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Proceed with caution: unravelling the evidence behind the DFE’s Covid guidance on teaching assistants

Blog Editor, IOE Digital17 July 2020

Rob Webster.

In the early stages of the UK government’s response to the Coronavirus health emergency, it was common to hear that decisions were ‘being led by the science’. As attention begins to shift to addressing the impact of school closures on the attainment gap, it is essential that schools adopt a similar evidence-based approach.

The DfE’s guidance for the full opening of schools in September contains the following advice for school leaders on deploying teaching assistants (TAs) and other support staff:

“Where support staff capacity is available, schools may consider using this to support catch-up provision or targeted interventions. Teaching assistants may also be deployed to lead groups or cover lessons, under the direction and supervision of a qualified, or nominated, teacher”.

This section of the DfE guidance goes on to point school leaders towards the practical recommendations contained in the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants report. Ordinarily, a link to the EEF’s work in DfE literature is a tacit signal to the reader that the advice being provided is trustworthy, robust (more…)

Supply and demand: Looking to the past to meet the inclusive challenge ahead

Blog Editor, IOE Digital29 January 2019

Rob Webster.
It’s no secret pupil numbers are rising. By 2023, secondary mainstream schools will need to have found the space for an additional 376,000 young people. If current prevalence is any indication, we can expect at least 45,300 of these extra pupils to have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). A further 6,800 will have needs complex enough to qualify for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
The geographic distribution of these young people will, of course, be uneven. But if it were even, it would mean each existing secondary mainstream school in England would need to accommodate 15 additional pupils with SEND, two of whom would have an EHCP. The populations of special schools and alternative provisions (AP)[1]are also set to boom, by 15% and 19% respectively. That’s a further 13,000 or so young people with SEND.
If you think the solution to the increase is, in part or in whole, to up the capacity of (more…)

Special needs: politicians should check the evidence before making claims about inclusion

Blog Editor, IOE Digital30 June 2017

Rob Webster. 
Last week, a video of controversial comments made in the Australian Parliament about pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provoked international headlines. Voice wavering and clumsily tripping over her words, Senator Pauline Hanson unmistakably suggested that “we need to get rid of these people” from mainstream classrooms, because their presence “held back” others:
Most of the time the teacher spends so much time on them, they forget about the child who is straining at the bit and wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education”.
Educators, researchers, advocates and parents of children with (more…)