SEN/ALN reforms in Wales: food for thought from England?

Just for a change I’d like to draw your attention to another report. But, for me at least, this isn’t just another report, it highlights issues that really need to be taken into consideration by everyone with an interest in the SEN reform process here in Wales.

The report was written by LKMco, an education and youth development ‘think and action tank’, and commissioned and published by the Driver Youth Trust (DYT). According to the DYT’s website the organisation “was founded by Sarah Driver after stumbling upon dyslexia when she married Mark and they had four children together. Sarah very rapidly moved from not really believing in dyslexia to becoming a committed campaigner for improving the chances of young people with special educational needs (SEN), and particularly dyslexia”.

As such there is a focus on literacy and dyslexia but that doesn’t prevent the report being of 100% relevance to SEN in general. It also looks exclusively at the system in England and considers recent policy changes including, but not only, the effect of the SEN reforms ushered in by the Children and Families Act 2014 last September. Despite being England-centric I would suggest that the report contains a lot of food for thought for Wales.

The authors describe the report as being complex reflecting the ‘multiple systems’ in which SEN provision in education is provided. I think that this notion of SEN provision being provided via multiple systems is key, just tweaking one of the systems will not in itself result in the improvements we are all looking for. Instead all of the upcoming reforms, including those recommended by Professors Donaldson (curriculum) and Furlong (teacher training) and the soon-to-be announced Next-10-years Foundation Stage Plan, must be looked at through the lens of SEN. To unashamedly borrow heavily from the report:

All of these reforms provide opportunities to promote good practice in SEN and those involved in the reforms should ask themselves: ‘how can this reform improve outcomes for SEN pupils?’…Reform cannot come at the price of equity, and diverging quality is putting the education and life chances of young people with SEN at risk. We cannot accept a system with only outposts of excellence. The next phase of reform must focus on ensuring all learners have the educational opportunities currently experienced by those lucky enough to be at the best schools and in the strongest parts of the system.

The report is called Joining the dots: have recent reforms worked for those with SEND? and I urge you to read it and give it a bit of thought.

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