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January 2011



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First Published Saturday, 7 February 2009


Poor behaviour in schools in England can be down to a failure to identify special education needs early enough, says a government adviser.

Sir Alan Steer says some schools over-identify special needs, perhaps to exaggerate the school’s difficulties – though some do not identify enough.

Behaviour partnerships with police must increase, and unlawful unofficial exclusions should stop, he says.

Children’s Secretary Ed Balls has said he will accept the recommendations.

Sir Alan Steer’s report is the latest in an ongoing review into bad behaviour in schools ordered by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

It focuses on behaviour partnerships, behaviour and learning policies, and the link between special educational needs and behaviour.

‘Variation of performance’

Sir Alan says that many schools under or over-estimate the number of pupils with special needs, and that this leads to an incorrect level of provision for these pupils.

“Some schools identify far higher numbers than found in other schools in a similar context,” the report says.

“This might result from a desire to emphasise to the outside world and Ofsted the difficulties the school faces, but over-identification as well as under-identification can be damaging to the children and to good practice in the school.”

Some schools rely too much on “unfocused support from untrained staff”, he adds.

And he says unofficial or informal exclusions should stop, as such exclusions can be particularly harmful to children with special needs.

The DCSF should continue to tackle the issue of the disproportionate number of pupils with special needs who are excluded, he says.

He describes an inconsistent approach towards special needs, but also some good practice.

“It is my view that there are countless examples of exemplary work in our schools,” he said.

“It is also my view that there is too great a degree of variation of performance and that, were we able to reduce this, the effect on children, teachers and schools would be profound,” he said.

Teachers have told me they need help in being able to identify children with special educational needs earlier
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls

He will recommend more partnerships between schools to share resources, buy in specialist support and have clear procedures for dealing for challenging pupils who are hard to place.

He says behaviour and attendance partnerships between schools have a positive effect on pupil behaviour, but that they should have a clear focus on early intervention in primary schools to tackle bad behaviour.

Working with a designated police officer is also recommended.

There is a clear link between a high quality of teaching, as well as a consistent behaviour policy, and good standards of behaviour, Sir Alan states.

He therefore recommends schools should have a written policy on learning and teaching, reviewed regularly, to maintain this standard.


Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said he was “committed to helping schools intervene early”.

“We want to make sure that every child, including those with special educational needs, should have the opportunity to reach their full potential and that we intervene early to tackle the barriers to progress so we can keep young people on the right track,” he said.

“We know there is some excellent work going on in our schools to support children with SEN, but teachers have told me they need help in being able to identify children with SEN earlier and quicker,” he added.

Pupils with identified special educational needs are more than nine times as likely to be permanently excluded from schools than other pupils, according to the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

They are more than three times as likely to be persistently absent, the department says.

The National Autistic Society welcomed Sir Alan’s expected emphasis on identifying children’s special needs at an early age.

It said that many children with SEN were failed by the school system as a lack of awareness and understanding could mean they were labelled as “badly-behaved”.

Source:   http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7873125.stm

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