Weekly political news round up – 28th March 2014

March 28, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

Children and Young People Now has reported that Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, has written to early years inspectors urging them to “focus on evaluating whether children are being adequately prepared for the start of their statutory schooling”. Some nursery providers have objected to Ofsted’s attempts to emphasise formal education in early years care. Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said inspectors should consider all aspects of children’s development equally, rather than just educational outcomes.

The Department for Education has published statistics on pupil absence in schools in England between 2012 and 2013. The statistics showed that the absence rate for those with an SEN was 8.2% compared to 4.8% for those without an identified SEN.

Department for Education publishes response to consultation on primary assessment and accountability

The Department for Education has published the Government’s response to its consultation on primary school assessment and accountability. The response sets out a number of changes to primary education, including changes to assessment in order to make the national curriculum more challenging, and also to the accountability system in order to make sure that children are making the best progress possible between the time they enter reception and the time that they leave primary school.

One of the most important changes for the PCF is the introduction of a baseline assessment at reception level, to be administered by reception staff, from September 2015 onwards. What the introduction of the new baseline means is that the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile will no longer be made compulsory from September 2016 onwards. The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile is the assessment used to measure children at the age of five against the Early Years Foundation Stage, which is a framework that sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. Though the Early Years Foundation Stage will continue to be statutory, the shift for the Profile from compulsory to optional will mean that children will no longer have to be assessed against criteria ELG 05 of the Profile, which states that children must “…manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully, including dressing and going to the toilet independently”.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence publishes consultation on draft scope for the guideline for transition from child to adult health and social care services in England

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a consultation on the draft scope for the guideline on the transition from children’s to adult services for young people (up to the age of 25) using health or social care services. NICE was asked jointly by the Department of Health and the Department for Education to develop this guideline, which will provide action-orientated recommendations for good practice, aimed at improving outcomes for young people who use health and social care services and their families or carers.

The scope highlights the need for the guideline, citing existing problems with transition between services, such as poor management, perceptions that people are being punished for reaching a certain age and so on. It also highlights evidence of current service gaps for those with long-term chronic conditions. The scope outlines groups that this guideline is being focused on, such as children and young people with disabilities and those with long-term, life-limiting and chronic conditions, including those with complex health needs.

The desired outcome of the guideline is to allow young people to undertake the activities they want to and to live as independently as possible, with the highest quality of life as possible.

MPs debate a joined up approach to early years development

In a topical questions session with Education Secretary Michael Gove, Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt asked Gove for a progress update on the pledge to create 4,200 new health visitors, as pledged in 2010. Gove responded that the provision of additional health visitors was a matter for the Health Secretary.

Hunt criticised Gove’s response, criticising the lack of cross-departmental thinking about having health visitors focus on early years development. He added that research published by the Sutton Trust reiterated the impact that good parenting has on school readiness, educational attainment and progression into continued education and work. He subsequently asked if the Government’s commitment to 4,200 new health visitors would be matched in this parliamentary session.

Gove responded with frustration, claiming that Hunt should learn to tell the difference between education and health. He reiterated the point that responsibility for health visitors, like responsibility for doctors and nurses, lies with the Health Secretary.

Answer to written question on the pupil premium

Shadow Childcare Minister Lucy Powell has received an answer to her written questions asking the Education Secretary what estimate he has made for the number of three and four year olds who will benefit from his new early years premium; what the eligibility criteria is for those children; how those three and four year olds will be identified; what amount will be attached to each child; how the premium will be administered; whether all early years settings will be eligible to receive the premium for children in their care; and for how many years that funding is guaranteed.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss responded that the Government will consult on delivery of the premium, including the eligibility criteria, prior to its introduction in April 2015. She added that funding decisions beyond 2015-16 will be determined in a future Parliament.

Weekly political news round up – 21st March 2014

March 24, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Scottish Government have announced that four new members have been appointed to Scotland’s Early Years Taskforce. Set up in 2011, the Taskforce aims to provide a strategic and co-ordinated approach to early years policy across the public sector and to ensure public spending on the early years of children’s lives and early intervention is prioritised – shifting the emphasis of public spending from dealing with health or social problems towards policies that prevent them in the first place. Amongst the appointees is Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP.

Children and Young People Now have reported that a number of special educational needs charities, including Contact a Family and Every Disabled Child Matters, have expressed fear that cuts to local authority budgets and inadequate guidance for professionals will undermine the reforms made in the Children and Families Act. Paul Soames, chief executive of Contact a Family, said that “more cuts in local authority services and welfare changes mean families with disabled children and young people face extremely difficult times ahead”.

Ofsted launches consultation on introducing ratings for early years care in schools

Ofsted, the government department that inspects and regulates schools, has launched a consultation on plans to introduce a separate rating covering early years care in schools. The consultation document says Ofsted will develop a separate inspection criteria for early years in schools that measures pupils’ achievement, the quality of the teaching, behaviour and safety, and leadership and management. The plans are designed to ensure inspectors place as much emphasis on early years provision as they do on education for five to 16 year olds.

Though the consultation is short on detail, it says that the inspections will ensure that Nursery and Reception classes follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EFYS) framework. Outlined in the current EYFS framework is one assessment criteria, ELG 05, which states that children must “…manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully, including dressing and going to the toilet independently”.

Budget 2014

On Wednesday, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered the Budget 2014 statement to the House of Commons, in which he outlined the state of the nation’s finances, as well as the Government’s proposals for changes to economic policy. The Budget also provided an opportunity to announce the Office of Budgetary Responsibility’s (OBR) forecasts for the growth of the UK economy over the next few years.

George Osborne told the House that if “you are a maker, a doer or a saver, this is a budget for you”. In particular, he highlighted that the OBR has revised up their prediction for growth in 2014 from 2.7% compared to 2.4%, as predicted in the Autumn Statement in December. Osborne also stated that there will be more cuts in public spending in the next Parliament, provided the Conservatives are elected in 2015.

Long term economic policy remains largely unchanged, with the core of the changes outlined in the Budget largely relating to pensions and savings, as well as business and manufacturing. There were, however, a couple of points of interest for the PCF.

As was announced by the Government earlier in the week, the Government will be introducing several extra provisions regarding childcare. These include a new Early Years Pupil Premium to help ensure children get the best possible start in life, which involves the investment of £50 million in 2015 and 2016 in early years providers, allowing them to employ more highly qualified staff. This money can be spent by providers in ways which they deem necessary to narrow the attainment and development gap between pupils from different backgrounds.

Furthermore, the Government has also announced changes to the Tax-Free Childcare scheme. The Government will now provide working parents with 20% support on childcare costs up to £10,000 per year for each child (compared to the existing limit of £6000). This means that there will now be support of up to £2000 per child per year. The scheme, which is available for children up to the age of 12, is also available for children with disabilities up to the age of 16.

Moreover, while numerous Government departments have had their departmental programme and administration budgets cut, funding for the NHS is set to increase from £105.6bn in 2013-14 to £108.3bn in 2014-15, and again to £110.4bn in 2015-16. This is in line with previous commitments that the NHS budget would rise in real terms – although there will still be huge pressures to make savings.

Responding to the news, the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) have issued a statement saying that the announcements made on Wednesday were “not [by] that of a government aspiring to make our country the best for children to grow up in”. Despite welcoming the commitments to assist families with the cost of childcare, the NCB criticised the impact of spending cuts on children from poorer households.

Weekly political news round up – 14th March 2014

March 14, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Children and Families Bill has now received Royal Assent and is now the Children and Families Act.

Department for Education publish paper outlining research needs for SEN and disability

The Department for Education has published a paper outlining research needs, priorities and questions regarding SEN and disability.  Although large parts of the paper summarise information that has already been published, such as the 2011 Green Paper on SEN and disability, the Department’s consultation on SEN and disability, and what the Government is doing in terms of the Children and Families Act 2014, the paper sets future research priorities.

The purpose of the paper is to develop a process of engagement with relevant stakeholders in examining and identifying longer term trends in the SEN and disability field, develop and promote effective evidence-based practice, as well as finding ways of making better use of existing information.

As such, the paper outlines a set of questions to be reviewed at regular intervals. These can be summarized below:

  • Measuring System Performance
    • How can innovative methods be used to measure the performance of the SEN system?
  • Identification
    • What methods in educations are being used to identify children with SEN? Does the method and process of identification make a difference to provision and outcomes?
    • Are there local variations in identifying and classifying SEN need and level? Why so?
    • What is driving the increase in identification of SEN at lower levels of provision?
  • What works: developing and evidence based sector
    • What approaches to teaching and learning have demonstrated a positive impact on educational attainment for particular groups with SEN
    • How does the approach to SEN and disability categorisation, identification and provision compare to other countries?
    • How can developments and new research in neuroscience be utilised to inform practice in assessing and supporting young people with SEN?
  • Wider education reform
    • What differences are there in the types of support provided in different types of schools? What impact do these differences have on the outcomes of children?
    • What approaches to assessment of achievement are most effective for children with SEN?
    • Are school funding reforms changing the support for children with Sen in different settings?
    • How are changes to teacher education impacting on the competence and capacity of the workforce in identifying and supporting children with SEN and disabilities?
  • Medical and long-term outlook
    • Has there been a cultural shift in the ways in which education, health and care professions work together with families following the SEN reforms?
    • How can a family focused approach be sustained over time?
    • What factors promote effective engagement with parents and young people at an individual and strategic level?
    • What factors encourage effective local partner organisation collaboration?
    • Are there effective ways of modelling the demography the SEN and disability population?
    • How are the reforms to the health service affecting the support being made available to children with SEN and disabilities?

The Department will be arranging a series of discussions throughout 2014 with practitioners, the research community and other stakeholder to discuss views and help shape departmental plans to filling evidence gaps. It has also asked stakeholders to respond to this document by sharing with them any existing research evidence or current work relevant to the above questions.

Education Select Committee recalls Children’s Minister Elizabeth Truss over “inadequate” response to children’s centre report

Children’s Minister Elizabeth Truss is being recalled to the Education Select Committee following an “inadequate” response by the Government to the Committee’s report on Sure Start children’s centres, published in December 2013.

The Committee’s report  set out recommendations for how early intervention should be encouraged, such as ensuring that more families have access to sure start centres and the appropriate training for the early years workforce and attracting high quality professionals. Committee Chair Graham Stuart was disappointed that the Government’s response failed to appropriately address the report’s specific recommendations; instead the Government stated off the importance of good quality childcare and the measures it has introduced. The Government mentioned the Early Intervention Fund, as well as its reforms to standards for the early years workforce, but did not acknowledge the Committee’s specific concerns around the closure of children centres and the consequential shrinking of the early years infrastructure and the impact this has on early intervention services.

Health Education England appoint new Director of Education and Quality

Health Education England (HEE) has announced that Professor Wendy Reid has been appointed as HEE’s Director of Education and Quality. Professor Reid, who was appointed as HEE’s Medical Director in November 2012, will be replacing Professor Chris Welsh, who announced that he would be retiring at the end of the month. It has not yet been announced who will replace Professor Reid as HEE’s Medical Director.

Professor Reid will be responsible for providing clinical leadership for Health Education England and ensuring high quality education and training for the health care workforce in England. She will also work to ensure that education and training reflects the needs of patients and community.

Commenting on her appointment, she said that HEE was “an organisation with such great potential to improve patient care”.

PCF responds to Department for Education consultation on support for children at schools with medical conditions

March 10, 2014 in Consultations by Whitehouse

The Paediatric Continence Forum has responded to a consultation by the Department for Education on new draft statutory guidance aimed at supporting pupils at school with medical conditions in England.

This guidance also provides non-statutory advice for schools, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, parents/carers and pupils, health service providers and other interested parties.

To view the PCF’s submission, please click here.

Weekly political news round up – Friday 7th March 2014

March 7, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

The Local Government Ombudsman has published a report, SEN: Preparing for the Future, urging children with SEN to be treated fairly. Research conducted for the report revealed that complaints had been made to the ombudsman on the failure to provide specific SEN support such as qualified specialists, and poor planning for an individual’s support package. The ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, has called it “unacceptable” that some children with special educational needs are having their education disrupted a result of councils failing to act quickly enough to provide support services.

The National Children’s Bureau has published guidance by the Anti-Bullying Alliance regarding the internet use of children with special educational needs, revealing the evidence of cyber-bullying and experiences of discriminatory behaviour. The findings found that many young people with SEN had experienced cyber-bullying and were using the internet to create an anonymous persona to mask their disability, or were actively avoiding the internet.

NHS England’s new Youth Forum was launched on Monday at the Health and Care Innovation Expo. The youth forum, which comprises of 20 young people – with the involvement of  thousands more via social media and partner organisations – discussed ways of working with partners to develop recommendations for improving communication between young people and clinicians. Participants in the forum also discussed issues such as being in a family of health care users and having received acute care or having long-term conditions.

Answer to written question on the assessment of special educational needs

Conservative MP Karen Lumley has received an answer to her written question asking the Education Secretary what monitoring procedures his department has in place to ensure that assessment of pupils’ special needs are accurate.

Children’s Minister Edward Timpson responded that local authorities are responsible for ensuring that assessments of special educational needs are accurate. He said that if local authorities decided not to issue an SEN statement following assessment, or if parents did not believe it accurately represented their child’s SEN, parents could appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability) against their decision.

However, he added that SEN statements were being replaced by Education, Health and Care Plans following the Children and Families Bill, with rights of appeal being maintained and extended to young people.

Finally, he said that the SEN Code of Practice, which provides guidance on how and when to carry out education, health and care assessments, had been consulted on and that revisions were being made following the consultation.

Health and social care organisations establish the Coalition for Collaborative Care

A new coalition of organisations from across the health and social care sector was announced at the Health and Care Innovation Expo 2014, hosted by NHS England. The Coalition for Collaborative Care is seeking to create a health and care system that enables people to work with healthcare professionals to improve how they live with their long term conditions.

The Coalition for Collaborate Care will be using an approach called the “House of Care”, which is a visual representation of the elements that need to be in place for health and care professionals to improve care and support planning. The House of Care will also help to link people with the community activities and social networks that build confidence and provide support in their daily lives. These social interventions build on and complement clinical care, connecting the clinical consultation with interventions such as peer support groups, befriending and one-to-one coaching.

It also seeks to institute change by improving a whole range of influencing factors from financial incentives for clinicians to the evidence base underpinning the approach; from training for healthcare professionals to developing networks of patient leaders. The Coalition claims that the focus is on action and on large-scale change – moving collaborative care from the early adopters to the mainstream.

The Coalition currently includes members such as the RCGP, NHS England, NHS Improving Quality, and the Health Foundation, and has expressed a desire to expand to include commissioners, providers and patient organisations.