Tags: Inclusion | SEN – Special Educational Needs | SENCO | SENCOs | Standards

The HMI-Ofsted report, Inclusion: The Impact of LEA Support and Outreach Services (July 2005) notes that ‘the effectiveness of all support services depends crucially on the specialist expertise of the staff’ (p.11, para, 34).

It also emphasises the value of expertise embedded in practice.1
‘Teachers and other professionals need to demonstrate high levels of credibility with their colleagues in the mainstream school. Recipients often regarded outreach services from special schools and PRUs as particularly effective because staff were currently practising classroom teachers. They often used their own classrooms as coaching settings and their advice was rooted in practical experience.’ (p11, para 34)

The report also highlights the importance of ensuring that specialist expertise is made available on a more equitable basis in all areas of England.
‘The outreach services visited for this survey tended to depend in part on the expertise available at the time rather than on a strategic review of the needs in any one area and how these needs might be met. This lack of strategic planning was common and services available in any one area varied considerably. (p. 7, para 22)

In response to the need to develop better services, and in the light of the commitment, made in Removing Barriers to Achievement to developing minimum standards for support services, the review team shares its own thinking on what these could include.2

The further development of these standards will need to include a consideration of how they might be used by three distinct, but potentially interconnected support and outreach service providers: LEA support and outreach services; special school and PRU outreach support; health trust, social services and voluntary organisation led support and outreach.

The coordination of these services should be enhanced through the development of integrated children’s services. However, the use of agreed standards could make a positive contribution to ensuring that expertise is developed and made available on a systematic basis, and that problems associated with shortfalls and overlaps in support and outreach provision are identified and addressed.3

1. Inclusion: The Impact of LEA Support and Outreach Services (HMI 2452) can be accessed at www.ofsted.gov.uk 2. Removing Barriers to Achievement: The Government’s Strategy for SEN (DfES, 2004) states that the DfES will ‘introduce new generic minimum standards for local authority support services, to ensure greater consistency in both the quality and availability of specialist advice and support.’ (p.59, para 15).

3. The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), as part of its new remit, will be reviewing the framework of occupational and professional standards for the school workforce. Whether standards for support and outreach services will be integrated into this framework remains to be seen.

Evaluating support and outreach services

The following standards have been adapted from those used on the survey visits. They are intended to contribute to the development of standards for these services with a strong focus on strengthening inclusion.

1. The service has a clear purpose which takes into account other provision in the area and the needs of particular schools and pupils.

Supporting criteria

  • Services are commissioned to undertake specific types of work by the LEA; expectations are clear and include arrangements for transparent communication, access to services, response times and accountability.
  • Written agreements are in place about what services are provided to all those involved.

2. The service has suitable staff to deliver a high quality service.

Supporting criteria

Teachers and other staff:

  • have high levels of specialist knowledge not available in the school
  • understand the nature of pupils’ difficulties and are able to provide new insights to overcome difficulties
  • understand the school systems that best promote the achievement and inclusion of pupils with SEN
  • have a good understanding of the curriculum modifications and adaptations that secure broad, balanced and relevant opportunities for pupils with SEN
  • promote strategies which can be used in mainstream classrooms
  • have an understanding of pupils’ learning styles and how they can be accommodated in the school
  • have good interpersonal skills and can promote change within a school.

3. Services are led and managed to promote change within schools.

Supporting criteria

  • Principles of inclusion are embedded in working practices.
  • Funding arrangements ensure that services can plan over at least a three-year-period.
  • The management of the service gathers information systematically about the outcomes for pupils, including their achievement, learning, participation and enjoyment.
  • Information is used to target their resources efficiently in line with strategic priorities identified in the LEA’s long-term plans and they evaluate the impact of their work.
  • The progress of particular groups of pupils continues to be monitored after support is finished, especially at important transition times between classes and schools.

4. Pupils and parents are fully involved in the development of services.

Supporting criteria

  • Pupils’ and parents’ views are sought in evaluating the service and when changes are proposed.
  • Representatives of parents are involved in providing advice to service managers.
  • Parents and pupils are aware of the purposes of the service.
  • Parents and pupils receive a swift response to concerns.

Source: Inclusion: The Impact of LEA Support and Outreach Services, Annex, p.15-16

This article first appeared in SENCO Update – Oct 2005

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