The Plastic Hippo

September 14, 2010

Nothing special

Filed under: Education,Politics — theplastichippo @ 8:48 pm

Any remaining shred of credibility regarding Ofsted as an impartial, independent and necessary regulatory body has finally been blown away by the chill winds of autumn. The latest words of wisdom to emerge from the inspectorate, laughingly described as “a wide ranging study”, suggests that a quarter of children with Special Educational Needs are not special at all, just the sufferers of poor teaching. You can guess what is coming next. Yup, massive cuts in school SEN budgets.

Ofsted, described by one teaching union as a bunch of “failed teachers and bureaucratic middle-managers”, have something of a track record of getting things hopelessly wrong. It described child protection at Haringey council as “good” even as the nations collective heart broke on hearing the full horror of the Baby Peter case. Ofsted were later caught trying to change the paperwork. Headteachers, governing bodies, teaching unions, MPs and parents have all criticised the dogmatic, bullying approach employed by the largest regulatory body in the country and its latest report finally exposes Ofsted for what it is. Rather than protecting the interests of children, it is a tool of black, government controlled, propaganda.

When Labour were in power, Ofsted cynically undermined individual schools, usually in the poorest and most deprived areas, to deflect attention from chronic underfunding and a crazy education policy that was driven by meaningless targets, data and testing. Every child, regardless of background, circumstance, advantage or disadvantage, or even the ability to speak English was, and is, expected to make identical progress across the key stages. Every parent and every teacher and probably every child knows that this notion is plainly idiotic. If an individual child did not meet the arbitrary standard set by the mandarins who only ever enter a school building to cast their votes, then the teacher and the school are judged to be “inadequate”.

Not content with being merely a hindrance to education, Ofsted, now in the hands of the dreadful coalition, has turned its sights on children with special needs. The Labour government insisted on “inclusion” for children with what it described as “barriers to learning” into mainstream schools and then closed the so-called “special schools”. Inclusion, both socially and educationally is a very noble enterprise, but it soon emerged that saving money was the real motivation. Schools were not provided with the resources required to teach SEN children, some of whom endure profound physical disabilities or, through no fault of their own, present extreme emotional and behavioural challenges.

Having failed these children, Ofsted, with a perverted logic worthy of a Ceausescu orphanage, now seek to deny the existence and the needs of 25 per cent of these young people and seem happy to carry on doing the dirty work of government. The ridiculous and hypocritical Children’s Minister, Libdem Sarah Teather, has already seized on the report and is calling for submissions on the overhaul of SEN provision – that means a cut. Sarah is deputy to the (pipsqueak) Gove and was successful in persuading her boss to reverse his decision to cancel two BSF schools in her Brent constituency. Over sherry and cakes, Sarah`s schools were saved but Sandwell council didn`t even get their train fare back. Walsall council didn`t bother to put up a hand and ask a question.

Teather agrees with Ofsted that teachers mistakenly “label” children as having special needs and the mad woman who runs Ofsted, Christine Gilbert, describes the rush to SEN as “over-diagnosing the problems”. Perhaps these experts should ask parents and teachers about the tortuous, stressful and uphill struggle to have a disadvantaged child firstly assessed and then acknowledged as requiring a “statement” of special educational needs.

In Walsall, there is a possibly apocryphal story of a primary Headteacher, her SEN Co-ordinator and the Local Authority Educational Psychologist conducting a meeting regarding the needs of an individual child after almost a year of violent and disruptive behaviour. The Ed Psych refused to accept that the child required a statement and that the school was not providing adequate intervention strategies. The meeting was cut short as the Head and the Senco were called away to deal with the child who was in the process of kicking, head-butting and biting other children as well as staff. Finally managing to bring the boy to the corridor outside her office, the Head was kicked and punched and suffered a foul-mouthed torrent of abuse that would be considered usual coming from a nine-year old.

The Ed Psych, a highly trained expert in his field, remained safely inside the office, stuck his fingers in his ears and went “la la la la”. Statements cost money and this was in the days before coalition cuts.

Ofsted and successive governments are very quick to point the finger of blame at anyone but themselves in order to divert any criticism of their failed stewardship. Usually it`s teachers, but now, to add insult to injury, Ofsted are suggesting, without offering any evidence, that schools inflate the number of SEN children in the hope of attracting further funding and parents are demanding SEN statements so that the family qualify for disability benefits. Strange then that existing Academies, operating a twisted entry selection process, have considerably less SEN children than schools struggling with lower levels of investment. Goodness knows what the entry criteria for Gove`s preposterous “free schools” will be. Blond Aryan good-looks or dark, smouldering eyes with a school bag full of fertilizer perhaps?

There may be a small number of parents who turn educational disadvantage into financial gain and the government should start confiscating wheelchairs with immediate effect. Any reduction in the dreaded deficit will be most welcome as would the denial of tax relief to the privileged, including current cabinet ministers, who can afford a private education for their children.

For Ofsted to insult hard working teachers and caring parents in this manner is puerile at best; at worst, it sends a message that unless you are rich, clever and able-bodied, forget about the right to a half-way decent education. Instead of protecting the interests of children, Ofsted is paving the way for idiots like Gove and Teather to cut and cut again.

Teachers, generally, are rather good at teaching given half a chance. However, bringing sight to the blind, making the lame walk and bringing back a damaged and traumatised child back from the brink of madness is not yet in the teacher training manual. According to Ofsted, this inability is judged to be “inadequate” regardless of the countless miracles performed in schools every day. As they witness water being turned into wine, Gove, Teather and Gilbert complain that they would rather have a nice Armagnac. Given adequate resources, schools, the teaching profession and support staff might even just about manage to instil some learning and sense of citizenship into the morons at Ofsted and the brain-dead in the coalition. But then again, even the most committed teacher can recognise a lost cause.



  1. . Couldn’t agree more.

    Comment by Alex — September 14, 2010 @ 9:18 pm | Reply

  2. […] Any remaining shred of credibility regarding Ofsted as an impartial, independent and necessary regulatory body has finally been blown away by the chill winds of autumn. The latest words of wisdom to emerge from the inspectorate, laughingly described as “a wide ranging study”, suggests that a quarter of children with Special Educational Needs are not special at all, just the sufferers of poor teaching. You can guess what is coming next. Yup, massi … Read More […]

    Pingback by Nothing special (via The Plastic Hippo) « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog — September 14, 2010 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

  3. I agree with you comments, having an SEN child now in senior school. We fought & battled her way through infants & juniors with varying support & results – even becoming a govenor to try & oil the wheels at times. Luckily as she was diagnosed from birth with a condition, she was picked up aged 2 & put into the system. Kids at school now being identified for support are being slow-tracked for statements, with the schools being exceedingly dopey in shoving them through.

    However, please select your words carefully. People use the word ‘cretin’ without understanding it’s true meaning – ‘cretinism’ as the Americans call it is one of my daughters many issues, & is offensive when used in the wrong context. I have a prize letter of apology from David James & Paulo Di Canio tucked away somewhere!

    Comment by Pablo Oplywiss — September 14, 2010 @ 11:03 pm | Reply

    • Pablo, many thanks for your comment and for taking the time to share the experience of you and your family. Of course, I humbly apologise for using certain words out of context and please be assured I did not mean to cause any offence to families who heroically battle for the rights of their children.

      As you may have observed, I am angered by the lack of respect, care and responsibility demonstrated by those, allegedly, running education especially for children with special needs. My choice of words was quite deliberate in an attempt to highlight how misguided and unfair their stance is compared to the day-to-day struggle facing so many children in the face of implacable ignorance.

      I agree that the inclusion of “that” word was wrong and I will never use it again when describing a politician. I will, however, continue to rant against the idiocy of those who understand nothing of the the real world and the challenges facing the families they are attempting to demonize and dismiss.

      For that, I make no apology.

      Comment by theplastichippo — September 14, 2010 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

  4. Accepted, & keep up the good work.

    Comment by Pablo Oplywiss — September 15, 2010 @ 9:10 pm | Reply

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