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Speech by the Secretary of State for Education to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Conference

July 14, 2018

On Thursday the 5th July, the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds spoke to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Conference.

Secretary of State Inaugural Address in full.

In what was one of the first speeches outlining his priorities since his appointment, the Secretary of State highlighted SEND as a priority for him and his Department.

The NNPCF were delighted to see five of the key areas we have raised to the government referenced in the speech:

  • Financial pressures on the SEND system
  • The experiences of children with SEND in mainstream schools
  • The regulatory framework
  • More joined up working with other government departments, including Health
  • The importance of employment

 

The Secretary of State made some key commitments to take actions that the NNPCF and our partners in the sector have been calling for. It is vital that the government delivers on the promise shown in this speech and on the 11th of July, NNPCF co-chairs Maureen Morris and Mrunal Sisodia spoke to officials at the Department for Education about how we will work with them to ensure that the plans they develop deliver better outcomes for our children and families.

The NNPCF steering group would like to thank our members – their efforts ensure that we are focusing on the key points with the credibility and the evidence to make sure that we are heard. We will continue to represent the lived experiences of families with SEND to the people that make decisions and work in partnership with them to improve outcomes for our children and young people.

Please find below an analysis of the Secretary of State’s speech, focusing on the areas that the NNPCF has highlighted to government.

 

Financial pressures on the SEND system

There was a recognition from Damian Hinds that many local areas are under financial pressure.

“While we had record investment in the education for children with complex SEND at £6 billion this year – it’s clear that budgets are under pressure. And, frankly, this is difficult – I can’t say today that I have all the answers”

Over the last few months, this has been the single largest issue that forums have raised to the NNPCF steering group.  In our State of the Nation report we told the Department for Education that funding pressures meant that many local areas cannot deliver the legal requirements of the Children and Families Act and we signed the Special Educational Consortium position statement on high needs funding.

We note that the Minister offered no solutions but we are pleased that he recognised the issue and we will continue to highlight this area as the government prepares for the comprehensive spending review.

 

The experiences of children with SEND in mainstream schools

On the issue of exclusions and the national trend moving away from inclusion in mainstream schools, the Secretary of State said:

“We know there has been a steady movement of children with special educational needs out of mainstream schools and into specialist provision, alternative provision and home education.

At the same time, rates of exclusion have begun to rise after a period of having calmed down.

And I hear too many stories about off-rolling, with schools finding ways to remove pupils, outside of the formal exclusions system. And of what is, essentially, pre-emptive exclusion, where parents looking at secondary schools are actively or in some way subtly discouraged from applying to a particular school for their child.

And I want to be clear right now: this is not okay. SEND pupils are not someone else’s problem. Every school is a school for pupils with SEND; and every teacher is a teacher of SEND pupils.”

 

The NNPCF are pleased to see that the points we have raised in our State of the nation report and in our SEN support talking point have been recognised. We will continue to work with the DfE to see that SEND is embedded into the values and culture of every school.

In addition, he referenced the exclusions inquiry that is being led by Edward Timpson. For our input into the inquiry see our response and the write up of the roundtable meeting attended by the NNPCF co-chairs in June

“I am clear that permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort”

 

The regulatory framework

 

At the ministerial roundtable with Nadhim Zahawi all the stakeholders spoke about the need to make sure that the Ofsted regulatory regime gave greater emphasis on how well schools supported children with SEND. The Secretary of State reflected this:

 

“This includes working with Ofsted to make sure our accountability system sufficiently rewards schools for their work with pupils who need extra support, and to encourage schools to focus on all pupils, not just the highest achievers.”

The Secretary of State also committed to extend the Ofsted / CQC Local Area inspection regime as we called for in our State of the Nation report and in our Local Area Inspections talking point 

“I will be asking Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission to design a programme of further local area SEND inspections to follow the current round, due to conclude in 2021; and for their advice on further inspection or monitoring of those areas required to produce a ‘Written Statement of Action'”

 

More joined up working with other government departments including Health

Joint working is a key tenant of the Code of Practice and the NNPCF has been urging Ministers to take a lead in ensuring their departments work together more effectively. We raised this in our meetings with Nadhim Zahawi in January and in our conversations with Caroline Dinenage at the Department of Health and Sarah Newton at the Department for Work and Pensions. Damian Hinds echoed our calls:

 

“I want to look at how my department, working with the Department for Health and Social Care and NHS England, can support local authorities and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to more effectively plan and commission SEND provision.”

 

The importance of employment

We have consistently raised the importance of employment for young people with SEND. We have raised how poor employment opportunities really are and how confusing the pathways into employment can be in our meeting with Sarah Newton the Disabilities Minister. Damian Hinds recognised these concerns

 

“I want to increase our efforts to help young people with SEND access opportunities that will help them find employment – building on the work we’re already doing such as the supported internships programme.”