Do EHCPs fail children with challenging behaviour?

Do EHCPs fail children with challenging behaviour?

Below is an email we were sent by a SENCO who asked to remain anonymous, but wanted us to share their thoughts on EHCPs and children who present disruptive behaviour in schools:

I’ve never met a teacher who wanted to be a bad one. But you can feel like a failure when you have a seriously disruptive child in your classroom. You need more resources.

Do EHCPs help? Yes and no. Did the old system work any better? Ditto. Prosecco? Maybe, though teachers’ need for self-medication is a sign that the education system may have deep problems generally.

Let’s do a bit of history (my Local Authority may not be exactly the same as yours, but there will be similarities). Until recently, school SENCOs did systematic assessments of children’s needs and applied for additional funding accordingly. Money came into the school and was usually applied to those needs but sometimes diverted into general improvements (e.g. an ICT suite.)

If an individual had a higher level of need, the school applied for a Special Needs Statement. This gathered information from teachers and (other) experts, put it into a blender and spat out a 19-or-so-point plan, backed by the force of law and reviewed at least annually. It might mean placement in a Special School, but in our LA half of statemented children remained in mainstream. Now the classroom teacher had not only to fulfil the whim of the latest Secretary for Education, but remember and implement a complex Statement, while getting other children and parents to accept that different treatment was not the same thing as favouritism.

The whole special needs shebang was growing like Topsy and it was decided to simplify the admin, reduce the number of Statements and meld into them other aspects of need, such as health and social services. In came devolved budgets and Education Health and Care plans.

Now, the school has a budget of £4,000 for every child, plus a big lump of special needs cash calculated on some formula involving measures of social deprivation, educational underperformance etc. The Management decides how to spend the money (see above, and one day there will be an interesting series of Ofsted inspections focusing on exactly how it has been applied). The school is expected to meet individual needs up to an extra £6,000, making £10,000 in all. Don’t you love round figures?

EHCPs are to ask for even more resources. They open the cash box, and impoverished and malnourished local authorities are grimly sitting on the lid. Theoretically, the assessment process is faster – 20 weeks instead of the old 26; in practice, there are refusals to assess (I didn’t get them before), appeals with distant hearing dates, and so far every appeal I’ve had has seen the Local Authority fold before going to tribunal – having saved a lot because of the delay.

The easier option for schools is to spit out the awkward child, accompanied by a permanent exclusion report – often in my experience a “crime sheet,” plus an account of all the things the school tried to do. Our support services are fighting back now, asking the school to prove and cost out what it has done to prevent the exclusion.

Sometimes interventions can work – maybe extra TA time, individual assessment and tuition, help for the family via an fCAF etc. But there are children you simply can’t help enough in your context – I feel there is a growing mental health crisis among young people, thanks to a fragmenting social order – and one suffering child’s constantly disruptive behaviour can completely subvert the educational progress of the other 29. They can mess up your work and your head.

But think of that little snowball, rolling down the wrong side of the mountain and gathering toxic habits and demons of hatred and self-loathing.

Make it easier to get the EHCP: keep thinking about their behaviour as a symptom, try to find and treat the cause, and above all, document it, so that if exclusion comes, the child is already heading for an assessment that could catch them before they go over the edge. Make friends with your SENCo.

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