SEND review

SEND contextual league tables plan shelved

DfE claims proposals had 'mixed feedback', with concerns it could 'risk generating perverse incentives'

DfE claims proposals had 'mixed feedback', with concerns it could 'risk generating perverse incentives'

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Ministers have shelved SEND review plans to use performance league tables to reveal how inclusive mainstream schools are.

The SEND and AP green paper said adding contextual information alongside results would “make it easier to recognise” schools that were “doing well for children with SEND”.

While it provided few details, the government admitted it had heard “too many examples” of mainstream schools that were not inclusive, although accountability measures could be seen as “a disincentive” to take on SEND pupils.

But last week’s finalised SEND improvement plan failed to mention the proposal.

The Department for Education told Schools Week it had “carefully” considered the “benefits and drawbacks of making data on how many pupils in a school have SEN more prominent in performance tables”.

But the proposals had “mixed feedback”, with concerns it could “risk generating perverse incentives”.

“We will continue to show information about a school’s cohort, including pupils with SEN, alongside attainment and progress data, but we do not plan to make cohort information more prominent for now.”

Concerns relate to identification ‘inconsistencies’

It is understood concerns related to inconsistencies in how children with SEND are identified, which the new national standards seek to rectify.

A 2021 report by the Education Policy Institute found a “lottery” in SEND identification.

The primary school a pupil attended made more difference to their chances of being identified as SEND than anything about them as an individual, their experiences or where they lived.

Bridget Phillipson
Bridget Phillipson

Leora Cruddas, the chief executive at the Confederation of School Trusts, said it was the right decision “at the moment”.

“What the improvement plan rightly focuses on is improving the expertise of the workforce…this is likely to result in much better outcomes for pupils and young people.”

But James Bowen, a policy director at the heads’ union NAHT, said it was “disappointing” as there “is a strong sense within the profession [that] the current accountability system does not appropriately recognise the most inclusive schools”.

“There is no doubt this would be a complex issue to deal with, but it is important that schools doing a particularly good job for pupils with SEND are recognised and certainly not penalised.”

Vic Goddard, the headteacher of Passmores Academy in Essex, which is known as a “SEND magnet school”, said contextual league tables would tell “a story” to parents that was not just about results.

Scrapping the idea was “just another weakening of the position of the schools that are inclusive”.

Dashboards will not show school-level data

Plans to publish “inclusion dashboards” are due to be trialled next month, but they will only show metrics based on the local area rather than school-level.

It will take at least three years for the government’s major SEND reforms to be fully rolled out. Key policies, such as producing national SEND standards and funding tariffs, will be trialled as part of a £70 million “change programme”.

Claire Coutinho
Claire Coutinho

Ministers will then finalise policies and decide whether to legislate, but not in this parliament.

A £9.8 million, two-year contract has now gone live for the creation of “a blueprint of the future system”.

Documents say testing “will be the critical success factor along with the ability to iterate at pace”.

A “continuous feedback loop of intelligence” will need to be made to the DfE to “learn fast and understand in real time what is working and what isn’t.”

Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s shadow education secretary, told MPs on Monday the plan was “symptomatic of a government who have simply given up and who are governing through a mixture of distraction and delay, pushing the tough decisions to the other side of the election”.

But Claire Coutinho, the children’s minister, told the Commons that “it is important that we consult and take time to get it right” when “setting out steps like national standards”.

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