I had the pleasure of going to the Driver Youth Trust headquarters in London last night and was delighted to meet Chris Rossiter in person as well as other SEND stalwarts such as the venerable Starlight McKenzie. It was a collaborative discussion regarding SEND governance and was most useful perhaps for reassuring each other that SEND governance is indeed something of a minefield. Most of us were able to share concerns and a desire for clearer frameworks, and this included those of us within the profession or with direct experience as a parent (or both!).
I think there are different types of questions that you can ask as a governor. There are the 'the basics', like 'What was the progress of SEND pupils in comparison to the progress of non-SEND' and 'What training have the team had on autism this year'. These are good questions. However, there are also some niftier questions that will mean you dig a little bit deeper below the surface. I think these are harder to come up with if you are not in the business so here are a few to get you started [Blue-Primary; Green-Secondary; Red-Both]:
1. For the pupils who are the most likely to fail the phonics screening, what support, teaching and intervention is happening for them? [The school will feel drawn to support the borderline passers. But neglecting those with the least facility in literacy is, quite frankly, educational neglect.] Ask this in around December-February for Year 1.
2. What percentage of students in detention have SEND and how does this compare to whole school ratios. [If whole school percentage is 14% SEND register, but detention has regularly 30-50% SEND then some serious questions need to be asked. Is it actually working? The Senco should be monitoring this, so if the figures are unknown then you have done one good thing by asking. And read this.]
3. Which is your least successful intervention and what will you now do differently? [The response might be, 'They're all successful,' but you are asking for a bit more than that. It is actually very ok for some intervention not to be successful; education is not a perfect science. But entry and exit data should be kept on all interventions, at least the Wave 2, group style ones so this should be an answerable question. You will get more out of this than just asking broadly about interventions.]
4. What work has happened so far with the 'Assess Plan Do Review' cycle in Reception? [This should start immediately in Reception (or earlier as part of a transition process) because if you have any pupils within your school with SEND, you want them assessed and supported as quickly as possible. This can happen from day one. The faster records are built up, the faster outside agency support can be accessed for those who are going to need it, and the teacher supported in meeting the child's needs.]
5. What reasonable adjustments are there in the behaviour policy regarding SEND? [I don't want to say much more about this because if I start, I'll never stop. Basically if this question meets with silence or your Senco says, 'the behaviour lead deals with that', then you're onto something. Keep going. And read this.]
6. Can you show me how your action plan for the coming year is data/assessment driven? [In an ideal world, the Senco (and the Head) will know the SEND footprint of the school, and have analysed assessment data such as CATs to inform intervention and support. This should then inform whole school practice. For example, if the incoming Yr 7 has a significant number of students whose reading ages are below e.g. 8, what whole school systematic change and action is being developed to tackle this?]
I could go on but there's 6 for starters. Please add your own below, let me know what you think, and share widely.
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