In light of the Department for Education’s updated SEND and AP green paper, which asks questions about how SEN education can be improved, we hosted our Leading Excellent Inclusion webinar. Professor Toby Salt (Adviser at Zen Educate and former CEO of AQA) hosted 4 special guests to help unpack the green paper:

Here is a summary of just a few points made by the speakers:

Ensuring voices are heard

Graham Quinn praised the DfE for listening to stakeholders and ensuring that key issues were addressed in the green paper:

‘What we’ve been delighted with is the department listening to key stakeholders, and we believe that they really have listened. I’m very optimistic about the direction of travel. We believe they’ve listened to some of the key issues, and that they’ve put them into the green paper. And I think we now need to try to influence the direction of travel.’

Because the department is listening, Graham claimed that it’s a great time for a diverse range of voices to be heard:

‘We must ensure that influence isn’t just by lots of middle-aged portly people dressed in suits – that the young people themselves and the families are key drivers in understanding what their lived experience is. The work we’re doing with Apple is looking at innovative ways of ensuring that young people’s voices are heard in the consultation period (…) We have a real opportunity to influence, and I really do believe the department is in listening mode.’

However, it wasn’t all praise from Graham, who made a case that there could be a stronger emphasis on outcome:

‘We all know this statistic, and it’s not moved for the last 15 or 20 years: 6% of the population of youngsters with SEND move into paid employment of 15 hours plus or more. That has been such a challenge. I believe that we need to do more work on that, and we will be trying to influence the green paper to ensure that that part is really there, up front and central the idea of destination, the reason that we all do what we do – to empower our young people and their families so they are able to contribute for the future into our communities.’


Standardising processes

Alison Willett explained the role that standardisation plays in the green paper.

‘The main messages coming through from the green paper are about consistency and better provision. Consistency; that’s a bit of standardisation across the country, particularly through statutory national standards, in order to bring greater confidence for parents and carers and to meet the needs of children the same way everywhere. (…) So processes for decision making, on how needs are identified and met, how they’re recorded, how and when an assessment should happen, and who should be involved in that, how and when SEN Support is actually required, and what best practice looks like in reasonable adjustments for disabled children.’

One of the key takeaways from the whole green paper is the confirmation of a plan to digitise the process for EHCPs (education, health and care plans) for children with SEND, as Alison went on to explain:

‘One of the proposals for a digitised template, which will help parents and carers to have a little bit more control (…) It should make sure that everybody can access the plan more easily and also make it more personalised, because it gives the opportunity to include photos and videos, which is really nice!’

Next, Alison considered one of the questions put to the panel – a particularly tricky one given the preliminary nature of the green paper: ‘What advice would you give to a school leader who wants to establish an effective inclusive school but has a limited budget?’

‘A large proportion of what’s required to become more inclusive is often about shifting mindsets, changing perceptions, and making a commitment to making that positive change collectively as a staff, community, the school children, young people pulling everybody together. And that’s not to undermine the challenges that schools face with funding, particularly relating to children with complex needs, where extra support like healthcare plans might be needed. These are very real challenges for schools.’


Communication is key

Given the green paper outlines plans to change how special and mainstream schools relate to one another, Tracie Coultas-Pitman weighed in:

‘One of the potentially exciting things about the review is the suggestion of SEN schools working together with mainstream and others to really ensure children stay in the right schools for them, because there will always be children for whom the general education setting can’t differentiate finally enough to ensure that they get the outcomes that they should be getting. And that doesn’t mean children should always be locked into specialist settings, there could be a revolving door. (…) If we’re able to keep more and more children in their local mainstream, then the specialist provision can really be specialist and can target those children that need it.’

Tracie also touched upon the green paper’s emphasis on communicating with parents:

I think how we involve parents and carers in the assessment of local need and provision is an interesting one. There will be a huge onus on all of us as professionals and providers to be really engaging with our parents, and not just the parents that currently use our services. It’s the parents we don’t know yet and, and having an open door policy so that we can help in the specialist sector, and to keep a child in their local mainstream provision.’


What makes a great TA for children with autism?

Lucy Coy focused more on generally on what makes a great Teaching Assistant to children with autism, focusing first on teamwork:

‘Working as a team is really important. If you have an agreed script, for example, and one member of staff is following that agreed script, and another member of staff isn’t, that can cause stress and anxiety for everyone involved. (…) Every child is a different learner.’

This segued into Lucy highlighting the importance of SEN TAs being aware of environment, and the impact this has on a child’s wellbeing:

‘Environment is so important. If you’re in a classroom and a child is unhappy in that environment, you need to change it now. We had a child for a long, long time who didn’t like the texture of the carpet – we didn’t know that. So every time we sat on the carpet, they would get stressed. So talk to children; it goes back to knowing a child. “Tell us about your classroom?”, “What do you like and what don’t you like?”, “Tell us about your learning?”’


Once again, we’d like to thank Alison, Graham, Lucy, Tracie and Toby for taking part. For a more in-depth insight on the green paper, as well as advice and best practice on inclusivity in schools, watch the event in full: