The discussion has involved mainly people from the Ixworth area following the Seckford's meetings last week. Much of this discussion has been round the curriculum with some saying it is too narrow and that children with additional or special educational needs will not be met.
One parent from Beccles made what I thought was a really excellent comment
My worry as a teacher from further education working with students with additional needs, is the children from the Seckford model will be disadvantaged. Students who want to study vocational subjects or who have achieved qualifications at level one (below GCSE) now come out of school with qualifications that they can link directly into FE colleges and have a head start.
Students coming from Seckford will not have these and will in effect have to go back a step. For example a child leaving John Leman who wants to do engineering will already have a level two quailification in this subject and will be able to start an apprenticeship or a level three course (A level equiv). Imagine having worked for 5 years doing your best at school but coming away without a single qualification, because this is what they are proposing.
I for one would not be prepared to do this to my child as he has significant learning difficulties and with the best will in the world will not achieve any GCSE's.The Seckford foundation can say what they like about inclusion but without additional qualifications they are excluding a large group of children from our communities.This parent has been engaged in a dialogue with the Seckford Foundation for a while, she started with the following email:
I hope you can help with my query, I have been looking at your website including information for prospective teachers regarding the ethos and curriculum at Beccles free school. I understand that the school will have an academic focus with strong pastoral support and will be non-selective. I am also interested to see you will be employing an inclusion manager to help children with additional needs.
My son who is currently in year eight has learning difficulties and autism he has statement of special educational needs. His behaviour can at times be challenging, will your staff be trained in safe handling techniques and autism awareness ?, what could your school offer him in terms of academic achievement. he will not be able to achieve the Ebacc standard that you mention and my worry is that he would spend all those years at school and come out without any qualifications.
The school he attends at the moment offers a range of qualifications such as the ASDAN awards which are aimed at students with additional learning needs, I feel it would crush his confidence to complete his schooling and achieve nothing at the end.
I like the idea of a small school for my son but worry that his need may not be met what could the school offer to a pupil like him?
I look forward to hearing from you,Seckford replied as follows:
Thank you for your email below which was forwarded to the relevant people who could answer it. I hope the following answers your queries:
The curriculum of all Free Schools within the Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust will be one which is founded on the study of a broad and balanced range of traditional academic subjects supplemented with study in creative subject areas. In addition, we intend to provide an extensive range of enrichment experiences for all students. The academic elements of the curriculum will be organised in order for students to achieve the English Baccalaureate. To do this, qualifications taken in school will be primarily GCSE-based.
All Schools within the Trust will be non-selective and inclusive. The foundation of our approach to inclusion will be to put in place what is needed for students in our Schools to achieve the curriculum and qualifications outlined in the first paragraph.
Although inclusion will be the responsibility of every member of staff in our Schools we will shortly be undertaking the process for the appointment of an ‘Inclusion Leader’. It will be this member of staff who will lead inclusion practices in our Schools through undertaking the roles and responsibilities of the SENCO. We intend, through that appointment, to ensure that the needs of all students admitted to our Schools (and any training required for staff), is coordinated across each School.
I hope this provides you with the information you need.
On behalf of Seckford Foundation Free SchoolsThe parent replied to this saying:
Thank you for your response however I do not feel that you answered my question. You state that your school will be non-selective and fully inclusive yet will only offer GCSE level qualifications.What happened next will surprise nobody who has corresponded with Seckford. They just ignored the correspondence and did not reply which is what they do every time they are challenged.
This does not reflect the broad range of children that attend a non-selective school, my son, like many other children will never have the ability to reach this level.
Qualications at pre-entry entry and level one were developed in recognition of the fact that many children were leaving school without any nationally recognised qualifications to take on to their next level of education or training.
What is the plan for children who clearly will not be working at GCSE level? to deny them any kind of qualifications would surely be in breach of the 2010 Equality Act section 6 which states a school must not discriminate against a pupil
(a )in the way it provides education for the pupil;
(b) in the way it affords the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service;
(c) by not providing education for the pupil;
(d) by not affording the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service;
(e) by excluding the pupil from the school;
(f) by subjecting the pupil to any other detriment.
I feel the Seckford Foundation needs to look long and hard at this issue especially in the light of the proposed transport policy which means for many children with SEN you will be the closest school.
The subtext of your reply at the moment seems to imply that only children who can achieve GCSE's are welcome. I look forward to your response, if you could let me have your full name and position I could know with whom I am corresponding
The parent followed up with this email and has still not had a reply. Perhaps the Seckford staff that “monitor” my Blog might pick this up and reply?
Since I have not had a response to my e-mail dated Friday 4th of May, I am sending it again.
As a local resident and parent of a disabled child I feel that the way you have treated my genuine attempts to seek information about your plans to cater for children like my son is very poor.
You claim to want all children from the community to attend your schools but your attitude makes it clear that this is not the case.
I can only assume that your failure to respond is a strategy that you hope will put off parents like me from choosing your school for their children, if this is the case you would be failing in your legal and moral duties towards the community you claim to be helping.
To those of you I have copied in I can only apologise, as it is the only way I can get at least some chance of a response from an organisation which prides itself on teaching values such as courtesy and respect but seems to find it difficult to follow these themselves.
I look forward to your response