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

Ofsted has produced a report about inclusion entitled

“Inclusion: Does it matter where pupils are taught?”

Provision and outcomes in different settings for pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities

The full report can be found on the Ofsted website.

I have read the report and highlighted some points which may be of interest to BATOD members. The team visited over 70 schools with provision for children with LDD (Learning Difficulties and Disabilities) - the term used to cross the professional boundaries between education, health and social services and to incorporate a common language for 0–19-year-olds. In the context of this report it replaces the term special educational needs (SEN).

As is usual practice I am reproducing the executive summary and recommendations in full and then drawing attention to some other key and relevant paragraphs in the report.

Most of the resource base/units visited did not cater for deaf children – although I noticed at least two which did - and therefore many of the judgements of the report might not be directly applicable to resource bases or units for deaf children. They nevertheless make important and relevant points.

I was disappointed not to see any specific reference in the report to deaf students. There was one reference to BSL being taught to mainstream children in the report but that was the sole reference to any aspect of sensory impairment. There was also no specific reference to local authority specialist support services and their rôle although specialist teachers were mentioned in relation to their importance in mainstream schools with resource bases or units. We very much welcome this support for the rôle of the specialist support teacher as it strongly accords with our own views on the vital part played by such teachers in supporting inclusion.

Executive summary

Key findings

Recommendations

Effectiveness of different settings

Characteristics that make schools effective

Specialist staff

Focused professional development for all staff

Flexibility and responsiveness to individual needs

Being part of a wider community

Curriculum

Links with parents

The impact of the SEN framework: SENDA 2001

Executive summary

The most important factor in determining the best outcomes for pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) is not the type but the quality of the provision. Effective provision was distributed equally in the mainstream and special schools visited, but there was more good and outstanding provision in resourced mainstream schools than elsewhere. Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) were the least successful of all settings visited.

The co-location of special schools on mainstream sites provided good opportunities for LDD pupils to mix with their peers in mainstream schools, but no more so than in resourced schools. There was more aspiration towards collaboration between the special and mainstream sectors but good joint working was rarely observed.

The survey also found serious weaknesses in schools and local authorities’ (LAs) interpretation and operation of the graduated approach set out in the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice. (SEN Code of Practice: the revised code of practice, implemented in January 2002, reflects the duties in Part 4 of the Education Act, as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act (SENDA) 2001. The Code gives guidance on how schools and LEAs must meet their duties under this Act and the various SEN Regulations. This Act, the SEN regulations and the Code of Practice are commonly referred to as the SEN framework.)

First, the provision of additional resources to pupils – such as support from teaching assistants – did not ensure good quality intervention or adequate progress by pupils. There was a misconception that provision of additional resources was the key requirement for individual pupils, whereas the survey findings showed that key factors for good progress were: the involvement of a specialist teacher; good assessment; work tailored to challenge pupils sufficiently; and commitment from school leaders to ensure good progress for all pupils. (Specialist teacher in the context of this report refers to one who has experience and qualifications across a range of LDD.)

Second, pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) were disadvantaged in that they were the least likely to receive effective support and the most likely to receive support too late.

Third, there was no agreement about what constituted good progress for pupils with LDD. This prevented vital analysis of data at all levels. Schools rarely questioned themselves as rigorously about the rate of progress for LDD pupils as they did for pupils who did not have LDD; LAs were unable to make secure judgements about the effectiveness of different schools; and national trends were difficult to determine.

There is no generally used definition of low attainment, but a recent Department for Education and Skills (DfES) statistical bulletin defined low attainment as the bottom quartile (25%) of pupils in terms of average points at each Key Stage. Too little is done nationally to focus schools’ attention on improving the achievement of pupils in the lowest quartile.

Recent legislation for developing integrated children’s services, prompted by the Every Child Matters agenda, has obliged LAs to take a more holistic view of services for all children. However, the work was still at a strategic level and had yet to become a reality in the schools visited in this survey. There was little collaborative work to establish joint accountability of the various services to improve the outcomes for pupils with LDD.

Over the past five years, many LAs have reorganised their provision for pupils with LDD. However, the survey found minimal analysis of the effectiveness of different types of provision. LAs had rarely rigorously determined which provision provided the best outcomes for pupils with different types of need.

Headings of this summary

Key findings

There was little difference in the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils across primary and secondary mainstream schools and special schools. However, mainstream schools with additionally resourced provision were particularly successful in achieving high outcomes for pupils academically, socially and personally. PRUs were the least successful.

Pupils with even the most severe and complex needs were able to make outstanding progress in all types of settings. High quality, specialist teachers and a commitment by leaders to create opportunities to include all pupils were the keys to success.

Pupils in mainstream schools where support from teaching assistants was the main type of provision were less likely to make good academic progress than those who had access to specialist teaching in those schools.

Fewer pupils with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) or those with severe learning difficulties (SLD) and challenging behaviour were placed in mainstream schools than other groups, even when specialist facilities were available. Those included in such provision were as likely to do well as those taught in special schools, when they had access to teaching from experienced and qualified specialists.

Schools were improving their analysis of data about their pupils’ learning. Over half of the 74 schools visited did this effectively. However, only 11 of them understood clearly what was meant by ‘good’ progress for pupils with LDD.

The process of obtaining a statement of SEN disadvantaged pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties and favoured those with a diagnosis of medical need(s).

A statement of SEN usually generated additional resources, but even if this guaranteed the quantity of provision, it did nothing to determine the quality of provision or outcomes for the pupil in any type of setting.

Mainstream and special schools continued to struggle to establish an equal partnership. Good collaboration was rare. Special schools that shared a site with mainstream schools provided good opportunities for all pupils to socialise with each other.

The Every Child Matters agenda has required LAs to review their structures and provision for pupils with LDD. However, only two of the LAs visited were basing their changes on a rigorous analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of their current provision and outcomes for children and young people.

Headings of this summary

Recommendations

The following recommendations arise from this survey.

The DfES should:

  • work more closely with other government departments to ensure common assessments focused on outcomes are used to identify individual needs, in line with the developments for the range of children’s services
  • clarify what is meant by ‘good’ progress for pupils with LDD, taking into account their age and starting point, focusing more on improving progress for those in the lowest performing quartile.

The Training and Development Agency should:
  • improve the initial training and continuing professional development in the field of LDD for all teachers
  • provide more opportunities for specialist training in teaching pupils with learning difficulties in general and for particularly complex disabilities.

LAs should:

  • evaluate and take full account of the impact of provision and services on the outcomes for children and young people before any strategic reorganisation of services
  • ensure children and young people with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties have full access to thorough assessments and the full range of services
  • ensure that all pupils have opportunities to work alongside their peers in mainstream provision.

Schools of all types should:

  • improve the progress of pupils with LDD by using pupil level data that is relevant to their age and starting point to ensure they are suitably challenged

Mainstream schools should:

  • analyse critically their use and deployment of teaching assistants
  • increase the amount of specialist teaching provided for a range of LDD within a broad and balanced curriculum, developing knowledge and skills relating to LDD across the school workforce.

Special schools should:

  • collaborate and share expertise more effectively to develop specialist teaching in mainstream schools, with the support of the LA and in line with other services.

Here are some extracts from the report itself which will be of interest to BATOD members:

Headings of this summary

Provision and placements

In this survey, the only type of provision that was found to be proportionately more effective than others was mainstream schools with additionally resourced provision. PRUs were proportionately less effective than schools.

Pupils aged 3–19 with LDD are taught in a wide range of different settings. Of all pupils with statements of SEN, almost 60% are taught in mainstream schools. They commonly receive additional support from teaching assistants and, sometimes, from specialist teachers.

Pupils can be placed in special schools located on the same site as a mainstream school. These are described in this report as ‘co-located schools’. It is also possible for pupils placed in special schools to attend a local school on a part-time placement. Most special schools, however, found difficulty in making effective links with mainstream schools. Pupils usually attend special schools full-time, often travelling out of their home community.

The population of pupils with LDD is changing: the screening of newborn children for visual and hearing impairment has allowed the relevant professionals to intervene earlier, which has reduced the impact of these disabilities. In this changing context there are a number of factors that determine where a pupil is placed.

In LAs promoting inclusion, parents often had more choice of mainstream schools and resourced mainstream schools. In a few cases parents were not given opportunities to find out about any special schools that might have been available.

Headings of this summary

Effectiveness of different settings

Overall, pupils were as likely to make good progress with their academic, personal and social development in primary and secondary mainstream schools or special schools.

Most schools provided good quality education in one or more aspects of learning, but pupils had the best chance of making good progress in all three areas in resourced mainstream schools. In no case did the additional resourced provision detract from the provision for all pupils. A greater proportion of this provision was outstanding and it was seldom inadequate. Only 2% of resourced provision in primary schools was inadequate.

Headings of this summary

Characteristics that make schools effective

The survey found that any type of school could be highly effective in meeting the needs of pupils with LDD.

Schools that ensured pupils with LDD made outstanding progress in all three areas were good or outstanding in all the following: ethos; provision of specialist staff; and focused professional development for all staff.

Resourced mainstream schools were characterised by high expectations of pupils’ progress. Of those inspected, LAs usually placed their resourced provision in those mainstream schools which had been judged, historically, to have good provision for pupils with LDD. These schools already had an inclusive ethos and had often been approached to volunteer to host such provision.

In the best examples, resourced mainstream provision was used as a vehicle for improvement throughout the school. Therefore, all pupils benefited from the additional expertise and resources available.

Headings of this summary

Specialist staff

Pupils who worked with specialist teachers made greater academic progress than when they had to rely on other types of support, including teaching assistants. Specialist teachers gave a high level of skilled support, both academically and socially to individual pupils. They also liaised closely with other professionals and parents, and carefully monitored the work of teaching assistants.

Teachers had thorough subject knowledge, understood what they were teaching and were skilled in identifying and explaining exactly what the pupil needed to do next to make good progress. These teachers demonstrated care and concern for individual pupils and ensured they learned as much as they could. The best teachers were confident and motivated to take risks in making the lessons innovative and exciting for the pupils. They ensured that support was effective and that all staff were clear about the purpose of their intervention. Thorough evaluation of the pupils’ learning was used to identify the success or otherwise of specific interventions.

Specialist teachers most often provided the best teaching for the most complex needs. Their understanding of the implications of the pupils’ LDD enabled a greater sophistication in assessing and planning. These teachers had higher expectations for pupils over the longer term. They applied their knowledge of the pupils’ difficulties successfully to ensure that their barriers to learning were reduced. They were more confident in managing the various support strategies, such as in-class support, and adapted curricula to meet the pupils’ changing needs. They actively encouraged pupils’ independence. Involvement in the curriculum was enabled through careful consideration of teaching strategies, appropriate resources and focused support. These factors helped pupils without making them dependent. Good subject knowledge and specialist knowledge about teaching pupils with LDD resulted in high expectations and more effective teaching.

Special schools had a particular strength in carefully matching the skills and interests of staff to the needs of groups of pupils. But teachers in mainstream schools had better knowledge of individual subjects in the National Curriculum.

Headings of this summary

Focused professional development for all staff

Training and developing staff expertise was variable across all types of schools visited. Good, continuing, practical training for mainstream staff enabled some very good teaching and support. Specific training from specialist teachers and professionals from other agencies was particularly effective, but it needed to be regular. Staff required ready, informal access to their specialist colleagues to discuss questions as they arose between sessions.

Teaching assistants who provided good support had often received high quality training and had relevant qualifications. Teaching assistants provided valuable support, and many were undertaking difficult roles, but this was not a substitute for focused, highly skilled teaching.

In the most effective schools training was disseminated to good effect to all staff to ensure that the school capitalised on professional development and promoted consistency of practice. This occurred in too few schools.

Headings of this summary

Flexibility and responsiveness to individual needs

The pupils were able to join lessons with their peers where it was appropriate and yet benefit from small group teaching when this was judged by the teacher to be most suitable. When they worked in mainstream classes they were supported either by a specialist teacher or by a teaching assistant whose work had been carefully planned together by the specialist teacher, the mainstream teacher and the teaching assistant. These staff were concerned with the pupils joining in; they ensured they learned and that the next steps of learning were achieved.

Headings of this summary

Being part of a wider community

Special schools near or co-located on local mainstream school sites provided the social advantages of resourced mainstream schools; they rarely provided academic or vocational advantages.

Pupils in co-located special schools benefited from the increased opportunities to work alongside their peers. Nevertheless, it was still not always easy for the special school to establish equal partnerships, particularly if the mainstream school was facing particular challenges.

Headings of this summary

Curriculum

Pupils in all phases and settings generally had good access to a broad and balanced curriculum. There was no difference between mainstream and special education in the effectiveness of the curriculum offered, although there were some differences of emphasis.

The special schools in the survey typically followed a mainstream curriculum wherever appropriate and the level of accreditation for both academic and vocational work was good. This was a marked improvement from seven years ago. Many of the special schools offered a range of extra curricular and enrichment activities, although not usually after the school day. These schools used real life experiences and well-chosen visits effectively.

A very small minority of the mainstream schools visited had innovative approaches to the curriculum. For instance, one school deliberately offered a wide range of activities within and outside school time to fill pupils’ gaps in learning as a result of absence; another offered accredited British sign language courses to all pupils as an alternative to modern foreign languages.

Headings of this summary

Links with parents

Nearly all the schools visited were successful at involving parents in the education of pupils with LDD.

Headings of this summary

Ensuring high expectations

Overall, this survey found there was little relationship between academic progress – basing judgement on the schools’ records as well as using common inspection criteria – and the type of school or setting in which pupils were placed, except in mainstream resourced schools.

Too little had been done nationally to focus schools’ attention on improving the achievement of pupils in the lowest quartile.

Much work has been done for pupils with LDD, but it is not yet implemented consistently, or coordinated across settings and between schools and local authorities. Analysis of data at school level is now being carried out more effectively than in recent years, particularly with regard to academic progress, but it is not raising the achievements of this group of pupils fast enough.

The priority for pupils with LDD is whether a pupil is making adequate progress. The measure of progress will be different for different pupils: it will depend on the pupils’ starting points, ages and on their particular needs. Progress for different pupils with LDD could range from that which arrests or closes the attainment gap between the pupil and his or her peers, or which demonstrates an improvement in self-help, social or personal skills.

Over half of the schools in the survey were gathering and analysing their data effectively but guidance from schools and LAs on what was expected in terms of progress remained inadequate. Even when schools had a good idea of how much progress pupils had made, they often did not know whether this was enough, given the type and extent of the pupils’ needs.

Over-reliance on commercial schemes that identified broad categories of need was not helpful in offering rigorous challenge to schools. Similarly, defining achievement in terms of the number of targets in an individual education plan (IEP) achieved across a given time rarely ensured rigorous evaluation of provision or pupils’ progress. What made the difference to higher outcomes was effective target setting within the curriculum or personalised programme as part of a whole-school policy on assessment.

Few mainstream or special schools had clearly determined and agreed what they considered to be satisfactory and good progress for pupils with LDD. The result was insufficient academic challenge for them and a fundamental weakness in providing for pupils with LDD.

Systematic recording of pupils’ development was generally better in special schools or schools with larger numbers of pupils with LDD. Good practice ranged from the use of well recognised schemes to highly individualised records.

A number of developments nationally aim to improve the gathering and analysis of information about pupils with LDD. These are designed to be used at all levels, from school and LA to regional and national levels and across different types of settings. These initiatives include the use of SEN data in the Pupil Level Annual Schools Census and the inclusion in school Performance and Assessment reports of factors such as social deprivation, SEN, and prior attainment.

Headings of this summary

The impact of the SEN framework: SENDA 2001

What difference does a statement make?

In the survey it was clear that statements of special educational need dictated the type of provision for a pupil, but they did not ensure the quality of the provision. Statements were usually effective in identifying the educational needs of pupils and this, with subsequent documentation, provided useful information when pupils moved between settings. However, it was an overly cumbersome and bureaucratic procedure in order to ascertain where a pupil should be taught or what resources should be allocated.

Parent partnerships also reported a negative perception by some parents of the process of formal assessment of special educational need. The system was seen as over complex and gave insufficient account of their children’s views.

In over half the case studies conducted, there was no obvious causal link between formal assessment and the quality of the provision.

How well does the SEN framework protect vulnerable young people?

It was more straightforward for pupils who had a medical diagnosis to obtain a statement of their special educational needs. But diagnosis of a medical condition was not the solution to identifying the most appropriate placement for an individual pupil. An over reliance on diagnosis was too often seen as a gateway to resources rather than as a contribution to understanding the educational implications of a pupil’s disability or difficulty. There were also inequalities: some health and local authority professionals resisted the pressure to use a diagnosis as a passport to resources while others did not.

Many parents and carers regarded the formal assessment processes positively: they gained confidence that their child’s needs would be met. However, emphasising the type of provision and quantity of support, for instance the number of hours of support from a teaching assistant which might be allocated, did not meet the children’s needs. The key factors – the quality of the provision and outcomes for pupils – were not considered explicitly and rigorously. The absence of such considerations reduced the effectiveness of statements dramatically and was not cost effective.

Almost half of the LAs had good information on pupils’ progress, but they made little use of these data to evaluate the quality of the provision on outcomes for pupils. Generally, the LAs in the survey were not holding schools sufficiently to account for the progress made by pupils with LDD.

The SEN framework, being based on educational issues, did not help pupils to access sufficient support from other agencies, despite the recent changes to Children’s Services. The survey suggested that the huge changes at LA level were yet to be reflected and realised in schools. Schools that had historically been good at multi-agency work were developing stronger partnerships, for example between special schools and resourced mainstream schools.

The difficulties in recruiting some professionals remained a barrier to effective partnerships, particularly speech and language therapists and those working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Local authority planning for provision and arrangements for resourcing services Providing for pupils with LDD is one of the most challenging aspects of LAs’ responsibilities and has been acknowledged in reports from the Audit Commission and Ofsted. These reports note that, despite a robust statutory framework and improvements in practice and provision in recent years, there are still challenges to overcome to further improve outcomes for children with LDD.

Parents had a simplistic but mistaken view that LA reorganisations involving special school closures meant an inevitable loss of specialist support. They thought there were fewer good quality choices. The survey showed that, in practice, LAs visited had tried to reconfigure their special schools to meet changing needs, developed specialist provision within or attached to mainstream schools and co-located special and mainstream schools. However, only two of the local authorities had used information on the outcomes for pupils to inform their reorganisation.

The main drivers for change had been the Every Child Matters agenda, Children’s Trusts and other initiatives, such as Sure Start for early years. The DfES’s strategy for SEN, Removing Barriers to Achievement, had little impact on the agenda for change. It had encouraged educational reorganisation for LDD, but not within the context of children’s services overall.

Paul Simpson, Secretary, July 2006