra”, he’s flawed in his prognosis and his framing of threat. Now we have deep considerations concerning the SEND overview’s path of journey. It’s largely been carried out behind closed doorways by the identical cadre of leaders and advisers who blithely drove the SEND system over a cliff pre-pandemic. These leaders have concluded that we – households and faculties – are the principle downside with the SEND system.
Mr McArdle sees the SEND disaster as a “demand” downside. Too many kids and younger individuals with EHCPs, too many who don’t actually need them, too many in costly specialist provision. His recipe for a wholesome SEND system means households and faculties need to cease sucking an already depleted system dry. It’s about dad and mom understanding their place, and faculties – notably mainstream – doing extra with much less.
What particular proof does McArdle provide for this alleged EHCP extra? He doesn’t – which is shocking, given we’re over 1,270 days into the SEND overview, with a supply-side disaster seen from house.
Ofsted has now inspected each native space’s SEND providers. Most have vital weaknesses, and none of those who Ofsted recognized featured an extra of EHCPs. Dysfunctional management? In spades. Faulty joint working? Widespread. Kafkaesque processes? Rampant. All supply-side issues.
The one individuals who consider it’s too simple to get an EHCP are those that’ve by no means tried to get one. And no one will get a first-draft EHCP as tightly-written as McArdle’s personal ‘golden ticket’ – a 28-page, £50,000 contract. Poor LA decision-making is why they solely have a 3.7 per cent success charge at SEND tribunal hearings, a efficiency 12 occasions worse than the Residence Workplace achieves at immigration tribunals.
How leaders body threat tells us rather a lot. McArdle made his views clear: he primarily desires to cease the monetary dysfunction within the SEND system damaging extra essential issues. These leaders will not be appearing to avoid wasting kids with SEND from the system however to avoid wasting the broader system from SEND.
McArdle’s ‘security valve’ scheme demonstrates this. We dug into the KPIs that councils have to fulfill. They’re monetary, psychotically exact, and include swift penalties if LAs fail to fulfill them. With out significant accountability elsewhere within the system, they’re an open invitation to extra illegal behaviour from LAs.
Now we have not seen a single ‘security valve’ KPI that tracks outcomes for disabled kids. Over three years into the SEND overview, we nonetheless don’t understand how the DfE measures worth for cash in SEND. We requested them. They’re not telling.
Getting dad and mom and faculties to do extra with much less may work for system leaders. However you’d need to be completely indifferent from front-line actuality to consider that it’ll work for kids with SEND, notably given the pressures that faculties and schools are beneath proper now.
Are they indifferent from actuality? Ask McArdle, who thinks dad and mom and college workers do what we do “as a result of that’s seen as the sport you should [play]”.
It’s not a sport to us, Tony. It’s not a sport to the deaf pupil we just lately supported whose LA tried eradicating him from his particular college whereas his mom was dying from most cancers. It’s not a sport to particular college leaders with ravaged budgets and workers shortages who’re desperately making an attempt to work out easy methods to function safely.
It’s not a sport to mainstream educating assistants who’re shedding their jobs as a result of their LA gained’t enhance top-up banding as a result of their security valve settlement forbids it. And it’s not a sport to households who lose their jobs, financial savings, homes and psychological well being to get one thing that the majority households can take as a right – an sufficient training for his or her kids.
It’s not a sport, Tony. It’s our lives and our kids’s futures. We don’t get to decide on if we play.