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Additional Needs, Alternative Provision and the White Paper – the Big Issues

Post Series: The White Paper

This section of the White Paper details strategies for enhancing the performance of, and unlocking the “full potential of every child, including both the lowest attaining and the brightest pupils”.

It says the Government will focus on boosting the attainment of four groups of children neglected by the previous curriculum and accountability system:

  • Lowest attaining
  • Most academically able
  • SEND
  • Pupils accessing alternative provision (AP)

Additional Needs

There will be a specific focus on the most academically able pupils in the new core ITT framework and this group will also be the focus of funding to further enhance their attainment in state schools.

There will be investment in training in areas such as autism and dyslexia so that schools and colleges achieve better outcomes for pupils with SEN and disabilities.

The DfE will consider extending the role and responsibilities of virtual school heads and designated teachers for LAC in schools so they continue to support children who have left care under an adoption order.

Comment

The White Paper seeks to recognise the importance of ensuring that “an increasingly autonomous school system remains inclusive and meets the needs of all pupils wherever they are educated”.

However, there seem to be some important discrepancies between the rhetoric and the proposed practices. Local Authorities will retain statutory duties in the future for:

  • ensuring every child has a school place;
  • ensuring the needs of vulnerable pupils are met;
  • acting as champions for all parents and families.

However, it is very unclear where the funds will come from to deliver these critical services, especially when LA funds have been cut by over 50% over the last 6 years. This policy could have a negative impact on the most vulnerable children.

Who is to have legal standing in setting admission criteria? Currently academies act as their own admission authorities and LAs cannot direct them to admit pupils. If all schools convert to academy status, there will need to be changes to the School Admissions Code.

Alternative Provision (AP)

The AP system will be reformed so that mainstream schools remain accountable for the education of pupils in AP and are responsible for commissioning high quality provision. This includes when a school has permanently excluded a pupil but the pupil has not subsequently enrolled at another mainstream school.

Schools will be responsible for the budgets from which AP is funded.

Sponsors (including MATs) will be encouraged to meet the need for new AP through the Free School programme.

A minimum curriculum standard and clear expectation for all pupils in AP will be published
Ofsted will review arrangements for inspecting AP in future.

DfE will support new research into how pupils arrive in AP and disseminate evidence on what works.

It will launch an innovation fund to test new approaches to support pupils who move direct from AP to post-16 education, “exploring opportunities for social impact bonds and other innovative funding models”.

Comment

Impact bonds are actually “payment by results”, the theory being that this saves money over the longer term because pupils with low exam grades more often go on to become unemployed, and expensive. In a trial completed by the Department for Work and Pensions, improved attendance was worth £1,400, an entry level qualification, £900.

There will also be a need for the criteria to be clearly defined and the outcomes carefully and accurately evaluated – who will be expected to do this?

Lastly, this could be seen as private companies making profits directly from schools.