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Agenda item


To provide an update on recent Ofsted inspections of schools, numbers of exclusions, school improvement and the new Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Strategy.


The Committee received a report detailing the latest updates on Ofsted inspections of schools, numbers of exclusions, school improvement and the new Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Strategy.


Mrs Booth, Director of Children’s Services informed Committee members that an Ofsted inspection of the SEND service was expected imminently, therefore in preparation an ex-inspectorate officer had been commissioned to review the current arrangements. Members were informed that the review had identified a weakness around health and as such this was being addressed.


The Committee asked whether the transition between primary and secondary school was still proving problematic. Mr Paul Turner, Head of School Standards, Safeguarding and Inclusion responded by acknowledging that once primary pupils transitioned to secondary school academic progress often faltered. Members heard that a transition project had been introduced to review the problem, with a number of potential issues being explored. It was noted that secondary school lessons were taught in a different style to primary school lessons and that parents were more likely to communicate any issues to primary schools more readily. Mr Turner indicated that year nine had been identified as a crucial point, where social groups may become more influential and parents often experienced parenting challenges.


In addition, Mr Turner made reference to a curriculum project which spanned school years five to eight and focused on the avoidance of duplication of previously taught topics and subject matter. Members were informed that a number of projects were ongoing with the aim of improving the transition from primary to secondary school, acknowledging that analysis of the impact of any specific project was difficult due to the number of interventions in place.


Mrs Booth informed the Committee of the new but significant home to school support in place aimed at extending the provision of care to continue at home as well as during the school day. Training of the whole workforce to impress to families the importance of education was being implemented, as well as measures to prevent young people who attended university leaving the area once they had completed their education.


It was queried whether children had been asked to identify the issues affecting them as they transitioned from primary to secondary education. Mrs Booth concurred that the ability to ask children to identify what had happened to them was being lost, agreeing that direct questions needed to be asked.


Following a question regarding the high number of children opting for Elective Home Education, Mr Turner clarified that legislation in the area favoured parents and only stated that children must receive an education, with the Local Authority’s role being to ensure that the level of education received was appropriate.


Members identified that the number of Blackpool children attending mainstream education was significantly lower than the national average of 47 per cent and requested clarification on this. Mr Turner explained that whilst Blackpool was moving closer to the national average it was only via incremental improvements. This was in part explained by the intolerance within schools to address Special Educational Needs. He informed the Committee that in some cases Blackpool schools and academies were not meeting their statutory obligations in the provision of sufficient facilities. In addition, Mr Turner expressed that the situation was further compounded by the popularity of the three special schools within the area.


Mrs Booth informed the Committee of an outreach project which had been introduced over the past few months and which aimed to build better relationships between schools and education trusts. It was noted that improvements were beginning to be seen with solutions being identified and worked towards. The importance of education on a child’s future prospects was discussed, with the potential impact on employment, housing and parenting being acknowledged as well as the need to redraw the landscape of what it meant to be a child in Blackpool.


Mr Philip Thompson, Head of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) stressed that sanctions implemented by schools could often be avoided if a child’s needs were recognised and met. The example was given of a disruptive pupil whose inability to communicate or access the curriculum alongside the rest of the class resulted in sanctions and potential exclusions. It was stressed that Special Educational Needs needed to be recognised and correctly identified, as 95 per cent of pupils placed in Pupil Referral Units were found to have undiagnosed special educational needs or disabilities. It was agreed that this was an area requiring further exploration and improvement.


Mrs Booth, Mr Turner and Mr Thompson left the meeting following the conclusion of this item.


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