Schools have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate against pupils on the basis of protected characteristics, such as disability or race

Those with SEN are failed within society daily. Hourly. Now.

It shocks me that people are still punished for their SEN , weather that be in school, the work place or the community.

In 2019 the Government published “School exclusion: a literature review on the continued disproportionate exclusion of certain children”. The DFE commissioned this independent review to gain and support the understanding as to what there contend to be a disproportionate exclusion of certain pupils from English schools. These included:

  • Black Caribbean boys,
  • Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children,
  • Children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND)
  • Those eligible for free school meals (FSM).

I could write a whole dissertation on the above. Each “category” …and maybe I will. But today I am talking about those with SEN.

The lit review noted that along with the above factors that could contribute to exclusions that the other themes that were prominent included.

  • Emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs,
  • Poverty,
  • Low attainment,
  • Being bullied,
  • Poor relationships with teachers,
  • Life trauma and
  • Challenges in their home lives.

Or, if we name these things for what they really are, adverse childhood experiences. Things that the children have no control over.

In fact….so far not a single thing that is named in this blog as to why children would be excluded are in the control of the actual child.

The research has many interesting points. Be sure to digest it all.

The research found that the extent to which a child felt like they “belonged” in school was identified as critical in some of the research. This included.

feeling valued as an individual,

 having good relationships with peers and teachers,

and feeling that their needs were understood and addressed.

Or…. the voice of the child….

The higher exclusions rates of pupils with SEMH and additional needs appeared from the research in the lit review to reflect challenges faced by schools and staff in identifying and meeting these needs. It is stated that this was aggravated by reduced school funding and limited scope to but in specialist support.

Still…as far as I can see….completely out of the control of the child.

When looking at preventative measures in terms of these exclusions, it was reported this focused primarily with supporting the child or young person; adopting whole-family or whole-school approaches; and/or supporting teaching staff to identify and manage behaviour.

However

The lit review found that the interventions varied in terms of their focus and how much of this actually focused on preventing exclusions.

There was limited evidence on relative impact. However, several pointed to the key features of promising practice emerging:

· create a positive school ethos and culture to guide and support staff in understanding, identifying and managing behaviour in positive ways.

 · support families and children, using high-quality external provision as indicated.

· focus on intervening early before problems become entrenched.

· provide some pupils with ‘targeted’ support. This may include some respite from mainstream classes, and/or specialist one-to-one tuition or counselling.

The lit review does touch on how a PRU or alternative settings are used to support children. But lets not even go down that rabbit hole of lies.

What was noted, however was “the literature is limited but points to a multiplicity of inter-connected drivers of exclusion, not least pupils’ struggles with racial stereotyping, mental health problems and other additional needs, falling behind academically, and increasingly feeling they do not ‘belong’ at school. At the same time, schools may struggle to identify and meet needs at the optimal time, and some teachers feel they lack 11 adequate experience and training. Solutions are unlikely to be singular or simple, but many pragmatic recommendations were found in the literature, along with suggestions around promising practice.” (p.10)

But the part that interested me the most is when they make the suggestion that schools are microcosms of society. Carlile (2009b), borrowing from Bourdieu and other educational philosophers and theorists, describes schools as ‘institutions which reproduce the social order’. In other words, they do not operate in a vacuum and are not distinct or immune from social norms and beliefs in the wider society in which they are situated. Based on this argument, it follows, as posited by Gazeley et al. (2015), that factors associated with an increased risk of exclusion such as gender, social class and ethnicity can be to some extent intersecting. (p.17)

When I read this, it made me stop for a moment. Because of the truth in what was being said. In terms of SEN, people with SEN are expected to fit in with “normal” people and the norms of society.

Lets take for example…. eye contact. You are expected to look someone in the eye when talking to them. In fact, some people almost demand that of people.

Furthermore, a number of topics emerged in the literature concerning the possible wider causative factors behind exclusions from school, including:

 · Pupils’ sense of ‘belonging’ when at school.

 · School policies and practice around supporting SEN and SEMH and pupils’ wellbeing.

· Differentials by age, stage, settings, and pressures on schools.

· Teacher training.

· Schools’ understanding and application of equality legislation.

And for the purpose of this blog, we are gonna focus on that SEN and SEMH element.

This report uses the terms ‘SEND’ or ‘additional needs’ as umbrella terms to describe pupils who face challenges arising from learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyspraxia; from learning, sensory or physical disabilities; and / or from SEMH needs.

Official statistics show that children with SEN represent 14% of the state-funded school population (DfE, 2018b) but account for almost half of permanent exclusions (DfE, 2018a). The same data show that pupils with SEN support are almost six times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion than pupils with no SEN and pupils with any type of SEN are around five times more likely to receive a fixed period exclusion.

Exclusion rates vary by type of need. The official statistics show that pupils with SEMH have the highest rate of exclusions and that pupils with Specific and Moderate Learning Difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Disorders also have high rates (DfE, 2018a). This is backed up by Brede et al. (2016) at University College London in a study conducted for the National Autistic Society. The researchers interviewed eight White British children (aged 10 to 17) and one young person (aged 18) with diagnoses of autism, seven parents and 19 staff at a specialist ‘hub’. All of the children had been excluded in the past, together with managed moves and many other changes of school and had generally not had their educational needs met. Parents and children reported that over time the child’s sense of engagement waned, they began to hate and refuse school, refused to do homework, got more stressed and began displaying more challenging behaviour. This was attributed to schools not appreciating or meeting their needs.

Sproston et al. (2017) conducted qualitative interviews with eight young women diagnosed with autism and their parents, to examine the factors that had contributed to their exclusion from school. The analysis found a number of key themes: school environments described as ‘impersonal’ and inappropriate for autistic pupils (including problems with the sensory environment, difficulties when placed with inappropriate peers and general pressures of large mainstream classrooms); challenges in communication and establishing good relationships with staff or peers; a perception that staff did not understand their needs; and a lack of suitable support, resulting in long-term ‘battles’ between parents and schools.

I could go on and on. But I have taken enough of your time with discussing the report. I have attached for you to read. This report was carried out by

Berni Graham,

Clarissa White,

 Amy Edwards,

Sylvia Potter

and Cathy Street

I have looked them up and all are excellent professionals. I have contacted them all individually to let them know that their studies, hard work and time seems to have been wasted. That this epic lit review is being ignored across the country and children are still being failed, despit these people putting it out there for us all to access.

My daughter, who is 12 and is under assessment for SEN …in fact…we have a meeting this month, is one of the children being failed and punished for her SEN. She is struggling to navigate the various social fields that exist for her. Home…school. ..Classrooms…friends. Any child would struggle, but those with SEN struggle in a different  way.

My daughter spent Monday night googling the following:

“How do I make a good friend”

“How can you tell if someone is mean or joking”

“Why am I so ugly”.

And my favourite

“How to tell if the teacher likes you”

I found this on her search history after she had a melt down on Tuesday morning and said she could not go to school because no one likes her. She screamed and cried and I sent her anyway, She packed and unpacked her bag 4 times that morning. She does this kind of thing when distressed. She has to make things “Just right” and her bag was “To bumpy” for her that morning. She cried on the way to school, SO I emailed the school and gave them a heads up that she was not in a good place. They then confirmed that that too have been a little worried about her. Said she spends a lot of time alone.

I got a call that morning to let me know my daughter was not accessing mainstream lessons. I said I had been receiving texts from her all morning to say she felt incredibly sad and wanted to come home.

They also told me that she forgot her planner. I explained about the morning and such. They said they would have to speak to the behaviour team.

I then got a text to say she would receive a 60-minute detention for no planner.

My daughter wet herself the last time they put her in the isolation room. She bever told them or me until she got home. What staff did see, however, is when they brought her out to me that she dissolved into my arms sobbing.

Because the lights in the room buzz and make her feel like he can’t contrate on her breathing. And there are other children in the room who are bigger than her and very noisy and “says thing that confuse me”.

My daughter is done by 3pm. She has held in in all her tics and thoughts and worries and they explode as she comes through my door.

But…her school thought that giving her a 60-minute detention as acceptable. Even though I had explained.

Even though Berni Graham, Clarissa White, Amy Edwards, Sylvia Potter and Cathy Street published a paper that looked at things such as having good relationships with staff and the child’s needs.

I’m very disappointed. And angry. And …if I must be honest…disgusted that my child and others are being treated like this because of their SEN.

Anyway, I hope to start an open dialogue with the others of the paper mentioned here today and others about the filings of SEN children because even though my daughter has not been excluded……but who knows what could happen as her needs become greater and don’t fit into a very punitive system that she is expected to operate in. And I don’t think it should be allowed. My daughter learnt a lesson this week. That school is not a safe and fair place for her. That school does not care that she can’t think logically at times and that she struggles to organise herself well when she is having a sensory and emotional overload. The school has taught her its NOT ok not to be ok.

And that will stick with her a lifetime.

I will never be that professional. And I will never respect a professional who operates in that manner.

And I said at the start of this blog, Schools have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate against pupils on the basis of protected characteristics, such as disability or race.

One Comment Add yours

  1. As always brilliant and very detailed
    Superb

    Like

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