To cut down the 90 plus pages of the full report, I’ve compiled my own thoughts on what Her Majesty’s Inspector said about literacy and pupils with SEND:
The report goes on to say that phonics should be delivered by a structured programme. This of course makes sense but programmes can cost thousands of pounds with initial fees and annual subscriptions. I think they are well worth the investment but strapped for cash schools will struggle to prioritise this over everyday essentials.
Ofsted also make the point that there are too many ‘lost readers’ in KS2, brought about because of poor phonics teaching. Sure, securing phonics is fundamental to future reading performance but it doesn’t explain outcomes in writing or the huge disparities in language and vocabulary, which in my experience are key issues in KS3. To be fair the report does mention the impact on the wider curriculum but as ever it would help to see literacy framed more broadly to include all aspects not just decoding.
Crucially Ofsted have continued to note the appalling outcomes for pupils with SEND when it comes to literacy. The report claims that leaving children to a ‘guessing game’ of decoding can put them off reading altogether, which sounds right but I’m not sure where the evidence is for this. I get that this might seem niche, but as a group pupil with SEND continue to have the lowest performance in literacy across the entire system.
The report does not provide many insights into the experiences of pupils with SEND in mainstream, although I’m grateful that special schools are highlighted more clearly – maybe next year we’ll get to PRUs.
Ofsted once again made a commitment to making SEND a major focus area which has to be applauded. The continued raising of these issues is something Spielman and her team should be applauded for.
As expected the bulk of the report which addresses the education of pupils with SEND refers to local area inspections. Once again Ofsted highlights the lack of coordination between local authorities, education and health services and other players in the sector. This is not news.
What is promising and depressing in equal measure is that the report says categorically that “accountability is unclear: there is generally a lack of understanding about who is responsible for what between organisations, resulting in fractures in the way professionals in services work together.” It goes on to call out that the “arrangements for identifying, assessing and meeting children and young people’s education, health and care needs are frequently slow. Too often, families are left feeling dissatisfied with their experience of area SEND arrangements because the quality of services and support fall short of what was envisaged in their children’s EHCPs.”
We know! Everyone knows! And this has been reported on more times than I’ve sanitized my hands in the last six months. I very much hope the DfE’s SEND Review takes some of these key messages on board and provides us with a roadmap of how to get out of this mess.
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Chief Executive, DYT
Chris originally trained as an applied psychologist and has worked across the private, public and charitable sector for over 15 years. Has has particular expertise in special educational needs and disability, and organisational psychology. He is a primary Chair of Governors, Trustee of the Astrea Academy Trust, member of the literacy sub-committee of the Hastings Opportunity Area and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.