Policy Update, Dec 7

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

Filtering what matters in the education sector. #DYTWeekAhead #SENDed

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks for news for our sector, starting with a blow to the Department for Education, as all four Commissioners for the Social Mobility Commission resigned. The Chair Alan Milburn said “Theresa May’s administration does not have the ‘necessary bandwith’ to make Britain a fairer, more open society.” See our blog on social mobility  where we ask, where does SEND fit in? 

In response, Justine Greening appeared on Marr to re-establish her mission, and it was encouraging to see Marr ask Greening about SEND (watch from 7:48 here); he noted the rise in SEND learners being home educated and the number of parents taking their local authority to court. Greening said we are moving in the “right direction” following the reforms in 2014. It is good to see this vital issue getting the much overdue spotlight it deserves. The series of reports on BBC Breakfast from Jayne McCubbin should be thanked for bringing this into the mainstream, see #BBCSEND to catch up on twitter.

 For the new year:

  • New measures to radically improve mental health in schools

On Monday the government published their long awaited “Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision” green paper. They have pledged £300m for mental health leads in schools by 2019 to develop a “whole school approach” to mental health and well-being.

The consultation is now open and runs until midday on 2 March 2018, respond here and learn more with this video.

DYT will respond, ensuring the link between dyslexia & SEND with mental health conditions is prioritised; the DfE has already carried out studies into the wellbeing of secondary school pupils with SENPlease do get in touch with your concerns.

  • New Strategy seeks one million more disabled people in work by 2027

A cross-governmental approach to get more disabled people into work has been announced by the government in response to its Work, health and disability green paper consultation. £39 million will be invested to build upon the Disability Confident scheme and other trials.

Elsewhere, the new careers strategy’s first point included an aim to “break down the barriers that currently mean that people with special educational needs and disabilities, or those from disadvantaged groups, experience significantly lower employment rates.” 

The rhetoric and prioritisation of disabled employment and careers advice is encouraging but must be met with firm action to help disabled people achieve their goals and ambition to lead a fulfilling life. DYT will be keeping a watch on the action.

See our blog on disabled teachers here.

  • Government response to grammar schools “evidence check” 

Although we are still awaiting the DfE’s response to the grammar schools consultation from last year, they have responded to the Education Committee. Remarkably, selection and the issue of expansion of grammars are barely mentioned in the document and we believe the door is still open for a return to the policy of expanding grammar schools.

DYT’s view is that there is no benefit of pursuing a policy which seeks to return to universal selective education. Read our fact sheet and response.

  •  £45m “boost” for young people with SEND 

Yet more money is made available to help implement the Children and Families Act as councils are still to convert old statements into EHCPs. The government claims the new money will continue to transform SEN provision and put families at the heart of the system.

DYT’s Joining the Dots report asked three years ago ‘have recent reforms worked for those with SEND?’ We warned then that fragmentation and poor communication would be a key barrier to the reforms having an impact; this most recent announcement shows that this is still the case. 

  • LKmco report on assessment. 

In a new report, our friends at LKmco claim that most classroom teachers lack confidence assessing their pupils and that schools should use more low stakes assessments.

Tomorrow, DYT’s Richard Selfridge will be speaking at the Wesminster Education Forum on ‘Holding primary schools to account for the right things’: latest from the ASCL-led review.’ Find out more details here.


Urgent question on social mobility strategy 

Robert Goodwill was forced to defend the government’s commitments to improving social mobility in Parliament on Monday.

Read more.

Education Committee scrutinises MAT CEO pay

Image via Schools Week.

Academies Minister Lord Agnew faced his first grilling by the Education Committee covering a range of issues. National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter also faced questions on Ofsted inspecting MATs and the rise of executive pay in MATs.

Schools Week covers the six things you need to know.

Coming up: 

On Friday the Archbishop of Canterbury leads a debate in the House of Lords on the “role of education in building a flourishing and skilled society” (10am, Main chamber)


The Disabled Children’s Partnership launched the next phase of the #SecretLifeofUs campaign. They want the Government to take steps to ensure health and social care services work for disabled children and their families.

Read the five steps here and how you can get involved to help support them.

Should young children be grouped by ability?

The BBC has an in depth article asking should children as young as three, four and five be taught by ability? A report by the Institute of Education and the National Education Union has found that this is becoming common practice from Reception especially when preparing for tests and the phonics screening check. Many teachers surveyed for the research claim that children are aware of this grouping and this could have a negative impact on their mental health. However, John Blake from Policy Exchange claims that targeting work to children’s needs makes sense.

Read the full piece.

Phonics revolution: Reading standards in England are best in a generation, new international test results show

The Telegraph reports on results from the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study in which England has risen to 8th. Nick Gibb welcomed the results as the first definitive set of evidence that reforms introducing phonics provision into schools are working.

Read the full piece.

 ‘Children with Down’s syndrome are entitled to a mainstream education, just like everyone else’

Nancy writes for TES arguing that the future has never been brighter for children with Down’s syndrome but there are still too many restrictions on their access to mainstream education.

Read the full piece. 

Ofqual reports 26% rise in exam papers modified for access

According to data released by Ofqual, 48,080 papers were modified in the summer 2017 exams, to ensure that ensure no pupils were unfairly disadvantaged when sitting their exams, Schools Week reports.

Read the full piece.


Dan Baynes is Policy and Research Executive for Driver Youth Trust


Dan Baynes, Driver Youth Trust