Parents: Help your child’s school to make the grade!

When children succeed: schools succeed. Unfortunately too many children with SEND have not achieved their full potential and therefore have not succeeded to the best of their ability. It follows that too many schools have not succeeded to the best of their ability either. So could the proposed OFSTED grades be a strong influence for change? If so, how can parents help? The OFSTED grades are out for consultation. At the highest level, a school can achieve ‘outstanding’ if pupils with SEND ‘achieve the best possible outcomes.’ At the lowest, ‘inadequate’ would mean ‘needs not met, ‘staff expectations low’ and ‘needs (of pupils with SEND) not accurately identified.’

If these descriptors are to be used by OFSTED to judge pupil and school performance, we need to be clear what they mean. Let’s start with the ‘inadequate’ – ‘staff expectations low’ and ‘needs not accurately identified.’ Expectations are linked to accurate assessment. The label of SEND does NOT necessarily equate with low achievement. The aim must always be high expectations for all children, unless there are valid reasons WHY some cannot achieve average. This is where thorough and accurate assessment comes in. When a child’s additional needs are accurately identified, then expectations will be accurate too. Parents hold the key. They know their child inside out. They know what makes their child tick as an individual and accurate identification of needs can only be individual. Only when parents work collaboratively with the teachers and other professionals who are assessing their child can that child’s personal barriers be identified and plans made to remove them.

What about the outcomes? Most children with SEND can achieve average or above outcomes, once their particular barriers are removed. Only children with significant cognitive learning difficulties have the types of ‘barriers’ that education can do little about – but even these children could do better if low expectations did not negatively influence the efforts of educators and parents. Children with autism, language difficulties, dyspraxia, dyslexia, physical or sensory difficulties, or behaviour difficulties, for example, CAN achieve at least average once their barriers are removed. Children with significant or severe cognitive learning difficulties must still be challenged to achieve their personal best.

In my view, OFSTED does have the influence to raise both expectations and outcomes – but only by insisting that parents are part of the overall strategy for improvement. Every school can be outstanding – but only if they work with parents to ensure that every child, with or without SEND, achieves the best personal outcome.

« Back to Blog