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(UK) Derbyshire: Autism focus in expanding SPED places; 'system is broken really'

April 4, 2022, QuestMediaNetwork: Derbyshire's underperforming schools need more funding and motivation, claims education chief

E. Midlands

Decades of underfunding and a lack of ambition have contributed to Derbyshire schools' performance being in the bottom third of the country – according to the county's education chief. Speaking following the release of a Government white paper that promises to address inequalities in the education system, Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education Councillor Alex Dale broadly welcomed the proposals on the table, but questioned how they would be implemented. Among the points announced in the Opportunity For All paper, were the following key targets – • All schools become academies by 2030 • 90 per cent of pupils reach the expected levels for Key Stage Two reading, writing and maths by 2030 • £30,000 starting salaries for trainee teachers • 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by 2024 Coun Dale commented: “I think there are some good ideas, things around improved training for teachers, focus on evidence-based approaches that work, efforts to improve recruitment and retention of teachers, which is something that we struggle with in the East Midlands in particular.” … The reforms come in the aftermath of the Levelling Up white paper, which earlier this year identified Derbyshire as a ‘cold spot’ for educational attainment, with only 64 per cent of pupils achieving the required standard in Key Stage Two reading, writing and maths, as opposed to the national average of 65 per cent, according to the latest available data from 2019. Further research by the Local Democracy Reporting Service found of the Derbyshire schools that failed to meet the national average in 2019, 22 were in the High Peak and 18 were in North East Derbyshire…. The education chief said the county has long-since suffered from a lack of Government funding towards education, which he believes has had great effect upon academic performance…. Last week, the Government also released the SEND review green paper, which outlines a need to simplify processes surrounding special educationel needs and alternative provision. Coun Dale said: “What we’re proposing to do is invest more in increasing places at existing special schools in particular with a focus on autism, because that’s where we recognise there isn’t a huge attention at the moment and more and more kids getting a diagnosis.” Coun Dale said he had also found the proposals made to make mainstream schools more accessible for those with SEND encouraging. He continued: “We want to put a bit more investment into what’s called ERS (Enhanced Resource Services) within schools, so it’s additional add-on units that enable them to be more inclusive, particularly with children with special needs.” The SEND review makes steps to remove layers of bureaucracy from the educational process. “I think it recognises what we’ve all been saying, that the system is broken really and we need pretty bold reform,” Coun Dale commented…. Coun Dale commented: “The other key issue around SEND at the minute is you’re looking at a £1billion [$1.3B] deficit on high needs blocks across the country.” He explained that Derbyshire’s overspend is currently £6million [$8M] in the high needs block of the delegated school’s grant, which largely deals with SEND. Coun Dale admitted that after reading both the white and green papers, he was concerned that the level of funding suggested would not be sufficient to properly address the issues as hand. Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet is due to discuss issues surrounding Levelling Up and performance in a meeting at County Hall this Thursday (7 April).

Alex Dale, Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Education.


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