Manifesto 2024

Five policies to drive inclusion and get the best from AP

If central government can’t solve our problems, we must be empowered to find and implement our own solutions

If central government can’t solve our problems, we must be empowered to find and implement our own solutions

28 Jun 2024, 5:00

I was at a conference recently where a senior civil servant (who I have a great deal of respect for) looked me dead in the eye and said: “don’t look to the centre for solutions”.

Reflecting on his description of clunky legislation, absence of funding and a lack of any other effective levers could have brought me down. Instead, it galvanised me to work for the system change we need now.

If the next government need some ready-made solutions, here are five to begin with.

Progress 9

An inclusion measure should be added to any data system put in place to both asses schools’ performance and encourage more balance in their curriculum offer.    

From September, that ninth measure should be pupil mobility, i.e. do your reception-aged pupils become your year 6 pupils, or your year 7 pupils become your year 11s? A tenth could be whether a school’s population reflects its community’s in terms of pupils with additional needs, EAL, levels of poverty, homelessness and EHCPs. 

Any pupils who are children in care or who have previously been permanently excluded from another school should count on your inclusion marker by a factor of 5. 

Importantly, there should be a threshold score below which you should not be able to receive a judgement of ‘Good’ or above from Ofsted.

Register all provision

There should be no such thing as unregistered provision. We cannot keep putting the most vulnerable, needy and challenging pupils (who require the highest standards of education and safeguarding ) into unregulated and unregistered provision. 

All pupils in third-party provision should be on the role of a school and all third-party provision should be registered through the school the pupils are on the role of.

In addition, a set of national standards for education and safeguarding (perhaps based on the independent schools standards) must be put in place so that these provisions can be inspected as part of the schools or LA inspection process.

End off-rolling

Schools that hit a threshold of two per cent of its pupils being permanently excluded for persistent disruptive behaviour or one per cent of its pupils leaving for Elective Home Education should be subject to a statutory safeguarding visit from Ofsted.  

This visit should be laser-focussed on the reasons a school is not meeting the needs of its community.  Rapid improvement plans should then be put in place to measure progress on this and reviewed half-termly, with an expectation of progress within two terms.

An enriching curriculum

The narrow focus on 8 subjects and massive content in all stages of the education curriculum is clearly failing children. Today, 92,000 children are being home-educated, we have record numbers of permanent exclusions and suspensions, record low attendance and over 1.5 million pupils designated as having special needs.

In a post-Govid world, we should see the reintroduction of arts, music and movement alongside the ‘important’ subjects. This approach should embrace positive experiences outside of school with registered third-party providers.

Doing so will enrich all pupils’ learning and reduce the need for labels, diagnoses and exclusions.

Collaboration and support

Appropriate provision should be at the heart of any education system, flexing to meet the needs of the pupil rather than excluding pupils and staff.  When pupils are experiencing difficulty, appropriate support should be readily available early to ensure behaviours and attitudes do not become entrenched. 

Channelling much more resource into early years provision is a big part of the answer. Therefore, every school should have significant links with its local nurseries and childcare providers. This will encourage the development of pedagogy, practice and support for all professionals and do away with the false hierarchies that define the current system.

We need an education system that meets the needs of pupils and communities with flexibility, that measures the important things carefully, and that recognises education’s role today as the leading civic institution for families.

If we can’t look to the centre for solutions, the centre needs to empower us to come up with them and implement them. These five policies will go a long way to doing that.

This article is part of a series of sector-led policies in the run-up to the next general election. Read all the others here

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