SEN league tables could be first step to selection, warn campaigners

25th March 2011 at 00:00

Special schools could become "selective" if SEN performance tables are published for the first time, campaigners have warned.

Ministers have announced plans to make public details of the progress of the lowest-achieving 20 per cent of pupils as a way of helping parents to judge schools. The proposals were included in the SEN green paper, published earlier this month.

Organisations representing SEN teachers say the introduction of the tables would lead to special schools being ranked, which could in turn lead heads to refuse to take children with severe needs.

The tables would show the achievements of children working below standard national curriculum levels and their "progress" in P-scale data, which is used to show the achievements of children who are working below level 1, on the normal scale of achievement.

Special schools have had to submit P-scale data to the Department for Education for the past two years, but to date the information has not been made public.

Lorraine Petersen, chief executive of the National Association for Special Educational Needs (Nasen), said there was a risk that data would be "misinterpreted".

"Parents might think they can use them to select a school for their child in the same way as they would for a mainstream primary or secondary," she said.

"P scales are not meant to be about assessment, they are a snapshot of a child's progress. In some schools half the pupils can be absent because of hospital stays and a league table might not be able to explain this.

"This could lead to special schools becoming more selective," she added, "especially if they are asked to take a child with complex, overlapping needs.

"The potential for this is even greater because of the introduction of academies and free schools," Ms Petersen said.

Claire Dorer, chief executive of the National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools, said: "This data should not be seen as the be-all and end-all of a child's progress - that's something far more sensitive than just numbers.

"Selection could be an unintended consequence if parents get the idea they can rank special schools, combined with the idea in the green paper that the Government wants them to have more choice about their child's education."

But David Bateson, chairman of the Federation of Leaders in Special Education and principal of Ash Field School and Assistive Technology Assessment Centre in Leicester, said teachers should not be worried.

"There has been no collective intake of breath; heads are happy to be helpful and transparent," he said.

"Special schools would be interested to know if colleagues down the road were doing a 'better' job."

A DfE spokesperson said: "Progress measures have been introduced for all schools so that they are no longer measured by arbitrary target of five A* to C but how they help those with complex needs to progress. Publishing more data is designed to give families more information about schools in their area."

SEN green paper, pages 26-27

Public data

Slow progress

Politicians first attempted to make public the school performance of children with SEN ten years ago. An average point score was included in league tables so their key stage 2 test results could be "quantified".

Pupil progress has also been introduced to league tables by using the CVA "value added" score for each school.

Special schools are listed separately on league tables and their national test results are published.

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