We are thrilled to have Dr Rona Tutt OBE write this guest post for us ahead of the upcoming NAHT conference. Find out about changes to the SEND sector in the last year as well as why you should come to this conference if you’re a head or SEND leader, and have not already booked your place.
It is hardly unusual to talk about change in the context of education, but the last year has seen more change than most. Unexpectedly, we had a new Prime Minister and when that happens, the echelons beneath the PM also change. So, not only are we becoming used to the face of Theresa May rather than David Cameron, but Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, gave way to the appointment of Justine Greening. It may be too soon to tell what the effect of this might be, but already the focus has switched from the theme of the White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, with its drive to have every school becoming an academy by 2022, to the Green Paper, Schools that work for everyone, with its theme of greater selection including the possibility of more grammar school places.
While neither of these Papers are specifically about pupils with SEND, there is a connection. There has long been anecdotal evidence that academies may be less willing to admit pupils with special needs, as they are under greater pressure to prove that their academic standards are improving, while grammar schools are known to accept very few pupils with SEND. While this is partly explained by a very academic curriculum not being appropriate for many of these pupils, there is a feeling that those who could benefit – such as those who have Asperger’s syndrome, sever dyslexia or a sensory impairment – are sometimes overlooked.
These, and many issues that are more specific to the SEND world, will be discussed at one of the major events in this area, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual event: Special Schools, Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference. This year it is being held at the Birmingham Conference and Events Centre, with some sessions starting on the evening of Thursday 9th March, while those who prefer to make it a one day event, can book in for the whole of Friday 10th March.
Creating stability in changing times is the title of this year’s conference. It reflects both the amount of change schools are having to contend with and how they can be equipped to meet this challenge of constant change. On the Thursday, participants will have the opportunity to put their questions to a panel of experts and to enjoy an Evening Dinner, complete with Russell Hobby, NAHT’s General Secretary, as the after dinner speaker.
On Friday, the day will be topped and tailed by keynote speeches. The opening speaker will be Will Ord, renowned for his work across all types of schools and helping them to create ‘an effective school evolution.’ In between, a series of seminars and workshops will keep people informed and up to date by listening to speakers at the forefront of:
- the SEND Tribunal
- Funding, (especially the High Needs Funding Formula being consulted on at present)
- Assessment and the Rochford Review, (where the final consultation is due any day now)
- The SENCOs’ role
- Restriction of liberty
- Engaging learners with complex needs
- Helping pupils with SEND to participate in democracy.
As the closing speaker, I hope to set current developments, including the SEND Reforms, in context; explore ways in which the nature of the SEND population is changing; and predict what the future might hold for children and young people with SEND and those who are responsible for their education. Judging by the rate at which everything changes, this may turn out to be a rash line to follow, but it will include my own view of what I think needs to happen if we are to make significant progress in improving the lives of these vulnerable young learners and their families.
Having this slot will also enable me to outline some of the work of NAHT in this field, including the work with other organisations involved in improving the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and of staff. NAHT is also linked to the Autism and Girls Forum and the National Forum for Neuroscience and Special Education (NFNSE), both of which are hosted on the Association’s website. Working in partnership with other key organisations ensures that NAHT members are at the forefront of what is going on.
Once again, we are indebted to Axcis as the main sponsor for this important annual event. This support helps to ensure that we can continue to run a conference with the speakers people want to hear, in a setting that includes an exhibition area, and the space to talk to colleagues working in similar situations in surroundings that are convivial and conducive to taking on board new ways of working.
Dr Rona Tutt OBE, Past President of NAHT