School is a core pillar of my work as Children’s Commissioner following ‘The Big Ask’, which was the largest-ever survey of children. This survey demonstrated how important school and teachers are to children, and that school is the place they want to receive support if they need it. Children explained the importance of being in a nurturing and supportive environment for them to thrive in their futures.
As one child I spoke to said, “People don’t realise how much education is important for life in general. […] if they don’t learn in school, they might not be able to enjoy life to the fullest” – Girl, 14.
After so much online learning, children in England – vulnerable children, especially – care passionately about being able to go to school again. They find school challenging but fulfilling. And overwhelmingly, they like school. Including those who need additional support, with those who need that, and receive it in school, being happier than the overall cohort.
Another child told me, “I really want to learn even if it’s hard because education is important to me” – Girl, 11.
My work within this pillar will involve helping all children to succeed in school, particularly those with additional needs, and monitoring closely the implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Green Paper. As well as making sure every child leaves primary school being able to read and write.
Ambition for all - our vision for the school system
Ahead of the Schools White Paper I published a report on how to realise my ambitions for a school system that works for all children. My core aims are making sure every child attends an excellent school and leaves primary school being able to read and write. Every school should provide an offer to children which extends from an enriching curriculum to additional support for children, as part of a wider network of outstanding children’s services.
I want to make sure all children are in school, every day, engaged and ready to learn, including receiving any additional support they might need to help make that happen. Given the numbers of children who did not return to school after lockdown, and the impact the pandemic had on attendance, I set out to investigate where children are across the country. I surveyed all 152 English Local Authorities (LAs) using my unique data gathering powers under Section 2F of the Children Act. I have published the interim findings from our School Attendance Audit. Before this work there was no national picture of where children are and if they are attending school, and now there is. The attendance audit continues with the deep dive into 10 LAs and quantitative analysis of Multi Academy Trust attendance data, the outcome of which will be published in the summer.
The SEND Green Paper – our response and brand new analysis of EHCPs
Following the publication of the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Green Paper, I published my initial response, including brand new analysis of just under 650 Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) from two local authorities. My office found variation in the accessibility of EHCPs and the extent to which outcomes set in EHCPs are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. This analysis supported proposals in the SEND and AP Green Paper to standardise and digitise EHCPs. My office and I will be speaking to children about their views on the proposals ahead of my formal response later in the term.
An inconsistent approach to SEND, findings from analysis of Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) from two local authorities in England
The Big Answer - Resources for schools
The Children’s Commissioner asked all the children in England to complete ‘The Big Ask‘, to show the true voice of this generation.
Children were united – they told us they want to get back to school, to get on, and do well. To have fulfilling lives. To make a contribution to a better world – a greener world, rooted in fairness of opportunity for everyone. We are now making sure children are being heard.
Here we share resources for schools to use with their pupils.