Consultation response to the Scottish Government’s Education and Culture Committee: Educational Attainment

Education and Culture Committee

Educational attainment gap inquiry

Role of the third and private sectors

 
Background

Falkland House School is an independent school located in the village of Falkland in Fife and specialises in the education and care of boys who require additional support for learning.

It provides special integrated education to boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Tourette’s syndrome (TS), as well as a number of other conditions which makes it difficult for them to cope in a mainstream educational environment.

The school was established over 30 years ago and has a reputation for excellence, quality and achieving positive results. Indeed, it was one of the first independent schools in Scotland to be awarded Autism Accreditation by the National Autistic Society.

Falkland House School provides residential and day places to boys from early primary age through to 18 years old, taking referrals from all regions in Scotland and the rest of the UK. The school offers day, 39 week and 52 week placements to cater for as many different circumstances as possible.

Falkland House School is the highest rated educational establishment of its type in Scotland, having achieved excellent grades in every standard it was inspected in by the Care Inspectorate.

Falkland House School was shortlisted in the Times Educational Supplement School Awards 2014 Special Needs School of the Year category, the only Scottish school shortlisted.

Consultation response

  • the scale of the third and private sectors’ involvement in schools, in terms of improving attainment and achievement, and the appropriate dividing line between their role and the role of education authorities;

Since working on improving attainment and achievement should be holistic and have the child at the centre, there should be no dividing line between the third and private sectors’ involvement and the role of education authorities.

If, as was clearly defined in the very first draft of the National Framework for Residential Care and Education services, the local authority clearly defined who was responsible for each short and long term outcome, as happens in good quality Coordinated Support Plans, the roles of both education authorities and third and private sector schools would be seen as a partnership (this was unfortunately deleted as the draft progressed). It does not seem cost or resource effective to replicate quality provision that is already accessible.

  • whether their approaches have been particularly successful in improving achievement and attainment for school pupils. If so, whether their methods could be more embedded in the curriculum;

 

Our success comes not from the approach but the structure. As well as having a social environment which ensures a 24 hour curriculum, the staff to pupil ratio and management of resources results in these methods being embedded in the curriculum. The Curriculum for Excellence was a major advancement in examining the totality of experiences, ensuring all the skills for living a fulfilled life are recognised and developed.

To be able to know if approaches are successful in any provision, we need to have an assessment process which indicates where young people are at the start and the end of any process, thus ensuring that the individual curriculum closely matches identified needs. There are huge discrepancies in the statistics collated by the Scottish Government at the moment which would make this process both transparent and worthwhile. How as partnership can we know where we want to be if we don’t know where we are?

  • whether the full potential of the third and private sectors in helping to improve children’s attainment and achievement is being realised;

 

The full potential of the third and private sectors in helping to improve children’s attainment and achievement is not being realised for a number of basic reasons.

Firstly, as discussed in the first paragraph, there are very little or no stated expectations from placing local authorities on a short or long term basis for each individual placement. If no short or long term outcomes are stated, recorded and measured then it is difficult to realise the provision’s full potential. These short and long term outcomes must include the full range of experiences from the Curriculum Areas of the Curriculum for Excellence to ensure each learner is developing knowledge, skills and attributes for learning, life and work (the four capacities – successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors).

Secondly, the third and private sectors, as well as mainstream provision and education authorities, work in competition to each other rather than collaboratively. This is in direct contradiction to the working in partnership mentioned before, but given budget cuts and the number of third and private sector spaces available in comparison to the decreasing number of referrals, competition is inevitable. Most Local Authorities will only use the third and private sector as a last resort and that is usually irreconcilable to early intervention. Excellent quality practice is not shared with others in the sector (we currently have 9 ‘Excellent’ grades and 1 ‘Very Good’ grade, as well as having achieved Autism Accreditation but would not consider visits from other establishments to improve their quality of service).

  • how successful schools have been in reporting on pupils’ wider achievements (i.e. not just examination results) such as those the third sector helps to deliver. Whether such achievements are valued by parents, employers and learning providers as much as formal qualifications;

 

As stated before, the Curriculum for Excellence has given us all a much better overview of the variety of experiences and outcomes needed to help learners develop the skills they need for learning, life and work but most, including the Scottish Government when asking for statistics, still see achievements as certifiable awards of some description. Employers are much more interested in a level gained than an experience met and this is also true for parents.