At a training event in 2011 for the National Connexions Network, I talked about the ‘Local Offer’ and what that might mean to those adults working with young people with LDD. This post continues to feature as highly viewed in my wordpress stats and I thought it might be helpful to re-visit it and add further reflection and detail.
The post continues thus –
In a group activity I’d devised, there were excellent responses from the 25 delegates attending, to the question:
What does the local offer mean to you? How does it translate to reality in your locality?
It was clear from the responses given, despite a theoretical excellence, that many energetic, committed and talented people, are still waiting to be guided into a greater understanding of the ‘local offer’. It remains as out of reach as the stars in the night sky.
I began my post-event note making, writing up flip chart notes and all that goes hand in hand with such events. I deviated, and before long, my thoughts, harboured in some safe place, had come to light. Here are those thoughts, which I do hope may make some difference to the actions that others take, as they play their role in the local offer, or advise others how to do the same.
My passion is about bringing real choice to the education market-place for all young people. This involves educating all people, parents included, at the earliest possible stage in a young person’s life, about all the choices of curriculum, of education, of placement, of support, that are available in a locality, in a region.
Sometimes, those choices, real and accessible though they may be, do not fit adult expectations of what SEN support should be about, and so they are excluded from the agenda.
Many years ago, iin my local authority, it was not uncommon to be aware of rich and varied timetables and schedules of activity for children and young people with, or without, a Statement of SEN. The young person might attend weekly Riding for the Disabled classes, or special swimming classes, or have sports activities geared around their needs, or have village and woodland walks and explorations, or shopping expeditions to try out core skills with key support staff.
This quite flexible and innovative approach to a broad and relevant curriculum has gone out of the window as schools, driven by league tables and external pressures, are ever more focused on an increasingly narrow curriculum, one that frequently combines additional work in English & Maths as a sole focus of SEN support.
Here are some useful links – http://www.rda.org.uk/
The child who leaves primary education with barely functional skills in literacy and numeracy, is highly unlikely to make up that deficit on entering mainstream secondary education. Placement issues have long been taken from the agenda but need to be brought back to the table, not just at key transition times, but throughout a young person’s life. Curriculum matters and breadth and diversity of curriculum needs to be at the forefront of planning and thought.
A change of placement, considering all educational settings that the locality or region has to offer, should not necessarily, as is so often the case, mean a change for the duration of the young person’s life. Much that it is hard for any parent to see their child move schools without their peers, sometimes a change is necessary to ensure that good quality education, curriculum and support is available and in place.
There is a need always to consider – What are the life chances and opportunities an educational setting can offer to the children and young people it serves? What are the choices available, the local offer, to that young person at this particular stage in their life?
The local offer begins essentially with our choice of curriculum, our choice of school and our choice of support and professional expertise. Knowing what is available in an area – thorugh a brokerage system or other – and what is attached to that provision, should be part of key information about SEN and/or disability (SEND) that is provided to all parents and carers of children with SEND.
It should never be the case that parents have to battle and agitate and fight to get what provision they believe should be their child’s right.
It should never be the case that parents are forced to become their own best counsel, up-grading their knowledge and skills to understand their child’s needs so that they may determine what is in their best interest – yet that is frequently the case.
Beyond school are the choices young people make and are encouraged and supported to make, about how they use their own time and how they develop their own personal and social skills. Understanding a young person’s education, employment or training needs is also about understanding that young person’s current lifestyle and lifestyle choices.
The local offer will mean many different things to many people, and will be greatly influenced by our environment, by what is the context and wealth or dearth of opportunity, within the local area. It will also be influenced heavily by the decisions and actions those adults take, who have a responsibility for delivering education, health and social care services.
The widest possible choices and opportunities should exist for all young people, regardless of special educational need or disability. How we project that widest possible choice is down to each of us, as we carry out our daily duties in the field of special educational need and learning difficulties and/or disability.
My regards to you all.