In the maelstrom of curriculum and assessment change, and with the ongoing crises of recruitment and finance, it is easy to overlook the role that a governing board has for those pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
But it is an important job. Children with SEND have the poorest outcomes of any group. For example, at key stage 2 in 2017 just 18 per cent of pupils with SEND reached the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics, compared with 70 per cent of pupils with no identified SEND (a gap of 52 percentage points).
Improving outcomes for young people with SEND will be a monumental task and that is exactly why we need the whole school community to play its part to challenge and foster school cultures to be inclusive. That means governors need to pay closer attention.
How might they do that?
Governance for SEND
Boards can now take advantage of a brand new resource, the SEND Governance Review Guide. Building on the considerable success of the SEND Review Guide and the suite of resources hosted by Whole School SEND, the guide is structured around the "six features of effective governance". Governors and trustees can use this to understand not just what "should" be happening in your setting, but also to appreciate the importance of how the board operates and what it prioritises.
In creating the guide, we drew upon the experience of mainstream, special and post-16 settings because we wanted to reaffirm the key principles of effective governance, even for those whose settings which are predominantly set up to educate young people with SEND.
While special schools will usually consider SEND strategically already, we want governors to reflect on the impact of their decision-making on areas which might seem separate from our young people. In my experience, decisions related to finance and personnel, especially in times of challenging budgets, are often where motivations can be driven by other priorities that may not be in the best interests of our young people.
The project was part-funded by Department for Education and Driver Youth Trust, and I am incredibly grateful for the contributions from governors, trustees and representatives from educational bodies, including the NGA, without which this work would not have been possible.
Chris Rossiter is chief executive of Driver Youth Trust and chair of governors of Oaklands Infant School in Crowthorne, Berkshire