Last week The Inclusion series was released by Mime and it highlighted some worrying statistics and trends regarding inclusiveness and equality within our education systems. In recent months I have commented a lot about the term ‘Inclusion’ – in fact over the years many of my blogs have tried to make sense of the issues surrounding it.

Supporting Inclusion Action Over Ideology

How Do We Measure Inclusion – What I have learnt from a PRU

For the first time, this week, I was able to look at a set of statistics being used to try to measure ‘Inclusion’.

What did they tell us?

London, once again, comes out on top regarding an education measure. This time they were best at being ‘inclusive’.

The inclusion Index created by Mime looked at 12 indicators covering assessment, placement and outcomes and they used published data from 150 local authorities. This is a comprehensive list and included established statistics and therefore brings a lot to think about.

The Inclusion Index covered:

  • Fixed term and permanent exclusion rates for SEND pupils within an area.
  • The % of SEND pupils with an EHCP and the % of these pupils in a mainstream schools.
  • The academic attainment and progress of pupils with an EHCP across the primary and secondary sectors within an area.

So, for an area to have a high score it would have a higher % of SEND pupils being supported in a mainstream setting and doing well academically (E.g not being excluded and getting good outcomes).

This raises a number of questions for me.

  1. Many of the children I work with who have an EHCP are not ‘academic’ in the sense that they will not pass examinations (the measurable). Therefore, who are the children with EHCPs who get high academic outcomes? Are we able to look in more detail at the nature of the EHCP and the outcomes? I constantly have this argument as a mainstream school with a 40 place Specialist Provision. In the five years I have been at my school NOT one child in Specialist has taken a SATs test and yet every year children from Specialist in Year 6 are included in my national statistics. Last year this was 13%. I feel that we need to learn to measure what matters (Including but not exclusively academic outcomes). Here lies a deeper problem. There are no incentives for schools to be fully inclusive – only barriers which are further strengthen through perverse accountability measures. You only have to look at Ofsted inspection data to see which areas have the highest number of Outstanding schools… It would be interesting to then look in more detail at the inclusion and depravation rates within these schools compared to others.
  2. This then leads me to think. If London EHCP children – For example Westminster, which came out on top, are getting higher outcomes what does that tell us about the nature of EHCPs in London and these areas? Which families are getting EHCPs (we know that there is a deprivation factor in EHCPs which the report touches on). My point being if the high outcomes in Westminster are for children from more deprived backgrounds with complex and multiple SEND then I could see that this may buck a national trend (no matter what the size of the EHCP cohort is). On the other hand if it’s for less complex EHCPs being issued for families from far less deprived backgrounds we may be looking at a system (or societal) issue rather than a delivery issue.
  3. Mime’s managing director Steve Preston said, “An inclusive education is one where every pupil has equal access to opportunities to learn and fulfil their potential.” Per Pupil funding for a secondary pupil in a Westminster secondary school is £6960 (Which is not as high as the £8011 per pupil in Hackney). The difference between my daughters Somerset Secondary School (With 1600 pupils) and a similar school in Westminster is £2,873,600 in general per pupil funding and this is before any other factors around High Needs Funding etc comes in to play. Take out London weighting and there’s still a huge difference in funding and therefore a schools ability to meet ALL need through general funding arrangements. I think that when we are talking inclusion statistics nationally this per pupil funding is a massive factor to consider when looking at the success of schools due to much better capacity to meet wider needs in universal yearly funding.
  4. What is happening in certain areas outside of London (South West and North West)? I do feel that there is something regional (I have worked in Tower Hamlets, Bristol and Somerset as a head teacher) and I feel this could be about attitude based on geography (though this is a personal opinion) -a frustration maybe that access to services are just not here in Somerset. Do head teachers in London feel the same? What is the statistical evidence regarding access to support services in say Yeovil or Barnet? What I know about inclusion is you need wrap around services – a school cannot do it alone. I have never felt more alone than in Somerset when it comes to supporting high end vulnerable families because the services have been cut to the marrow. There is also the travel factor. When I worked in Tower Hamlets I could get about via the tube in pretty good time – accessing a multitude of services. Somerset is a vast and sprawling place of small towns which takes hours to drive a cross. What factor does the make-up of an area make in delivery of better quality services?

So, in the stats we see that London is GOOD (Top 10 areas in London) and the South West BAD (5 of the bottom 10 areas in the South West). I keep thinking what makes the difference?

Better trained staff in London Schools?

Better relationships between schools and parents in London leading to joined up support?

Higher aspirations for SEND pupils in London schools?

What are the key factors?  I just keep coming back to money and topography and this could be blinding me.

What is the vision difference between the South West or the North East and London? What are the factors that make the difference – if it’s not about money or access to resources? If it is money and resources there’s an easy solution – make the system more in line with London schools and then we will see a raise in inclusive practice. If it’s not this then we would be wasting a lot of money. I hate the idea that because we have a problem we can just throw money at it. We need a deeper debate about this gap between areas and therefore the equity of what we are measuring. I don’t have the answers but I do know that we need this debate at the highest levels. We need to think beyond money and put fairness and justice on the agenda headline. Whatever the reasons for the inequality towards children and families with SEND within areas around the country what we can’t lose sight of is how this fuels an unequal society.

And I haven’t even mentioned the cost of funding of out of county places, off rolling and a significant rise in exclusions. Another issue that we need to discuss is the impact of SEMH on these statistics. All of this is vital work and I look forward to see what Mime do next as they try to bring some statistical sense to what is a very complex matter.