Judith Wade retires from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority after three years first as professional officer for special educational needs and more recently as principal manager for equal opportunities and access. Looking back over her time at the QCA, the biggest marker, says Ms Wade, "is going to be when the revised curriculum is published in November. A new statutory general statement on providing learning opportunities for all pupils will be a big step forward in acknowledging the diversity of pupils' needs and the need to plan for needs as well as content".
Guidance for pupils achieving below national curriculum level 2 at the end of key stage 2, has been developed in a series of conferences with LEA advisers and practitioners. Ms Wade says this will be much more explicit on what schools can do and how they can assess these pupils. She points to the development of the eight-level "P scale" in maths, English and PSE as another example of how QCA is addressing the needs of those who remain below the national curriculum levels.
For the future, entry level qualifications at the end of key stage 4 and their link to post-16 basic skills is, she says, "an area ripe for development".
Coming rapidly on stream are guidance for those with severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties and, keying in to the Government's concern with inclusion, "absolutely hot" work on developing mechanisms for schools to profile pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties and set targets for behaviour.
"Many hundreds of people have watched our literacy hour," say Kelly Ott and Jill Gormley. Since Easter, Kelly and Jill have been running a uniquely successful SENCO Support Project in the London borough of Greenwich. In the past six months they have spoken at several conferences, run literacy workshops at NLS training, produced a wealth of resources and computer software and, above all, trained more than 30 Greenwich primary schools in their special brand of multi-sensory techniques to facilitate literacy. With money from the Standards Fund, full support from Greenwood special school, where they are on the staff, and HMI approval, the SENCO Support Project is growing in strength within Greenwich and if Greenwood achieves its bid for beacon school status, the message will be spread wider. "We still teach and teachers come in and see us making mistakes and see how we deal with it," says Kelly Ott. Jill Gormley adds: "We couldn't do it without our learning support assistants." Although visits by interested teachers and part-time placements for children with special educational needs are important, the project's main work is its intensive involvement with schools. Building metacognition - the understanding of how children all learn differently - into the whole-school consciousness takes two terms, work with every member of staff and pupil by Kelly, Jill and five LSAs, re-evaluation of learning resources and an action plan which is integrated into the whole school's development plan. Not surprising, then, that Kelly and Jill have one main tip for other organisations: "Only work with receptive schools: make the most of your time."
Rowie Shaw joined the National Association of Independent Schools and Non-maintained Special Schools (NASS) in August as chief executive. Chosen out of 170 candidates, Ms Shaw was until recently director of professional services at the National Association of Head Teachers, with responsibility for SEN issues, and before that headteacher of Morpeth school in Tower Hamlets. NASS represents schools and organisations catering for 5,000 of this country's most vulnerable children.
Rowie Shaw hopes to raise the profile of the small but significant independent sector, see the sector establish a self-regulating framework and act as a forum to diseminate good practice. "Politically it is an exciting time for special schools," she says. "Initiatives such as the Green Paper Excellence for All, policy on social inclusion, and the Government's eagerness to find a Third Way involving the voluntary sector offer lots of opportunities."