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Rising school exclusions and Alternative Provision – the case for reform

Increasing numbers of pupils are being excluded from schools – with special education needs (SEN) being over six times more likely to be excluded. I have written previously about the

Extending the Blue Badge scheme

In the biggest overhaul since the 1970s, the Government has announced the extension of the Blue Badge scheme to include people with hidden disabilities (which includes autism and mental health

A better deal for public sector workers

This week the Government announced the biggest public sector pay rise in almost 10 years – to help recognise the vital work that teachers, the police, armed forces, prison officers,

Investing in Special Educational Needs

This week the Government announced a multi-million pound investment in state-of-the-art facilities for children with special educational needs. Children only get one chance at an education and they deserve the

A fair deal for Nurses

This week the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, set out plans that will see wage increases of at least 6.5 per cent for over 1.1 million NHS workers in England.

Rising school exclusions and Alternative Provision – the case for reform

Increasing numbers of pupils are being excluded from schools – with special education needs (SEN) being over six times more likely to be excluded.

I have written previously about the 16,000+ bullied school children that are school phobic and who are pushed outside the mainstream education system, but the issue is broader – affecting pupils with a range of challenges, including; mental health (50% of mental health issues are established at the age of 14), SEN, poverty, home environment and personal trauma to name but a few.

To be clear, I support schools having the right to expel unruly children. Disruptive children in class can absorb ten minutes of every teaching hour.

However, there is a growing evidence base that exclusions are being used in some schools for all the wrong reasons and casting pupils into the Alternative Provision (AP) sector, which has little oversight and patchy academic results (only 1.1% of pupils in Alternative Provision secure five good GCSE passes).

Exclusions
Fixed term exclusions have risen to 381,865 – an increase of 114,345 since 2012 – with at times a limited paper trail of decision making (16% of the time, the reason is left as ‘other’!).

The Children’s Commissioner Report of 2017 flagged specific concerns over the use of exclusions and reported breaches of the UNCRC. The call for action is not new, in 2010, Barnardo’s report ‘Not present and not correct’ hi-lighted concerns over the use of fixed-term exclusions and evidence of unofficial exclusions.

The cost to society of exclusion is high, the IPPR estimates this to be £370k per young person in a lifetime due to education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs.

Exclusions are not capturing just the knife wielding bullies, but a wider group, for instance every school week 4,610 SEN pupils receive permanent and fixed term exclusions.

One pressure point could be that some schools cannot cope with complex pupils’ needs. The ‘Teacher Omnibus’ survey found that 18% of teachers do not feel able to meet the needs of a child with SEN with 30% stating that there is insufficient training provided to support SEN students.

For parents to fight an exclusion the odds are stacked against them, many not knowing their rights or being able to respond to the complex process involved. The safety net of the Independent Review Panel does not have the power to reinstate a pupil.
When a child is excluded, the school can effectively and neatly wash their hands of responsibility, which passes to the Local Authority.

Home Schooling
Another route out of the education system is known as ‘off-rolling’. Officially parents must formally request to home educate their child. Although the reality can be somewhat different.

It is now estimated that over 45,000 children are being home schooled, a near doubling compared to five years ago.

We heard reports of non-attending bullied children’s parents being threatened with truancy action and given the option to home educate.

Shouldn’t Ofsted inspections show what is happening?
According to the latest National Audit Office report, 1,620 ‘Outstanding’ schools have not been inspected for over six years, of which 296 have not be inspected for over 10 years. This lack of transparency provides for the opportunity of opaque decision making.

Alternative Provision (AP).
Alternative Provision is an umbrella term to include; state AP, independent AP, third sector provision and work base learning providers.

When schools exclude, responsibility passes to the Local Authority. If schools had a responsibility going forward, imagine the difference this would make – a real motivation for early intervention and ensuring quality AP provision if exclusion is required.

However, in many areas AP is a postcode lottery, with a lack of capacity in the system to support those with complex mental health and/or behavioural issues coupled with poor

Ofsted ratings.
Best practice can be observed in Cambridgeshire – where schools have set-up successful partnerships to scale up Alternative Provision and provide economies of scale. In 2015/16 the exclusion rate for Cambridgeshire was 0!

This model has been proven successful by the DfE themselves. Between 2011 – 2014 a series of pilots commenced involving 11 local authorities delegating funding and responsibility of excluded pupils to the schools themselves. The results of the pilots realised improved outcomes for pupils.

In the sector the DfE has no framework of what a model AP looks like, nor any real monitoring of the sector. It is an adjunct to the education system, rather than as part of the system. Due to this, we do not know exactly how many pupils are in AP, but an analysis of available data by the Education Select Committee found that at least 48,000 pupils are in

AP – and this figure is increasing.
Even when Schools commission AP themselves, the 2016 Ofsted report into Alternative Provision found that under a third of Schools embark on any systematic review of the education provided.

AP needs to be viewed not as a permanent silo, but as a short-term intervention, with the aim of pupils, where possible, returning to main stream education. For example, this has been achieved in the majority of cases at the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group, TBAP Intervention Centres and The Family School, London.

Conclusion
In a system that requires rigour and oversight we are seeing youngsters being failed – through a lack of transparency, accountability and silo-based thinking.

Only a systematic change, facing up to the weaknesses of the system and embracing the best practice that exists will help some of the most vulnerable youngsters in our society.

Recommendations:
1. Proper Reporting: Schools must provide greater detail of why a pupil is being excluded and what support they require. ‘Other’ will no longer be an option.
2. Schools maintain responsibility: That schools maintain educational responsibility for excluded children with a path back to mainstream education where possible.
3. AP Framework: That the DfE establishes a framework for how a model AP should operate with monitoring structures like mainstream education.
4. AP Support: DfE Implements a strategy to grow capacity, share best practice and improve standards (especially in poor performing Local Authority areas).
5. Home Education: That funding is provided to ensure the child has real education provision with a pathway back to mainstream schooling as an option to parents.
6. Independent Review Panel (IRP): The Education Act 2010 to be amended to allow the IRP to reinstate pupils.
7. Teacher Training: DfE to enhance and increase level of training and support, so that schools are better equipped to implement early intervention and when needed, commissioning effective Alternative Provision.
8. Exclusion rates: That Ofsted monitor schools exempt from inspection with high exclusion rates and/or off-rolling. Investigating where needed and Inspection as a reserve option.

 

Extending the Blue Badge scheme

In the biggest overhaul since the 1970s, the Government has announced the extension of the Blue Badge scheme to include people with hidden disabilities (which includes autism and mental health conditions). This change is due to the current rules being open to interpretation.

The extension of the scheme has been praised by charities, including Mind and the National Autistic Society. Isabella Goldie, director of Mental Health Foundation, said: ‘It is also another step to creating a society in which we take mental health problems as seriously as we take physical health problems and create real parity between the two’.

This announcement is part of a wider inclusive transport strategy to improve transport for those with disabilities. Backed by £300 million funding, will improve accessibility across all types of travel for those with disabilities. The strategy includes investment in road and rail access and to produce league tables which highlight the best and worse operators.

 

A better deal for public sector workers

This week the Government announced the biggest public sector pay rise in almost 10 years – to help recognise the vital work that teachers, the police, armed forces, prison officers, doctors and dentists do.

Pay restraint over the years has not been an easy decision to take, as the Government took difficult decisions to reduce the nations deficit.

It is because of this balanced approach to the public finances, that the Government is now in a position to announce the biggest pay rise in almost 10 years for around a million public sector workers.

Our deficit is still too high – each year around £50 billion a year is spent on debt interest, which is more than the police and armed forces budgets combined. This offer strikes the right balance between fair pay, and ensuring public services have the resources they need.

Pay rises announced:

• Teachers will see the highest pay rise since 2010. The lowest paid 40 per cent of teachers – including all those earning under £35,000 – will be eligible for a 3.5 per cent baseline pay rise in 2018-19, equivalent to at least £800. Teachers in the Upper Pay Range, earning above £35,000, will be eligible for a 2 per cent baseline pay rise.

• Armed forces will see the highest pay rise since 2010. Service personnel will receive a 2 per cent increase to salaries plus a 0.9 per cent one off payment, worth a combined £980 for the average member of the armed forces.

• Police will see the highest pay rise since 2010. Police officers will receive a 2 per cent baseline pay rise in 2018-19, worth £760 to a police constable on an average wage.

• Prison officers will see the highest pay rise since 2008. Prison Officers will receive a 2.75 per cent pay rise in 2018-19. Most staff on modernised grades will also be receiving performance related pay, meaning someone on Band 3 Officer’s pay on modernised terms will see a 4.1 per cent increase this year.

• Doctors and dentists will see the highest pay rise since 2008. Dentists and junior doctors will receive a 2 per cent baseline pay rise from October 2018; GPs will receive 2 per cent baseline increase with a further 1 per cent potentially available subject to contract reform; the small minority of Speciality (SAS) Doctors will receive a baseline pay rise of 3 per cent from October 2018.

Investing in Special Educational Needs

This week the Government announced a multi-million pound investment in state-of-the-art facilities for children with special educational needs.

Children only get one chance at an education and they deserve the best, whatever challenges they may face. All parents want to send their child to a good local school that meets their individual needs. 1.9 million more children are attending good or outstanding schools and we have created over 800,000 new school places since 2010. But there is more to do.

The investing of £50 million is to create additional school places and state-of-the-art facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities. This will help councils to meet additional demand and provide families with more choice. Over half the councils in England will receive more than £225,000 to increase places or improve schools for children with SEND, and every council will receive at least £115,000. Local authorities will need to work with parents and carers to determine how this money is most effectively spent.

Overall this brings the total investment in new school places for children with additional needs to £265 million, following the announcement of a £215 million fund last year. The latest funding boost could help create around 740 more special school places and provide new, specialist facilities to support children with complex needs, such as sensory rooms and playgrounds with specialist equipment.

Investing £23 billion to 2021 to ensure every child – regardless of their needs, background or circumstances – has access to a good school place. This has already created over 800,000 school places, and 91 per cent of the places created last year were in good or outstanding schools.

Overall investment in educational provision for children with SEND was £6 billion this year, the highest on record with 94 per cent of special schools are rated good or outstanding, compared with 82 per cent in 2010.

 

A fair deal for Nurses

This week the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, set out plans that will see wage increases of at least 6.5 per cent for over 1.1 million NHS workers in England.

Over recent years the difficult decision was taken for a Public sector pay cap of 1 per cent. This was effectively ended September, when the cap was lifted.  Now, using funds the Chancellor set aside at the Budget will see pay rises of at least 6.5 per cent for over 1.1 million NHS workers in England including nurses and midwives.

The most significant change will be for the lowest paid NHS staff, like porters, cleaners and hospital caterers – who will see their wages rise by 15 per cent over the next three years.

This is the right decision to take, as NHS staff work incredibly hard, day in, day out, right across the country. Prudent Conservative fiscal management has made investing in our public services like the NHS and helping families with the cost of living while at the same time getting our debt falling possible

Newly qualified nurses will receive starting pay 12.6 per cent higher in 2020-2021 than this year and starting pay for a midwife will increase by 18.1 per cent as a result of pay band reform.

The Government is ensuring also, that shared parental leave rights will be extended to all staff, the NHS will commit to reducing sickness absence by improving staff health and wellbeing, and all staff will receive better skills and development training.

 

Wonderful Open Day visit to Enfield Mosque

I was delighted to attend and meet the team at Enfield Mosque (Ponders End) whilst they were holding the Explore Islam Exhibition over the course of two days at the weekend. I attended on the afternoon of the second day and I was made to feel very welcome.

They had such an impressive and wide range of displays and exhibition boards that it took a couple of hours to get round, but at all times there was someone on hand to answer any questions.

Enfield has a wide range of communities and it is wonderful to celebrate and embrace this diversity.

 

 

A bold plan for the Environment

This week, the Prime Minister launched a bold 25 Year Environment Plan, with a strategy for a cleaner, greener Britain that will leave our environment in a better state than we found it for the next generation.

This includes a pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, encouraging supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles, extending the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags to all retailers and issuing a consultation on taxing the most environmentally damaging plastics. All this builds on the Government’s work in recent months for environmentalism that is central to conservatism.

The steps in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan:

· Pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042. We know that we must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates and that is why we have taken this significant step.

· Encourage supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles in which all the food is loose. This will give people the choice to make greener decisions and promote the use of less damaging plastic packaging.

· Extend the 5p carrier bag charge to all retailers in England. To date, nine billion fewer plastic bags have been used as a direct consequence of introducing the charge.This has led to a reduction of 83 per cent and £95 million has been donated to environmental educational, and other good causes.

· Call for evidence next month on a new charge or tax on single-use plastic items, such as takeaway containers. This will encourage industry to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and make them easier to recycle.

· Inject new funding into plastics innovation through a bid into the government’s £7 billion research and development pot.

· Support a Northern Forest. It will be a new community woodland for Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire, provide a new and enduring amenity for the growing population of the north of England, and act as a carbon sink for the UK.

· Allow young people to learn more about the natural world, targeting schools in disadvantaged areas first. This will be supported by £10 million of investment.

Actions the Government has already taken to help our environment:

· Supporting further restrictions on neonicotinoids and have banned microbeads. These are significant steps toward protecting bees and our marine environment.

· Providing £3.5 billion to support measures to improve air quality. Investing in electric vehicle infrastructure and new charging technologies, supporting the roll-out of low carbon buses, and expanding cycling and walking infrastructure. In the last Budget  announced a £220 million Clean Air Fund, paid for by tax changes to company car tax and vehicle excise duty on new diesel cars.

· Ending the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

· Doubled maximum litter fines to £150. From April, the new range will be £65-150, with a default of £100.

· Releasing beavers to the Forest of Dean, to help reduce the risk of flooding and enhance biodiversity. Beavers are to be introduced into a 6.5 hectare secure enclosure in the Forest of Dean in the spring.

Overall this plan and existing actions are the boldest and most radical plan to support the environment brought forward by a Government. 

Housing Sector – Budget 2017 briefing

The Chancellor pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat today with a stamp duty exemption for first time buyers up to £300K. This was part of his promise to fix Britain’s housing market with a package of measures including; investment, planning reform and tax cuts for first-time buyers, as mentioned.

Lets also look at the other announcements today;

      • Government committed to deliver an average of 300,000 homes a year by the middle of the next decade, the biggest annual increase in housing supply since 1970.
      • Since 2010, Government overseen over 1 million new homes being built. Housebuilding is at its highest level since the crash, but housing remains unaffordable for many.
      • Abolishing stamp duty for over 80 per cent of first time buyers – up to £300,000. The exemption will also be available to properties up to £500,000. This means an effective discount of up to £5,000 for a property of £500,000.
      • Investing an additional £15 billion for housebuilding – taking the total this Parliament to £44 billion. To include; £2.7 billion to double the housing infrastructure fund, £1.7 billion to unlock small and strategic sites, £400 million on estate regeneration, £1.5 billion to support SME builders, and provide £8 billion on guarantees – committing a total of £44 billion over the next five years.
      • Helping Local Authorities to deliver new homes – The Homes and Communities Agency will expand to become ‘Homes England’ bringing together money, expertise, and planning and compulsory purchase powers with a clear remit to facilitate delivery of sufficient new homes, where they are most needed, to achieve our goal and to deliver a sustained improvement in affordability.
      • Reforming planning to unlock land for homes. Government maintains to protect our green belt, and make better use of urban land. They will consult on introducing minimum density rules in urban areas and near transport hubs, and expect councils to permit more homes for first time buyers.
      • Getting the skilled workforce in place to construct the homes. Funding to provide £40 million to develop construction skills across the country, so to create skilled jobs and build the high quality homes needed.

  • Driving the housing market will be crucial to addressing the downgrade in the UK’s economic prospects. The OBR cut the projected growth rate for 2017 from 2 per cent to 1.5 per cent. That said the Stock Exchange reacted well, with the FTSE 100 share index rising 0.1 per cent to 7,453.65, its highest close in eight sessions.The Chancellor stated, “Put simply, successive governments over decades have failed to build enough homes to deliver the home-owning dream that this country has always been proud of“. Lets hope this Government can succeed where others have not.

Pre-budget – Building the housing ladder this country needs

For decades we have not been building enough homes, with prices rising to unaffordable levels. At its peak, 350,000 homes were built in 1970. However, since then there was an overall year on year decline down to 75,000 homes in 2009. These numbers have subsequently seen some recovery, rising to 220,000 last year

The Chancellor has stated that the budget tomorrow will set out how the government will build 300,000 new homes a year.

Already, there have been a number of steps taken to help confidence in the market. Councils and housing associations in England have been provided with long term rent certainty from 2020.

The £3 billion ‘Home Building Fund’ already has over half its budget committed and will deliver over 100,000 new homes built across England.

Through the government’s Housing White Paper, unnecessary delays will be tackled –  ensuring councils release more land for housing, giving them new powers to ensure that developers actually build homes once they’re given planning permission to do so.

The ‘Help to Buy’ scheme has already helped over 130,000 more families. An additional  £10 billion has been committed to the scheme to help a further 135,000 households by 2021.

Unlocking larger scale developments will need Government support for infrastructure. The introduction of the £2.3 billion ‘Housing Infrastructure Fund’ will help with this.

One key question is whether the 300,000 homes target will make inroads into the issue of affordability and market demand. Experts, overall, agree that yes, if this delivery rate is achieved it will help – but is a starting point.

Tomorrow we will see what other measures the Government will put forward to help the development industry.

Republicans must speak out on Trump

It is fair to say that leading Republicans have condemned racism and racist groups, but, so far, only Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham have publicly named Trump after his awful statements surrounding the events in Charlottesville.

Trump’s Tuesday impromptu Q&A at Trump Tower in New York, brought widespead shock and condemnation when he reverted to his initial equivocation, when he said  there was “blame on both sides”.

Today Trump has gone even further by condemning the removal of Confederate Statues.

Sen John McCain tweeted, “There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so”.

Sen Lindsey Graham in a statement said, “Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer. I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency,”.

We have seen a significant number of business CEO’s leaving Trump’s business advisory group, a total of eight in three days. So much so that the two business groups have now been disbanded.

This is in addition to Democrat politicians directly condemning Trumps comments.

But it is now time for Republican politicians to step forward as well and directly condemn Trump’s comments on Charlottesville.

  • UPDATE
  • Mitt Romney has made the following statement;“I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president’s Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn’t mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.

    The leaders of our branches of military service have spoken immediately and forcefully, repudiating the implications of the president’s words. Why? In part because the morale and commitment of our forces–made up and sustained by men and women of all races–could be in the balance. Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America’s ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?

    In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence?

    The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis–who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat–and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.

    This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.”