Every Child (and Adult) Matters

Did you know that the DfES published ‘Every Child Matters’ in 2003? Its five goals deserve revisiting, following the Covid pandemic. Here they are:
Health: physical and mental
Safety: in and out of the home environment
Making a contribution to society
Economic well-being.

Have these aims been realised for all children? No. It is still the case that children who are disadvantaged through poverty, lack of safety, a dysfunctional home life, or who have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities – end up achieving less well than their more advantaged peers.

Now, 2021, should the government be fishing out this dusty booklet, and looking seriously at its worthy aims – to support its post-Covid plan for catch up – and the roadmap? It’s clear that each of the five aims above is dependent upon others. For example, a child cannot achieve without goals 1 and 2 in place: as the recent focus on free school meals, and Marcus Rashford’s pressure for these to be extended, has shown. Similarly, if achievement is not forthcoming, how can any child go on to make either a contribution to society, or reach personal economic well-being?

These aims are a starting point – but what needs to happen now – for every child to not only leap from the starting block – and sustain the race, but reach the winning post at his own pace? Where does catch-up for all begin? My last blog (Catch-up-match up) emphasised the need for a plan that includes every child. Such a plan must be comprehensive enough to include other systems already in place and address the many reasons why they are not working as they should.

The system for pupils with SEND is one such plan that, according to many parents with a child in this category – is overburdened. It is estimated that councils have spent millions fighting parents seeking an Education, Health and Care Plan ( EHCP) for their child. What a colossal waste of public funds! If the SEND system worked properly – from the earlier to later stages of decision-making – fewer parents would need to fight their way through a tribunal, and thus waste precious public resources.

An EHCP should be the final stage, for a tiny proportion of children – those with the greatest needs. Therefore, in my view, both schools and education authorities should be focusing on getting earlier stages of the system, such as effective classroom differentiation, working better, so that fewer children would end up needing an EHCP.

The EHCP was introduced as a ‘one stop’ shop, to help families by bringing together professionals from different support systems – namely education, health and social services – thus replacing educational Statements. But only children with the most acute needs should require such extensive provision: a child living next door to me, aged 9, with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD), is one such example, where a multiplicity of support is needed to help and educate this young person.

The government is now talking about a road map to lead us all out of this pandemic. What will it include? Will it ensure that the SEND system is made to work more effectively alongside the education system for other children – will it be a catch-up, that is also matched up?

Will this inspiring roadmap also ensure that the million or so disabled people who want to work – are enabled to do so – also that care in the community supports every person with SEND to make the most of their talents?

There is much to be done. It is easy to state WHAT – as philosophical statements of where we want to end up as a more equal society: but far less easy to state HOW! Who needs to be involved? Where do the finances come from? Should those of us who have everything we need pay more tax to support those who have not? Yes! I think we should.

One thing is clear. Whilst the government can provide finances, and build the road for us to walk along – even provide the directions – only society can make an essential difference to the lives of people who cannot be fully independent. So let’s start from the top – and build a roadmap worthy of a compassionate society – with the facility for us all to join in and make it work – because every child, and adult, matters!

I am author of thirteen books for schools, plus five for parents. If your child has SEND, Book 1: Support Your Child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: a guide for parents, offers all you need to know about the SEND system. Books 2 to 5: Support Your Child At The Early Years Foundation Stage, At Key Stage One, At Key Stage Two and At Key Stage Three – offer a comprehensive outline of WHAT should be taught and HOW. Available from Lulu or Amazon.

Sylvia Edwards

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