Consultation on Early Years Foundation Stage reforms – Friday 25 October 2019

This week I report on the Government’s consultation on proposed reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage, publication of the Education Committee’s SEND Report and the DfE’s updated guidance on food allergies in relation to school meals.

Consultation on Early Years Foundation Stage reforms
Yesterday the Government launched a consultation on proposed changes to the statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. This includes proposed reforms to the learning and development and early years foundation stage profile (EYFSP) assessment
requirements, as set out in the EYFS framework. In addition, it seeks views on an
amendment to the safeguarding and welfare section of the framework to promote good oral health. The consultation closes on 31 January 2020 if you would like to submit a response.

Publication of Education Committee SEND Report
A cross-party committee of MPs has published a report on the state of provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities. The report from the parliamentary Education Committee, published on Wednesday, makes a series of recommendations for Government and other bodies as follows:

  • Give the ombudsman more power over schools – legislate to allow the local government and social care ombudsman to “consider what takes place within a school”.
  • Let schools report non-compliant councils to the Government – where LAs appear not to be complying with the law, parents and schools should be able to report them directly to the DfE. The DfE should also implement an annual scorecard for LAs and health bodies “to measure their success against the SEND reforms”.
  • Make Ofsted issue a separate judgement for SEND provision – Ofsted “must deliver a clear judgement, and through this assurance to parents, that schools are delivering for individual children with SEND”. This should either be done through the current programme of inspections, or alternatively Ofsted develop “a separate type of specialised inspection focusing on SEND, with a particular focus on the school’s responsibility to deliver for pupils on SEN Support and that inclusive schools get the recognition that they deserve”.
  • Look into the cost of forcing all schools to have a SENCO – special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) are sometimes part-time and can be “diverted from their SEND responsibilities by other duties, taking them away from supporting teachers and pupils”. The Government was urged to appoint an independent reviewer to “examine the cost implications of requiring all schools and colleges to have a full-time dedicated SENCO”.
  • Appoint a neutral SEND ‘co-ordinator’ – concerns raised about “conflicts of interest, or challenges” that stemmed from councils holding both an assessor and commissioner role when it comes to SEND provision. The DfE is recommended to explore the potential for a neutral role, someone who would be allocated to every parent or carer with a child going through an assessment.
  • Let LAs open new special schools – under current rules, councils’ ability to open new special schools is heavily restricted. DfE should, in the absence of “other plausible solutions”, enable councils to create new maintained specialist schools, including specialist post-16 provision “outside of the constraints of the free school programme”.

School Food Standards – updated guidance on food allergies
At the end of last week the DfE added guidance for schools on food allergies, particularly if schools were substituting items from their usual menus if certain items were in short supply. The guide lists practical advice and resources to help schools manage allergy risks.