Commenting on Ofsted’s Annual Report (4 December 2019), Deborah Lawson, General Secretary of Voice: the Union for Education Professionals, said:
“I welcome the Chief Inspector’s highlighting of the crisis in special needs provision.
“Schools across the country are under enormous financial pressure – as has been emphasised by the BBC’s School series – and dedicated staff are ‘working their socks off’, as the Chief Inspector put it, to support youngsters with special educational needs in the face of cuts and restructuring – which is resulting in cuts to critical staff, including teaching support assistants and behavioural support staff.
“Constant restructuring – with some schools restructuring for each of the last five years – means skilled, dedicated and expert staff are being lost – not only to the school, but to the system. Deskilling of such experts is very quick. Loss of key staff places an additional pressure on teachers and exclusions rise.
“It is deeply worrying how local authorities are so cash-strapped that budgeting for PRUs (pupil referral units) and alternative provision (AP) is unstable so, even where there is good practice, quality is being degraded by the loss of skilled staff.
“Action is needed to support, protect and properly fund the vulnerable pupils in school and their committed and hard-working staff.
“We have welcomed the recent change in emphasis from Ofsted away from its previous focus on data and results, but Ms Spielman’s comments about the ‘mentality of “what’s measured is what gets done” trumps the true purpose of education, and curriculum thinking’ demonstrates how the weight of the Ofsted accountability regime and perceived expectations – and the Government’s results-driven focus – lies heavily on schools.
“The Commons Education Committee’s report, Forgotten children: alternative provision and the scandal of ever increasing exclusions, found that vulnerable pupils were being ‘disproportionately’ excluded, in part as an ‘unintended consequence’ of new government performance measures. ‘Unintended’ maybe, but entirely predictable as no resources or initiatives were put in place to reduce the risk of exclusion for vulnerable pupils.”
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