Over the past few weeks our staff have been working on our Feedback Policy, bearing in mind the DfE Report on unnecessary workload around marking. We had previously reviewed it from our marking policy and tried to make it more feedback and less marking for impact, but in light of the DfE report, we decided to have another look, checking against workload and life/work balance.

The main thrust of the discussion once again was who we are doing it for and why. We feedback to the children, to enable them to make progress, both within a piece of work and later.

It is also feedback for ourselves about next steps and who to pick up for pre-teaching and consolidation work. When feeding back and marking, in our minds we should be planning the next steps in learning.

A couple of teachers admitted that they do write more than others and more than our policy says but also admit that that is their choice, not an expectation from SLT. Our next step for those teachers is to work with them individually to check if this level of marking is making an impact or not. If not, why do it.

A positive that came out of our discussions was that many are feeding back within lessons more than previously and this is having a positive impact on the level of work produced by the children.

We then had a long conversation around the word consistency. Some see this as meaning we should all be doing the same. We landed on the idea that feedback and marking will not look or sound the same in each year group and definitely not in Reception and Year 6. So how could we be consistent? The answer is that within year groups and linked to the policy (which states what we do in each case) we will be consistent. We will also be consistent in terms of what the policy states is what is happening in classes and in books. We will use the same marking codes throughout school, at the appropriate time, so the children know them and know how to respond to each one.

It is taking some time. As discussed in previous blogs, some things that have unfortunately been ingrained in class teachers, for a variety of reasons, over time by SLT and the LA and these are very hard to change. Most teachers are on board and more or less comfortable with these changes. Others are still falling back into old habits. The subject leaders also need to be strong and support the teachers to change their habits and not police the marking system. They need to support teachers in looking at what is making a positive difference for the children and encourage this practice.

For some this change of mindset is difficult, for others the transition has been easy, because it is doing what they know is right for the children and themselves.

We will be looking closely at the planning and data/assessment reports next. We do not collect planning or expect it to be done on a certain format. We have already stopped collecting assessment data half termly (cannot believe we were reduced to doing that in the first place) and use pupil progress meetings to look at progress, using teacher knowledge of the children and evidence in their books. But those are for another day.




Money’s Too Tight To Mention

Financial crisis

With the future of funding in schools very much in the forefront of our minds at the moment, especially the implications for cuts and the implications for SEND, I felt it time to highlight what this actually looks like from here, and it is not pretty.

It is clear for all to see that schools have already been making cuts and making do, some already down to the bare bones, which has exacerbated the current situation as we have tried to make it work for the children and got on with the job at hand. This has had a domino effect with more cuts coming and we are at breaking point (some have already reached that and beyond).

I have been doing some sums. Cushions to hide behind at the ready folks!

We have six children with either an EHC Plan or Statement (one more to transition). All six children need 1:1 support and all but one have lunchtime supervision. We have fifty children identified as School Support. Three of those are currently being assessed for EHC Plans.

Our delegated SEN allocation is £80,193. We meet the cost of the first £10,000 of every EHCP/Statement (£4,000 that we get for every child and £6,000 from the Delegated SEN funding). So that is £36,000 gone from the delegated budget right there. If the three who are being assessed receive an EHC Plan, that is another £18,000 to be deducted. All six receive top up funding, the highest being £5,555. Adding together the costs of the staff and Lunchtime Supervisors, this is a lot more than £11,555. When the costs for all six are deducted from the Delegated Funding this leaves £26,193 to support the other children who need interventions. That is £523.86 per child per year.

Let us take an example of one child. I know this is not a typical example but it is real and we want this child to be the best he can be, no matter what. This child has physical disabilities. He is paralysed from the chest down. I won’t go into details but there are other complicating conditions which are life threatening. There are physical moving and handling maneuvers and also medical procedures staff have to administer several times a day, all requiring two members of staff. Academically, he is age related and mainstream is the correct place for him.

It should not come down to money to provide the best possible education and care for him but it does.

Here goes:

1 Support Assistant for the year:           £13,450

Lunchtime Supervisor for the year:       £2,725

1 Support Assistant for 3 hrs a day:        £7,111

So that is £23,286 just for the staff.

In addition to this, specialist equipment is needed for this child to access his learning and move around the class and school. School can apply to the SEN Panel for the cost any single piece of equipment that costs more that £1,000. So far we have applied for and received a height adjustable changing bench and a second wheelchair with table. All well and good. However, we also need:

  • a couple of height adjustable tables; one for him to sit at and one for him to stand at, with his frame (cannot find any that have the adjustment range to cover both)
  • a sand tray that he can access whilst in his wheelchair
  • an OT therapy bench
  • a floor table

None of these cost more than £1,000 but they do together. We cannot apply for funding by putting them together, it is only for individual items.

I know that not all children with SEND will cost this much but this has implications that are far reaching and affect all children in school, not just those who, through no fault of their own or ours, have special needs or disabilities.

This is one child in one school.

There are many others.

We should not have to compromise. Ever!