Making sense of special needs

16th May 2008 at 01:00
Over the past three years, the proportion of statemented children has declined
Over the past three years, the proportion of statemented children has declined. Overall, however, the proportion of pupils - primary and secondary - with special educational needs has risen. Because of this, it is as important as ever for special needs governors to stay informed.

Governors, aware of ongoing concerns about teacher workload, could be put off arranging "extra" meetings with their busy special needs co-ordinator (Senco), but this need not be so if you spend some time gathering information.

You can access details on special needs from a number of sources. The new RaiseOnline site provides contextual value-added scores for such pupils - a useful starting point if your school is pushing to "accelerate progress".

Statistics that tell you how the progress of these pupils compares with the average can be helpful. However, they are a crude indicator of whether or not support and interventions are actually working. Statistics don't take background issues such as marriage break-ups or family illness into account, which can skew data - especially in small cohorts.

Governors can find out about the finances from the school office. How much does the school get for special needs and what is this spent on? And you can ask the local authority for benchmarking figures on how your school's spending compares with others.

Of course, all the above are just numbers; it is the children that matter most. This is why meeting your Senco is important. Because, if you want to find out the real information, nothing beats a good old chat.

Besides, armed with the above data, the chances are that you will have something they have not seen before. The meeting is suddenly beneficial to both parties and, rather than an extra meeting, it becomes an essential meeting.

Aaron King, Governor at Greengate Lane Primary School, Sheffield.

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