The Department for Children, Schools and Families love to strategise. If I had a Krispy Kreme doughnut for every strategy paper that’s been published since I started this job, I would probably now be auditioning for the role of Jabba the Hutt in the next Star Wars film.
Their latest strategy paper is called: Your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century school system. It’s a white paper, meaning that it’s a statement of intention to make lots of new laws in this area, probably later this year.
I read all through this morning and it was quite interesting. Critics will say it’s a desperate last gasp of a Government that’s running out of ideas, but I thought there was lots of sensible, useful stuff in it and a handful of references to the needs of children with special educational needs.
For example, pupils will now have a legal ‘guarantee‘ of what they will get out of school. It includes the right to additional support if children are falling behind. Assuming people are aware of it and that the guarantee has real legal teeth, it could be a useful lever to empower deaf children and their families to get the support they need.
There’s also a proposal that local authorities should survey parents to make sure they’re happy with the choice of schools in their area. Again, could be a powerful way of empowering parents of deaf children where suitable provision locally for deaf kids is not great.
A few concerns though. The white paper talks a lot of encouraging schools to work together and collaborate more to meet each other’s needs, with less centralised support from Westminster. Schools will also have more control over their own funding. This is fine – but we will need to make sure that schools don’t forget about children with low incidence needs, such as deaf children, and still make sure these children get the support they need. The white paper itself acknowledges there will still be a need for some centralised support services. We’ll be reminding them of this when it comes to sensory support services. We’ll also be reminding them of the ongoing need for action to close the gap in attainment for deaf children.
As always, the devil will be in the detail. And I need to find it, in true “Where’s Wally?” style.
What did you think? Is it good news for deaf children or do you think more needs to be done?