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Best possible start in life?

new-blog-header-1Jessica NashJessica Nash, Head of Special Schools Network and SEN, writes…

In her recent speech, discussing changes to the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), the Education Minister Nicky Morgan referred to the power of education to transform lives, break down barriers and open up a world of opportunities.

No-one can disagree with the government’s ambition to close the gap and increase social mobility. Perhaps, as always, the devil will be in the detail?

What will be the indicators for the ‘small group of pupils for whom this won’t be appropriate’?

There is an extensive range of (sometimes complex) special educational needs now presenting in our mainstream and special school populations. For some students to rely on memory alone could lead to huge inequalities; expecting proficiency in a modern foreign language might jeopardise individual opportunities to bring up skills in English.

For some students to rely on memory alone could lead to huge inequalities

And for others, the universal expectation of an academic route simply fails to acknowledge their potential for personal development, increasing independence, and developing life skills.

One could argue that the introduction of a compulsory EBacc frames the entitlement for quality education and is indeed one of the major vehicles for delivering social justice.

However there is a fear that it will only serve to reinforce the differing characteristics of our learners – denying personalised curriculum routes that reflect young people’s individual aptitudes and interests.

The SEND Code, which started life as Support and Aspiration, is unequivocal in its ambition for what is a significant minority of our schools’ population.

There is a fear that it [the Ebacc] will only serve to reinforce the differing characteristics of our learners – denying personalised curriculum routes

In pursuit of improving individual outcomes, the Code reminds us that all children and young people are entitled to an education that enables them to make progress so that they achieve their best, become confident individuals who live fulfilling lives, and make a successful transition into adulthood.

The recently published Common Inspection Framework reflects an encouraging and increased focus by Ofsted on pupil progress.

There’s no doubt that the challenge of redesigning a curriculum to extend and enhance skills, knowledge and understanding for pupils with special educational needs is exercising – it is heartening that they are now at the heart of the new handbook.

That’s why we’ve made the theme of this year’s conference for specialist providersShifting from aspiration into learner achievement‘.

We’re bringing together specialist providers to explain exactly how they have built learner independence and transformed their school communities through pupil voice, staff coaching, working with parents, and coordinating agency involvement.

Let’s hope that the EBacc proposals are influenced by the spirit of the SEND Code, especially considering they are due in this year’s Learning Disability Week.

Find out more about this year’s SSAT SEN Annual Conference.

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