BATOD
The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education

A summary of “Inclusion: the impact of LEA support and outreach services

Ofsted HMI 2452 July 2005”

This report is currently available on the Ofsted website

I reproduce here the executive summary and recommendations, some specific points concerning delegation, outreach from special schools, good practice and continuing professional development. Finally I reproduce the Annex to the report which includes the standards used in the survey which led to the report.

Executive summary

1. This report reviews the quality of external special educational needs (SEN) support for schools and provides an analysis of good practice based on visits by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) to six local education authorities (LEAs) and reports from the inspection of schools and LEAs in 2003 and 2004. The report focuses mainly on LEA support services and outreach services from special schools, but refers to other agencies where they work alongside LEA managed provision.

2. Many of the services visited provided useful support to improve the achievement and inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools. However, the quality and quantity of services available to schools were too variable across the country. Pupils with similar levels of need received different levels of support depending on where they lived, which is unacceptable. In part this was because LEAs choose, in consultation with their schools, whether or not funding for support services is delegated to mainstream schools.

3. Where the funds were delegated, schools had the option to buy services or to use the money in other ways. Positively, this increased the flexibility for schools; negatively, it disadvantaged groups of pupils with complex special educational needs who did not have access to specialist support because funds had been used for other purposes. In addition, delegation of funding to schools reduced the LEA’s capacity to provide targeted support for school improvement where the standards achieved by pupils with SEN were too low.

4. Since 1999, when additional funds became available from LEAs and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to pilot approaches to outreach support, more schools have begun to develop such services. There was a clear steer nationally that many special schools should develop these, but too little guidance was given as to how the services should be developed or how they could fit into local provision. Properly planned outreach services, therefore, were still at an early stage of development. A few special schools, however, particularly those for pupils with physical and sensory impairments, had well established outreach services.

5. The most effective services worked effectively with school improvement services to target their resources, were planned coherently within an LEA to avoid overlap with other work and had written agreements describing the level of services which should be delivered.

6. The LEAs visited all undertook useful evaluation of their services through seeking the opinions of schools, pupils and parents. However, only one service had agreed clear performance indicators to provide a more objective analysis. Overall, too little was done to link the progress the pupils made to the work undertaken by support services. No LEAs had robust systems to follow up the progress pupils made after the intensive involvement of support services had ceased.

7. The quality of the staff and their commitment to inclusion were always crucial in delivering an effective service. Most services provided very high quality advice and support based on extensive specialist knowledge otherwise unavailable to the mainstream school. The best support often included coaching for teachers through demonstrating effective strategies.

8. This report concludes that the generic standards proposed by the DfES could provide a useful basis for improving external services further. Annex A includes a contribution to the development of standards for these services. Greater clarity is also required about what services should be available as an entitlement for pupils, regardless of where they live.

Delegation of funding

9. Until 2000, support for pupils with SEN was provided almost exclusively by LEA support services but, over the last five years, it has been common for LEAs to delegate much of the funding for these services to mainstream schools. This has had benefits since schools can choose support from a wider range of providers. However, buying in services relies heavily on schools recognising that there are others who could help them support certain pupils more effectively.

10. Where schools were unaware of how to improve their provision, for a number of reasons the delegation of funding has had a detrimental effect for pupils with the most complex needs.

11. First, where LEAs delegated funds for small services, the schools received too little money to buy sufficient support when they needed it. Others received funding even though they might not have any pupils who required support. The funding, though sufficient to run a small central service, when divided between many schools was inadequate to ensure pupils with the most complex needs had access to sufficient specialist advice.

12. Second, where resources had been delegated, the LEAs lacked the capacity to monitor adequately the progress of pupils with the greatest needs or to target resources on helping schools to improve where the standards achieved by pupils with SEN were unacceptably low.

Third, in the past, pupils’ statements of SEN described their entitlement to specialist support services. Such services monitored the support and ensured each school was aware of the provision it could make. In the LEAs visited, the services usually responded to referrals made by the school and the provision made for pupils depended too heavily on the school’s identification of the problems.

17. Irrespective of how services are funded, LEAs need to ensure that their development planning includes adequate provision for inclusion.

Outreach from special schools

18. The DfES report of the Special Schools Working Group maps out a programme of change for the special school sector, including the development of outreach services. However, it is unclear what this actually means in practice and LEAs have not received enough guidance about how this might be achieved.

19. In most LEAs, support and outreach services had developed in an ad hoc fashion. As a result, there were significant overlaps in some services and tensions developed between LEAs and special schools. For example, in one LEA four separate service providers supported pupils with emotional, behavioural and social difficulties (EBSD).

21. Ofsted reported in a recent publication, SEN and disability: towards inclusive schools, that special schools are often not in favour of inclusion; for example, one head teacher expressed a view that the development of outreach services could ensure their schools remained full.

Good and not so good practice

26. In one early years’ support service, health and social workers and teachers met regularly to discuss and solve problems, helping to promote a strong team spirit.

31. The evaluation of special school outreach services was particularly weak since they had very limited access to LEA-wide data and most of the services were relatively new.

Continuing Professional Development

40. Most services visited ensured a high level of expertise by encouraging staff to obtain nationally recognised qualifications in specific types of need. One LEA developed an accredited course in consultancy skills. The continuing training of staff teams was crucial to maintaining a successful service.

Annex

Evaluating support and outreach services

The following standards have been adapted from those used on the survey visits. They are intended to contribute to the development of standards for these services with a strong focus on strengthening inclusion.

1. The service has a clear purpose which takes into account other provision in the area and the needs of particular schools and pupils. Supporting criteria:

  • services are commissioned to undertake specific types of work by the LEA; expectations are clear and include arrangements for transparent communication, access to services, response times and accountability
  • written agreements are in place about what services are provided to all those involved.

2. The service has suitable staff to deliver a high quality service.

  • have high levels of specialist knowledge not available in the school
  • understand the nature of pupils’ difficulties and are able to provide new insights to overcome difficulties
  • understand the school systems that best promote the achievement and inclusion of pupils with SEN
  • have a good understanding of the curriculum modifications and adaptations that secure broad, balanced and relevant opportunities for pupils with SEN
  • promote strategies which can be used in mainstream classrooms
  • have an understanding of pupils’ learning styles and how they can be accommodated in the school
  • have good interpersonal skills and can promote change within a school.

3. Services are led and managed to promote change within schools.

Supporting criteria:

  • principles of inclusion are embedded in working practices
  • funding arrangements ensure that services can plan over at least a three year period
  • the management of the service gathers information systematically about the outcomes for pupils, including their achievement, learning, participation and enjoyment
  • information is used to target their resources efficiently in line with strategic priorities identified in the LEA’s long-term plans and they evaluate the impact of their work
  • the progress of particular groups of pupils continues to be monitored after support is finished, especially at important transition times between classes and schools.

4. Pupils and parents are fully involved in the development of services.

Supporting criteria:

  • pupils’ and parents’ views are sought in evaluating the service and when changes are proposed
  • representatives of parents are involved in providing advice to service managers
  • parents and pupils are aware of the purposes of the service
  • parents and pupils receive a swift response to concerns.

Key findings

  • Support and outreach services promoted inclusion and improved the life chances of many vulnerable pupils.
  • In the most effective support services, all staff were thoroughly committed to inclusion and it pervaded all aspects of their work.
  • Support service staff were particularly valued where they brought knowledge and skills usually unavailable in a mainstream school. Specialist teachers were most effective when they demonstrated effective strategies for others to observe.
  • Other outreach and support service staff provided important information and a thorough understanding of particular special needs or disabilities, making a major contribution to pupils’ progress.
  • Help was not always available when and where it was needed. Services in some LEAs overlapped, resulting in unnecessary tensions between agencies and inefficient use of resources.
  • Insecure funding arrangements made long-term planning difficult for many services.
  • The delegation of funding for support services had a negative effect on the provision for some pupils with SEN. It diminished the capacity of many LEAs to monitor the progress of pupils with SEN and reduced the range and quantity of specialist staff available to provide advice and support.
  • The best services worked in partnership with LEA school improvement services to analyse data and target their resources where the standards achieved by pupils with SEN were too low.
  • In general, LEAs did not measure the impact of support services on pupils’ progress and attainment and they lacked agreed standards against which the performance of staff and the service as a whole could be evaluated. Information was seldom gathered about the progress pupils made after support ceased.

Recommendations

The DfES should:

  • consult on generic standards for the delivery of support and outreach services
  • consider what steps should be taken to minimise the differences across the country in the services available to schools.

LEAs should:

  • minimise the overlap of provision and promote partnership working to ensure that the purpose of their current services is clear
  • target resources strategically where the standards achieved by pupils with SEN are unacceptably low
  • promote the inclusion of groups of pupils through commissioning specific services to ensure that suitable advice and support are available where and when they are needed
  • ensure both special and mainstream schools know what services are being delivered and, where appropriate, how much they cost
  • consider, wherever possible, delegating the funding for support services to suitable special schools within a region in order that they can deliver the service to mainstream schools on an outreach basis
  • use their powers more effectively to monitor the progress of pupils with SEN to ensure that schools access specialist support for pupils with the most complex needs
  • identify long-term funding arrangements which allow services to plan ahead.

Heads of support and outreach services should:

  • develop the capacity to deliver services commissioned by LEAs and other agencies
  • work in partnership with other services to target resources efficiently
  • monitor the impact of their services during and after their involvement to ensure the pupils make good progress over time
  • ensure staff continue to develop their specialist teaching skills in order to coach and support others effectively.

    Paul Simpson, Secretary, August 2005