EXCLUSIVE: National curriculum test plans ‘contravene’ rights of SEN pupils, expert complains

EXCLUSIVE: National curriculum test plans ‘contravene’ rights of SEN pupils, expert complains

Complaints about new proposals for assessing pupils with lower attainment have been passed to the Children’s Commissioner after a special needs expert spotted they could contravene children’s rights.

The Department for Education (DfE) released interim recommendations last week, advising on arrangements for lower ability pupils sitting the new national curriculum tests due to begin in May 2016.

One proposal recommends that children who are able to work at the standard of the tests should nevertheless not take them if their special educational needs or disability (SEND) make them inaccessible, even with modification arrangements.

Barney Angliss, SEND co-ordinator at Rydens Enterprise School in Surrey, has written to the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, to say the recommendation goes against the Equality Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

He told Schools Week: “It is quite extraordinary that they have done this.

“Their recommendation is discriminatory because if you are suggesting that a child is working at the level of a test but, because they have a disability, they can’t access it, then you have a legal duty to make the test accessible.

“There is no reason why this situation should arise if the test has been correctly designed.”

The recommendations are an initial part of the Rochford Review, led by headteacher Diane Rochford, and created to focus on statutory assessment of the more than 50,000 pupils whose ability falls below the national curriculum standards at key stage 1 and 2.

Simon Knight, deputy headteacher at Frank Wise School in Banbury, Oxfordshire, said the recommendations so far do not “appear to fully consider those pupils with the most complex needs.

“It is essential, particularly for our most complex learners, that we focus on meeting individual need and that statutory assessment captures what has been learned and does not determine what is to be taught.”

Mr Angliss added: “If the children’s commissioner can persuade the DfE to withdraw the recommendations as they stand, and that they be reworked so that they recognise the legal responsibilities to children with disabilities, that would be a way forward.

“If the DfE is not willing to withdraw and rework the recommendations, I would expect the children’s commissioner to challenge more formally, presumably through a legal process.”

A spokesperson from the office of the children’s commissioner said: “We thank Mr Angliss for bringing this issue to our attention. We will consider the points he has raised in due course.”

The DfE said the final Rochford Review recommendations will be released “early in the new year”.