Earlier in the week, I was in a strategy meeting with a primary head teacher, strategic leads from Early Help, SEND, education and housing deliberating over the challenges that a particular school were raising about the increasing pressure of presenting SEND pupils at school. Discussing what constitutes appropriate, safe housing and the impact that domestic abuse, drug abuse and poor mental health has on families and children themselves. Whilst we were considering the local dilemma, I could not help but reflect back to recent Newsnight research, that revealed that up to 1,500 SEND children nationally are without school provision and are waiting up to 2 years to get a school place. This dire situation being compounded by a potential SEND gap in funding of £1.6 billion by 2021.

Another piece of news reported in The Telegraph, stated that children in coastal schools achieve two and a half grades lower at GCSE than those attending school in London, according to new data from the Department for Education. The findings prompted Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds to warn that the traditional concern that the North is more disadvantaged than the South is “too simplistic” but went on to attribute the capital’s success to a comparatively high tutoring rate and a higher density of schools, which was a little simplistic for my liking too.

I went back to a report that Marc Kidson and Emma Norris wrote in 2014, a case study into the implementation of the London Challenge, back in 2002. There was a clear rationale for the London Challenge, which was to raise standards in the poorest performing schools, to narrow the attainment gap and create more good and outstanding schools. The emerging lessons from the report included understanding the assets that exist in the system and to create an authorising environment that supports rapid but accountable decision-making. Furthermore, to give credible people the responsibility and means to move knowledge around the system and finally to invest in creating shared purpose and strong relationships. Going to back to the meeting with the local headteacher and strategic leads, it is obviously clear that there is no easy, quick fix to this social, health and education challenge. What is pleasing is that the issues are being shared, aired and considered, the Camden SEND strategy is ready to be revised to ensure it meets the needs of SEND children, but also is fit for purpose in this rapidly changing political and social climate, recognising the need to do things differently with less but to ensure equitable responsibility for meeting the needs of our most vulnerable families and children.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director, Camden Learning

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