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"Repulsive" schools

In a response to the government's paper on special educational needs about a year ago, the association which represents most secondary headteachers (ASCL) wrote

"Schools which prioritise SEND appropriately too often become known as ‘magnet schools’ in their local area, attracting a disproportionate number of children and young people with SEND without this being adequately recognised in either the funding they receive or the way in which they are held to account."

Schools like this are celebrated and appreciated by their families, not just by those with children with additional educational needs, but by all those who value appropriate education for each individual child - those who value education in its widest and proper sense.

The analogy of a magnet works both ways, though - just as there are brilliant schools who are magnets for and attract families and students who need individual care and attention there are also schools which actively repel them - "repulsive schools". These schools actively dissuade students with additional needs or "difficulties", whether SEND, children in the care system or other children who need additional support and nurture to succeed.

I absolutely get the pressures on schools - I have spent more than 15 years or my career on the senior leadership teams of secondary schools. The whole accountability system is much easier to navigate if your results are good and students with additional needs are, by definition, unlikely to be fantastically successful in GCSE examinations. Schools are struggling with resources, staffing and time and it is tempting to see individuals with needs as a "burden" on the wider school community. Schools are responsible for the education of everyone who walks through their doors so it is much easier if some students walk through the doors of another school!

This is wrong, on so many levels. It must be called out when it is encountered. All of us who can stand up and speak should do so. We must seek, promote and campaign for an alternative accountability system which prioritises and promotes the wellbeing of every child and incentivises "repulsive" schools to be magnetically attractive - beacons of best practice in meeting individual needs.

As always, I am happy to discuss these issues with anyone and to offer help and support to any parent or carer whose child is struggling to thrive in secondary school. Just have a look at , email or message 07767142877. I look forward to hearing from you.

James Harris

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