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Why would you choose an academy school for a child with SEN ...

(51 Posts)
AugustaFinkNottle Tue 31-May-16 11:04:43

... if they can just decide to bus them out again?


"An academy trust has been accused of segregating disabled pupils after announcing that it would bus children with special educational needs and disabilities from a well-performing school to a worse school because of limited resources.

The Dean Trust, which runs schools in Trafford, Cheshire and Liverpool, has informed parents of children with special needs who are due to start at Ashton-on-Mersey school in September that, because of “limited resources”, their children will attend lessons at the undersubscribed Broadoak school in Partington, six miles away.*

The DfE is reported to be "in discussions" with the academy trust. Why can't Nicky Morgan summon the moral courage to say this sort of conduct is totally unacceptable?

zzzzz Tue 31-May-16 11:28:05

This is the bit that concerns me is

However, we are at the point where we cannot physically accommodate the increasing number of [dis­abled and special needs] children in what is a mainstream school without resourced provision.

Because the implication is that the guy doesn't think people with disabilities are part of mainstream shockshockshockshockshock

AugustaFinkNottle Tue 31-May-16 11:37:13

What I don't understand is that, before any EHCP was finalised, the LA must have consulted them and they must have said yes, they had a place and yes, they could meet the children's needs. I know the LA can override a no in some circumstances, but it seems highly unlikely that they would have done so in this case, particularly if there was an undersubscribed school not that far away. So, if they did say that, I'm assuming they didn't add any caveat along the lines of "but it will only be by making them spend an hour a day being bussed to and from a school that the parents didn't choose and don't want"?

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Tue 31-May-16 11:48:35

It is appalling. Why can't they bus out some of the NT children, who would probably cope much better? It's hard enough transitioning to secondary school when you have SENs without this happening, do they think these children who are all aged 11+ will really not mind that they are being taken away from their local school, friends etc to go somewhere strange? If this had happened to my DS (now year 7, AS) he would have been devastated. In fact I'd better look out for DD (yr 5, mild SENs) too.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Tue 31-May-16 11:49:20

Not that I think anyone should be bussed out BTW, just that if they are going to be, SENs/disability shouldn't be the deciding factor.

zzzzz Tue 31-May-16 11:50:38

It's not clear what the kids will be doing and for how long though. Here many children go to other schools/colleges for some courses. If it was every day and the kids get transport in and are then bused elsewhere how much learning time is lost and how much time WIL be spent travelling confusedshock

LyndaNotLinda Tue 31-May-16 11:54:04

This is despicable but really, I don't think Nicky Morgan gives a toss. Academies can do what they want. That's the whole point of them

zzzzz Tue 31-May-16 12:01:34

I'm not sure it would be better for the children to stay in the academy if they don't have the resources, but why can't they just ask for funding before they accept confused. Or are they using the funding and farming out for less?

AugustaFinkNottle Tue 31-May-16 12:28:46

All the indications from the quotes of Academy representatives in that article is that these are intended to be full time placements.

For instance:

"Due to pressure placed upon limited resources by the existing very large cohort of SEND [special educational needs and disabilities] pupils, Ashton-on-Mersey school has reached its capacity in delivery of SEND provision and therefore having to consider alternative options for this in future.”

He reassured parents that their child would still be on the roll at his school and that the school would continue to have responsibility for their education. Moloney argued that the lower number of pupils attending Broadoak would mean the pupils with special needs could be taught in smaller class sizes.

“We fully understand our obligations and continue to explore how best to fulfil the terms of each child’s plan,” he said. “However, we are at the point where we cannot physically accommodate the increasing number of [dis­abled and special needs] children in what is a mainstream school without resourced provision.”

There is not one solitary suggestion that that it's a part time arrangement, and clearly that is not what the parents have been told. Even if it were, a dual placement has to be specifically described as such in the EHCP and should be justified in terms of meeting the children's needs, not what would suit the school best.

LyndaNotLinda Tue 31-May-16 12:28:57

I assume they're using the funding but just moving it from one school to the other. Academy chains can do that.

They're just putting them in the sink school.

AugustaFinkNottle Tue 31-May-16 12:30:54

I don't think academy chains can do that lawfully, though. The law specifically says that if an academy is named in an EHC Plan the school must admit the child in question. There's nothing suggesting they can just send them off to another school that happens to be in the same Academy Trust.

uglyflowers Tue 31-May-16 12:33:02

I think if the academy chain owns all the schools then they are allowed to move kids/teachers around as they please. Sadly, this is going to be the future of education.

LyndaNotLinda Tue 31-May-16 12:46:54

How do you know they have EHCPs? Most children on the SEN register don't.

And it is perfectly legal for academy chains to move children wherever the hell they want:

AugustaFinkNottle Tue 31-May-16 14:27:07

I don't entirely know that they have EHCPs, but I'm guessing that the ones involved in this report do from the fact that it's reported that:

Also writing to Morgan, the Trafford Parents Forum said it wanted her to provide an assurance that the school could not decide to send its members’ children to another school within the academy trust when their education, health and care plans – drawn up by Trafford council – clearly stated that they would be best educated at Ashton-on-Mersey.

Lynda, the report you've linked to in any event involves a whole school restructuring proposal; it doesn't involve selecting a category of children whose distinguishing characteristic is that they are disabled and choosing to disadvantage them in the manner suggested. Fortunately, academy schools aren't exempt from the provisions of the Equality Act.

But, even if the action was totally lawful, it sort of makes the point set out in my thread title, doesn't it - why would you choose a school that is prepared to treat its pupils in this way?

zzzzz Tue 31-May-16 14:38:51

It isn't necessarily disadvantageous though and I'm not sure I agree that they shouldn't be able to select in this way if it helps the students concerned. The issue is how have they been able to accept children they cannot cater for?

LyndaNotLinda Tue 31-May-16 15:22:46

Ah sorry, missed that. I'm assuming the parents didn't realise this would happen? Maybe there aren't any other schools or they're all in the chain? I don't know the area.

I really doubt this is in the students' interest. I'd like to think so but I suspect it's about filling up spaces in the under-performing school sad

Will be interesting to see what happens as this is a bit of a test case for how academy chains support children with SEN.

PolterGoose Tue 31-May-16 15:36:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zzzzz Tue 31-May-16 15:47:47

As I see it there are several separate issues.

0- how can you be named on an ehcp when you do not have the resources to educate that child?

0- if there aren't the required facilities/expertise in your school is it in your interest to be educated there or would you be better served by moving to where they can educate you

0- Why are disabled children considered to be extra to mainstream as appose to part of it?

0- how are the children members of one school while attending another?

LyndaNotLinda Tue 31-May-16 16:05:40

Ashton-on-Mersey - 61% A*-C grades at GCSE vs 33% at Broadoak.

I don't disagree that some maintained schools have done terrible things Polter (DS's school isn't brilliant) but I am concerned at the lack of accountability that academies have.

AugustaFinkNottle Tue 31-May-16 16:27:49

Oops, I somehow lost a bit of that post above. It should have included this section:

Also writing to Morgan, the Trafford Parents Forum said it wanted her to provide an assurance that the school could not decide to send its members’ children to another school within the academy trust when their education, health and care plans – drawn up by Trafford council – clearly stated that they would be best educated at Ashton-on-Mersey.

AugustaFinkNottle Tue 31-May-16 16:29:01

And now I see that it didn't lose that bit after all. Something odd happening with my screen. Please ignore that last post!

AugustaFinkNottle Tue 31-May-16 16:40:35

It isn't necessarily disadvantageous though and I'm not sure I agree that they shouldn't be able to select in this way if it helps the students concerned.

I think the point is that parents have a right to choose the school they want their children to go to - it's not for a school to decide for them, particularly when it hasn't given any indication before the parents opted for them that it might do this. I also think it's irrelevant whether the other school is a sink school or not. If Ashton on Mersey school couldn't support these children, the parents should have been given the right to opt for an alternative; it shouldn't have been assumed that they would automatically accept a different school six miles away.

It also shouldn't have been assumed that it was OK for children with SEN to have to spend however long it is travelling to the other school (and I suspect that it could be an hour a day), whether that journey takes place during the school day or not. There are also really serious issues about making them turn up at School A every morning - where they have no peer group, no classroom, and no friends - and herding them into "The Special Needs Bus" to be transported out somewhere else. It's got massive implications about them being "othered" and stigmatised, and receiving the clear message that they're not good enough to be educated at the same school as their primary school friends.

Would anyone here accept a place at an academy school if they knew that, without warning or consultation, the school could decide to bus their child to another school six miles away?

Melawati Tue 31-May-16 17:19:08

To answer your original question, we're currently trying to name a school on DD's Ehcp. All our local (and even not so local) secondaries are academies. So DD will go to one, because we don't have an alternative.
It does worry me though, that they are less accountable than an LA school would be. And that they seem to be trying to set their own rules, along the lines of 'the plan comes with a package of funding, we have some discretion on how we spend it'hmm

zzzzz Tue 31-May-16 17:34:30

It is more material if the relocation is within the school day, but I agree as I said up thread time spent travelling at any point in a child's day is a huge issue.

Many children spend time in college here particularly for vocational courses but I have never heard of the model as described in the original link. It's like the academy is providing a costume for the other school shock. Seems totally pointless.

uggerthebugger Tue 31-May-16 19:29:39

This is a fucking dreadful idea. I don't think it will fly (Equalities Act) - but the backstory to this situation is worth looking at.

Ashton-on-Mersey isn't one of those arsehole academies that's always done their level best to push out kids with SEN, or put off interested parents. Until recently, it was known as one of the better academies at managing SEN in the local area. It genuinely tried, and to some extent succeeded. And - until recently - they weren't shy in advertising it.

Because of this, every arsehole HT in the area - maintained or academy schools alike - would suggest to parents that their own school was shit at SEN, but Ashton-on-Mersey was the place to go.

This is a cycle that reinforces itself. The last available data I saw (2015) showed Ashton-on-Mersey with over 3 times as many statemented pupils as the national average. Trafford Council's statements & EHCPs are as unspecified & unquantified as any other LAs - so the school itself probably gets very little in the way of extra resources.

This academy trust has fucked up big time with this move. Their proposed solution is hamfisted and vile, and it won't work. They've soiled their reputation in the area for a generation to come.

But if other schools in the area - maintained and academies - had actually fucking stepped up to the mark to meet their responsibilities to kids with SEN in the first place, none of this would have happened.

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