By | November 20, 2017

“Somebody Else’s Problem field, or SEP, is a cheap, easy, and staggeringly useful way of safely protecting something from unwanted eyes. It can run almost indefinitely on a torch (flashlight)/9 volt battery, and is able to do so because it utilises a person’s natural tendency to ignore things they don’t easily accept, like, for example, aliens at a cricket match. Any object around which an S.E.P. is applied will cease to be noticed, because any problems one may have understanding it (and therefore accepting its existence) become Somebody Else’s. An object becomes not so much invisible as unnoticed”

Life,The Universe and Everything Douglas Adams

When Maggie Atkinson in her role as Children’s Commissioner wrote the great set of recommendations on illegal exclusions ‘Somebody’s Else’s Problem’ I wondered whether she had the SEP in mind (I confess to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy being a handbook in my home.)

Every Child Should have the education that best suits their needs. Every Child Should be treated legally. That a growing number are not is a growing national #sendscandal.

It has been 18 months since I wrote in Is Inclusion Over that – for the first time in 30 years – I was having to fight not for the ‘how to include’ but for the very principle of inclusion. Even then while the evidence was mounting it was a small group highlighting the growing data and emerging culture.

Now – thank to the remarkable work of system leaders like Jarlath O’Brien – we are moving to a wider discussion. Or at least an acceptance of the problem.

Except.

It still appears to be Someone Else’s Problem.

ACSL’s commission on Ethical Leadership is a welcome contribution. As is practical advice for parents from charities such as Ambitious About Autism. And debate on how the accountability framework and curriculum reforms impact on school behaviours is welcome and long overdue.

But. Someone somewhere is still illegally excluding children. Someone somewhere is – consciously or not – making their school less attractive to learners with SEND so that they go elsewhere. Someone somewhere decides that pupils with SEND are the first to suffer from budget cuts (hurray to the first school that chooses to cut GCSE physics rather than support for SEND learners). Someone somewhere is running a school that breaks the rules on SENCOs. Someone somewhere decides that a focus on ‘catching up’ is more important placing a value on those that never will.
Someone else?

None of us believe that school leaders – heads, governors, CEO, trustees – take on their roles with the intent of excluding – directly or otherwise – children with SEND. These leadership roles are difficult. And they are being delivered in circumstances like never before.

That is why in my work establishing Whole School SEND we placed support for school leaders, schools and teachers at the core of the work. And highlighting those who lead excellence in outcomes for children with SEND. It is why this year we are developing support for governors and trustees to help them discharge their function.

But – we cannot leave it to Someone Else to address this. We all have our part to play. As Sir Tim Brighouse reminds us ‘we make the weather’ in our schools and communities. This includes how our schools support and include children with SEND.

So – to support the debate – we have developed 5 questions to ask ourselves – as leaders, as parents, as governors, as community members. Questions that help us move from ‘somebody else’s problem’ to ‘my problem’.

Because if we don’t. Well it will be for nobody.

 

Anita Kerwin-Nye is Lead of Every Child Should and Chair of Whole School SEND. She is speaking on the ‘5 questions for inclusion’ at the Academies Show in Birmingham on 22 November.