A downgrade for SEND on the political agenda?

We look at the news and events to be aware of in the education and SEND world, powered by Driver Youth Trust.


After Robert Goodwill was removed from post in the reshuffle after just six months, the role of minister of state for children and families has been passed to the junior minister Nadhim Zahawi, a parliamentary under secretary. In the Guardian a coalition of children’s charities including Barnardo’s, Unicef, the Children’s Society, and the NSPCC are concerned that “the loss of the children’s minister as a full minister of state signals that the role is being deprioritised.” 

Driver Youth Trust share this concern with regard to SEND. In their first policy podcast (listen here) they asked “shouldn’t every minster in the Department be a minister for SEND?”  Mr Zahawi who confirmed in a written question last week that he will be called the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families has still not had his full departmental responsibilities confirmed. However, the number of important policy areas in need of addressing are growing, the first of which is ensuring that our school system is accountable for the outcomes of SEND learners and those who struggle with literacy.

Elsewhere, last week Dan Baynes blogged asking what the appointment of Damian Hinds meant for the Department for Education’s list of priorities.  The conclusion was that although there will be a degree of policy divergence, the core dogma at the heart of the Department’s mission is social mobility. This was confirmed by Hinds’ first announcement last Friday which released the next set of Opportunity Area plans, including HastingsDriver Youth Trust welcomes the focus on literacy for SEND pupils. Read their response to the plan here.

Six Opportunity Area Plans Released 

The next six Opportunity Area reports have been released by the Department for Education, including one for Hastings. 

The report makes improving literacy a key priority with 63% of disadvantaged pupils meeting expected standard in phonics, as opposed to 69% nationally. DYT has consistently reported on this issue and the much wider gap for children and young people with SEND. KS2 SATs results revealed that the gap between SEND pupils and non-SEND pupils has risen to 52% in 2017.

The OA partnership boards acknowledgement of these inequalities and DYT’s work in addressing them, is a step-change for schools in the town. DYT looks forward to supporting the development and implementation of these plans over the next three years.

SEND experts demand review of high-needs funding rules

Schools Week reports on concerns from Brian Gale, the director of policy and campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society about a rule-change due in 2019 that will see more pupils sent to special schools.

Gale said that changes to the high needs funding formula would “give schools a licence to move pupils into special schools without having to face the funding cut.” He went on to say that the whole approach to educating SEND pupils was “inherently flawed” and should be reviewed.

The warning comes as The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) updated its guidance on high needs funding arrangements for 2018/19 to reflect the forthcoming introduction of the new national funding formula.

Read more.


Written Questions 

  • Stephanie Peacock MP asks Nick Gibb about whether GCSEs will be available in British Sign Language.
  • Valerie Vaz MP asked what recent discussions the government had with local authorities to discuss their statutory responsibilities for children with disabilities. See the answer. 
  • Labour’s shadow minister for children and families, Emma Lewell-Buck asked what estimate the government has made of the number of children with special educational needs and disabilities who are home educated.
  • Julie Cooper MP asked how many children with EHCPs had been excluded in each local authority in the last five years. Find the statistics here.

PPS to Education Secretary announced 

Simon Hoare MP has been appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Damian Hinds. In the role, Hoare will act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the minister in the House of Commons.

DfE questioned over Multi Academy Trust accountability

The Education Committee has called for Regional Schools Commissioners to publish information about MATs regarding to finances and performance, it follows the controversial failure of the WCAT academy chain.


Lord Addington asked the Government about whether it is only students with education, health and care plans that are regarded as having the need for support when undertaking an apprenticeship; and if so, why. Read the debate correspondence here.

On this week:


Skills devolution in England  

A Westminster Hall debate on skills devolution in England is scheduled for Tuesday 23 January 2018 at 9:30am. The Member initiating the debate is Catherine West.

Hearing on social mobility 

At 10am – The Education Committee questions Rt Hon Alan Milburn over his decision to resign as Chair of the Social Mobility Commission and his views on the Government’s progress towards improving social mobility in the UK. The purpose and role of the Commission will also be examined.


House of Lords debate children not in school 

In the House of Lords there is a debate on the safeguarding of children who are not attending school at 3pm.

The National Foundation for Educational Research has released a new report: School Funding in England Since 2010 – What the key Evidence Tells Us

The research investigates different pupil characteristics and finds special educational needs (SEN) pupils in mainstream schools in particular benefit from additional spending, especially spending on teachers. Spending on teaching assistants improves outcomes for the least able, along with those who are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) and those whose first language is not English. The authors note that this, in turn, helps to narrow the achievement gap between these pupils and their peers.

Strict traditional teaching methods are ‘pushing oracy out’, says MP – Schools Week

Traditionalist “chalk and talk” pedagogy is pushing oracy skills out of the curriculum to the detriment of poorer pupils, according to Emma Hardy (MP for Hull West) who was once a primary teacher.

Read here.

What makes a good investment in SEND? – Gareth Morewood, Optimus Education 

A whole-school approach to improving outcomes for pupils with SEND means not only an investment of money, but also training priorities and time. 

Read here. 

‘Let GCSE resit students keep access arrangements they had in school’ – Andrew Otty, TES

Having to apply from scratch for special access arrangements for GCSE resit students wastes colleges’ time and resources.

Read here. 

Pupils could be ‘labelled for life’ in data collection plan – Sky News 

Local authorities will record information on the reasons children are transferred from mainstream education.

Read here. 


For live updates on education policy follow Whole School SEND and Driver Youth Trust on Twitter.

Dan Baynes is Policy and Research Executive for Driver Youth Trust

Dan Baynes, Driver Youth Trust