Equity: towards success for all

My last blog focused on early intervention: the need to steer children in the right direction, socially and educationally, from an early age. In it I alluded to the crucial difference between equality and equity, in enabling individuals to succeed. But success is not the same for everyone – and this is where the difference between equality and equity needs to be understood.

A recent report from the DFE claims that approximately 19% of children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) are not in school (due to the pandemic), compared with about 12% of children without an EHCP. Why? Are parents afraid to send their vulnerable children to school? No – some councils have exercised their right (under the Coronavirus Act) to opt out of their normal responsibilities, albeit temporarily. Children with an EHCP account for about 271,000 pupils in state funded schools. These children have Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities at a severe level – and need equitable support to succeed. The absent 19% accounts for about 50,000 pupils. So what are these children doing every day when they are not in school? How is their learning thus affected?

Back to the importance of equity: even before this lockdown, parents had been reporting that their child was not receiving what the EHCP had stated as an entitlement. Many parents had been struggling even to get an assessment or EHCP in the first place. The SEND system has been in a dire state for a while. Now, these 50,000 children with an EHCP are losing out on the educational equity that is vital to their future lives. Children with an EHCP who do not attend school are losing far more than children without an EHCP who do not attend school.

Here is why. Both equality and equity are about fairness. Equality is about treating all children the same regardless of need – hence equal access to the National Curriculum and state education. Equity is about treating people differently dependent on need: thus recognising that because all learners are not the same, they cannot start from the same place. In the race for success – some learners need more help than others. Therefore these 50,000 absentees are losing out on their basic right to an education, as well as their additional equity (provided by the EHCP) that promotes personal success. Surely, a double whammy for them!

Success is not the same for all either. Many children with an EHCP cannot achieve at the same levels as those without an EHCP. Cognitive impairments necessarily lead to differences in expectation. Yet, as long as expectations for individuals are sufficiently high, based on the principle that every child needs to achieve their best, it must be accepted that each interpretation of ‘best’ cannot be equal. The equitable practices afforded through an EHCP: that state what an individual child is to receive in addition to the curriculum, are what enable all children to have an equal chance of reaching the level of success that is right for them – as their potential. All levels of success, though not the same, must be respected as success for the individual. It is surely what society and schools strive towards.

So referring back to the 50,000 children who are not attending school, affected by their double whammy, ways must be found for these children to get back on track. Time lost can never be claimed back for these children. As parents, at least know your rights! My book for parents: Support your child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, is available from Lulu, in ebook or printed format. The book is inspiring and informative. Parents are part of the equity that leads to success.

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