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The identification and support of pupils with hidden disabilities (especially autism) in schools

A crisis in the identification of  special educational needs (SEN) and in SEN provision.

Rescare trustee Simon Burdis, who has considerable professional experience of SEN provision in schools, recently wrote to ministers at the DfE and DoH to express his exasperation at the current sitiuation (notwithstanding the reforms outlined in the Children and Families Act and associated SEND regulations).

Please take the time to read Simon’s questions to ministers, and the (lengthy) reply from a spokesperson at the DfE.

SEN

From: Simon Burdis
Sent: ‎22/‎10/‎2015 12:25
To: ministers@education.gsi.gov.uk; alistair.burt.mp@parliament.uk
Subject: Campaign to end (mental health) stigma in teenagers

to. The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP Sec of State for Education and The Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister for Health

cc. Tim Farron MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP for information only

I would be grateful if you could read and have regard to my email below to the Time to Change charity.
Having extensive recent experience of working in education, I am concerned by the assertive avoidance of identifying special educational needs and in particular hidden disabilities such as autism which is increasing the number of pupils developing mental health conditions at huge cost to those young people, their families and society as a whole.
Further, good teachers are being blamed for being incompetent and schools designated as underperforming when they are having to cope with increasing numbers of children with SEN whose needs and disabling conditions have not been identified, addressed or supported under pressure from Ofsted, LA Children’s Services departments and central government as part of a cost-cutting agenda by stealth. They are having to cope in classes that are too large, without the required training and without the specialist support services which have also been hugely reduced or cut altogether or which have never existed. These cuts began under Labour in 2008-9, became entrenched and deepened despite false claims that schools were being protected in 2010 with the Coalition Government and have reached new depraved depths now in 2015.
Far too much taxpayers’ money has been squandered on warfare, nuclear weapons that can never be used and which are not protecting us, and in subsidising the failed nuclear power industry which has blighted public health, the environment and economic development for decades.
I do hope the Prime Minister has another think for the sake of the country.
Yours sincerely
Simon Burdis

From: Simon Burdis
Sent: ‎22/‎10/‎2015 11:47
To: info@time-to-change.org.uk
Subject: Campaign to end stigma in teenagers

I was interested to hear Sue Baker’s interview on the BBC today. One of the main issues not mentioned is the large number of children with special educational needs and in particular, hidden disabilities such as autism, which are not being identified, diagnosed or supported in a timely manner or in some cases not at all.
Schools have been put under pressure to avoid the identification of SEN pupils by Ofsted, local and central government as part of the cuts agenda. It is cynically assumed that if special needs are not identified, then there is no need to make any provision for them, but the cost savings are temporary, short term and illusory as the numbers of young people with mental health issues increases.
A high proportion of those with high functioning autism / Asperger Syndrome develop mental health conditions and especially if their autistic spectrum disorder disability is not addressed when they are younger. The change from the previous Statementing system to the current SEN procedure and the manner of its implementation has been a disaster for children with SEN and their families.
Yours sincerely
Simon Burdis

 

From: ***@education.gsi.gov.uk
Sent: ‎12/‎11/‎2015 16:51
To: simonb***@***
Subject: Support of ASD in schools CRM:0875015

Dear Mr Burdis,
Thank you for your emails of 22 October raising your concerns about the identification and support of pupils with hidden disabilities in schools, especially children with autism. Your emails were sent to me to respond to as I am part of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Unit of the Department for Education.
We introduced the Children and Families Act 2014, SEND Regulations and the SEND code of practice 0-to-25<https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-code-of-practice-0-to-25> to address weaknesses in the earlier SEND system. This represents the biggest reforms to the Special Educational Needs and Disability system in a generation, ensuring that support is focused on needs and aspirations, enabling all pupils, including those who have autism, to achieve better outcomes in education and adult life.
The new system covers 0-25 year olds and has a stronger focus on participation of children and young people and their families so that it is responsive at both school and local authority level.
The Children and Families Act 2014 brings real benefits for children and young people with autism and their families. It is particularly beneficial because:
·       children with autism often need support from education, health and social care, and the new Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans provide a coordinated person centred approach. Already we have seen evidence of improved ways of assessing children that involve all three agencies;
·       young people with autism can find the transition to adulthood particularly problematic and the Act and the accompanying SEND Code of Practice have a strong focus on this.
We are encouraged by the finding in National Autistic Society report (School Report 2015 September 2015) that showed where children received a new EHC Plan, families reported significantly higher satisfaction with the contents of that plan compared to SEN Statements.
Every school is required under the Children and Families Act to identify and address the SEN of the pupils that they support.  They must use their best endeavours to make sure that a child with SEN gets the support that they need – this means doing everything that they can to meet their SEN.  They must designate a teacher as SEN co-ordinator (SENCO) to co-ordinate SEN provision and a member of the governing body must have oversight to the school’s SEN arrangements.  All schools have to produce a SEN information report setting out their arrangements.  Chapter 6 of the SEND code of practice at 6.14-6.27 sets out high expectations for schools identifying SEN and coordinating class and subject teachers to regularly assess pupils.
Although statistics we collect through the school census have changed in 2015 the period 2010-2014 indicates that the numbers of children identified by schools as having ASD has increased year on year.
The table below shows those children in schools in the last five years who had a statement, or who were on school action plus, whose primary need was autistic spectrum disorder. These figures will not include pre-school children with autism or children with autism who have a different primary special educational need.  This data covers only those in school; those in further education are not included.
2010       56,250
2011       61,575
2012       66,195
2013       70,785
2014       76,015

In 2015, the primary educational need was collected also for those children on SEN support: 90,775 children were recorded as having as a primary need autistic spectrum disorder, but given the change in collection methodology, this cannot be compared with the earlier years.
At January 2015 60% of children identified by schools and local authorities whose primary need was an autistic spectrum disorder had SEND statements or EHC plans with extra support being arranged by the local authority. This is a higher percentage than for most other types of need. In future it is expected that many children and young people with autism will benefit from the extra and more co-ordinated support that comes with EHC plans. Support for those with autism but without EHC plans will also be improving under the new arrangements. As the SEN code of practice guidance makes it clear that children with autism can have difficulties across all four main areas of need:-
communication and interaction;  cognition and learning; social, emotional and mental health difficulties; sensory and/or physical needs.

I am concerned about your feedback on teachers failing to, or indeed being discouraged from identifying and meeting the needs of pupils with SEND. The Department recognises the importance of teachers building on and developing their awareness and understanding of SEN. As part of their initial training, all qualified teachers in England should be able to identify and respond to children’s individual needs. In addition, the National College for Teaching and Leadership has produced a series of specialist online courses which focus on dyslexia, autism, behavioural difficulties and speech and language needs. These can be found at: www.education.gov.uk/lamb.
The National Association for SEN (nasen) are delivering conferences for school leaders and teachers, with funding from the Department, and have produced ‘how to’ materials supporting assessment of pupil progress and use of teaching assistants. Further funding is being provided for nasen to develop a new SEND Gateway www.sendgateway.org.uk which was launched in May 2014. This is an online portal offering education professionals free easy access to high quality information, resources and training for meeting the needs of children with SEN and disabilities.

Far from discouraging schools from identifying SEN, Ofsted have a key role in reporting the quality of SEND services in schools. This is set out in their School Inspection Handbook September 2015.  “Inspectors will report on the achievement of disabled pupils and those who have special educational needs. This includes reporting on the pupils in any specialist resource provision managed by the governing body and the extent to which the education the school provides meets the needs of these pupils.” (Paragraph 146).

In respect of funding, a £70m SEN Reform Grant has gone to local authorities in 2014-15 to help plan for the reforms, with an additional £45.2m in 2014-15 to help meet the additional costs of implementing the reforms and a further £31.7m in 2015-16. We are also providing £30m from 2014-2016 for recruitment and training of Independent Supporters to help families who need support during the EHC needs assessment and planning development process.

Overall funding levels have not been changed and local authorities are responsible for making sure not only that such children are placed in the most appropriate school, whether special or mainstream, but also that the school is allocated the funding required to meet their needs.

Additionally you may be interested to know that the Department is also supporting a range of contracts and grants with Voluntary and Community Sector organisations to support children with autism.  These provide specialist advice, information and support to local areas on supporting children and young people with autism. We have procured the following support for autism for 2015-16:
o   Ambitious about Autism (FE pathways) – £239,502 VCS National Prospectus grant.  A national training programme for college and post-16 tutors to support young autistic people coming from school into college.
o   Friends of Lighthouse School (pathways to employment for young people with autism) – £75,000 VCS National Prospectus grant.  Supporting young autistic people into employment via an internships programme.
o   National Autistic Society (autism exclusions) – £160,965 VCS National Prospectus grant.  Prevention of exclusion of children and young people with autism by providing information and advice on best practice to families and professionals via professionals’ network and via their exclusions helpline.
o   Autism Education Trust (specialist autism support) – £650,000 contract.  An umbrella organisation, bringing together people and organisations across the autism sector. Funded to provide tiered training at ‘universal’, ‘enhanced’ and ‘specialist’ levels for early years, school and further education staff.  Has provided training through sub-contracted ‘hubs’, for nearly 80,000 education staff. Also published national autism standards for educational settings and a competency framework for those working with children and young people with autism.
Finally the numbers of special schools approved to support children with ASD has increased since 2004, when 399 maintained special schools and 22 non-maintained special schools were approved for pupils with ASD. By 2014 we had 587 maintained special schools and 41 non-maintained special schools in England approved to make provision for pupils with ASD. Additionally, 113 independent schools admit children with autism and there are now 5 Free Schools which specialise in provision for children with autism and 8 of the ten free special schools scheduled to open in 2015 will take children with autism.

In March 2015, DfE published a framework for SEND accountability that provides the structure for improving outcomes and experiences for children, young people and their families. It will show how the system is performing, hold partners to account and support self-improvement.

Thank you for raising your concerns, it is helpful to receive feedback and we recognise that the SEND reforms will take time to fully embed.  I hope that my response provides helpful reassurance. Your correspondence has been allocated reference 2015/*** . If you need to respond to us, please visit www.education.gov.uk/contactus and quote your reference number.

Yours sincerely,

Debbie Sanders,
Department for Education
SEND Unit, Great Smith Street,
London SW1 3PT

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