Who is accountable? And when will we see some real progress?

The general election has stolen the focus from the local elections and we need to ask ourselves, do any of our local administrations really care?

I can’t help to think every politician in the country must hold some sense of relief that we are not yet at the end of the referendum and election merry-go round. I keep returning to an image in my head of a magician using distraction and sleight of hand to keep our focus from what is really going on. The general election has stolen the focus from the local elections and we need to ask ourselves, do any of our local administrations really care? I suspect not as it keeps the focus away from what really matters.

Whether it is housing, policing, health care or education, every local authority across the country should be concerned about, and held accountable for, their part in the worrying statistics that appear nationally. In 2016, 170,329 pupils in Scotland’s schools (publically funded primary, secondary and special) were identified with an additional support need (ASN), representing just under a quarter of all pupils (24.9%). While this is an increase of 44% since 2012, we have seen an 11% per pupil reduction in funding over the same period.

Over recent months I have witnessed the repetitive back-and-forth argument of the Scottish Government pointing to local authorities’ obligations and local authorities insisting they can’t meet these obligations without more funding. At the same time I am meeting increasing numbers of parents desperately concerned about the education and wellbeing of their children.

Local authorities are accountable, in law, and they play a key role in meeting the additional support needs of children and young people.

It is crucial we move beyond this cyclical blame and counter blame. Local authorities are accountable, in law, and they play a key role in meeting the additional support needs of children and young people. We need them to use their budgets to help children and young people in their communities get the best possible start in life and realise their full potential.

At the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) we have long campaigned on behalf of vulnerable children and young people. In our manifesto for the local authority elections, we asked incoming administrations to take a number of steps in order to create some real, positive progress for children and young people with ASN. These include increased investment in additional support for learning and early years’ services; early assessment and intervention; greater support and staffing in mainstream schools; increased specialist provision; better training of mainstream teachers, health professionals and other practitioners, and; greater partnership working between the public and independent and third sectors.

Now that we enter the final few weeks of election fever in the run up to June 8th, we must look beyond the smoke and mirrors and call on our new council administrations to put children and young people with ASN first so that they too can reach their full potential. 


Kenny Graham
Kenny Graham is Head of Education at Falkland House School, member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

 

Twitter: @FalklandHouse / @the_scsc

PINS launches a new blog series with a bit of reflection of our own.

PINS is 10 years old. From the beginning the Network has been about encouraging practitioners to pause, reflect and question; helping the sector rise to the challenge of working together to address inequality and improve educational outcomes. We launch this new PINS Blog with a bit of reflection of our own.

PINS emerged from the Review of Guidance Provision in Schools in 2005. An aspect of the review aimed to find out what children, parents and voluntary sector agencies thought of the support available in school[1]. When it came to relecting on how agencies were working together, one contributor summed up the challenges: They are not working together well enough to keep every pupil on the school roll. Many pupils are lost to special school or non-attendance.

The Scottish Executive team in the Pupil Inclusion Unit recognised that this disconnect between schools and external agencies wasn’t just a practice issue; it was also a concern up-the-line, reflected in the relationship between Government and voluntary sector providers in the development of policy and guidance. The challenge was, what could be done to help create opportunities to inform and engage thus giving 3rd sector agencies and practitioners recognition and influence? Government colleagues initiated discussion and with the possibilities offered by the virtual world it was decided a new online community might help address some of the gaps.

As it is now, PINS remains committed to being a hub for information and dialogue about what we [our networked community of approximately 1300 members] do and what we need to do better to support children and young people with learning, both in and out of school. PINS is not about campaigning or representing, but we are driven by the necessity to make our education system more concerned with the needs and rights of children, young people and communities. If the mantra is about equality and equity, then the burden of responsibility for changing practice is on we professionals and the organisations we work for.

At 10 years old PINS is still a conversation about collaboration. At a PINS seminar[2] in 2006 Professor Chris Huxham reminded participants that “It is only sensible to collaborate if real collaborative advantage can be envisaged.” At the same seminar delegates made the point that collaborative working is difficult. Knowing this, PINS continues to bring together 3rd sector practitioners, teachers, colleagues from NHS, Police, Universities and Colleges, Local Authorities and Scottish Government; because by understanding each others positions and sharing solutions we contribute to making a difference.


Do you have a practice issue, policy insight, something to celebrate, or a bugbear that a PINS blog can highlight? Get in touch with info@pinscotland.org


[1] Support in School: The Views of Harder to Reach Groups http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2005/02/20692/52505

[2] Working Together for Scotland’s Children: How do we get partnership right? http://pinscotland.org/pins-reports-working-together.html