DfE-Inclusion and the academisation of English secondary schools:trends in the placement of pupils with significant SEN and those permanently excluded

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Sch of Education and Lifelong Learning

Abstract

This project aims to analyse a national dataset (the National Pupil Database) about pupils and schools to explore the routes some vulnerable pupils take through secondary schools. We are interested in comparing trends over time (2003-2015) with a focus on:
-pupils with SEN that enter at year 7 and exit during later years
-all pupils permanently excluded from secondary schools.

Over the past 30 years consecutive UK governments have had 2 main policy initiatives regarding schooling in England. Raising academic standards has been the focus of the first initiative, leading to an assessment-led national curriculum; national testing and comparison of results; and developing a more market-orientated model of schooling. This reflected a wider development in public service policy, to replace some state provision by more diversity and autonomy of provision and more user choice. Academies were created by the Labour government to respond to the issues of persistently 'failing' schools. The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition built on this to introduce academies and free schools on a much larger scale.
A lesser though nevertheless important trend was providing for more pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in ordinary rather than special schools and building capacity in ordinary schools to provide for these pupils - what has been called the inclusive education movement. However, the most recent legislation relating to pupils with SEN reinforces the choice and diversity model in emphasising more parental choice and offering more diversity of provision, for example more special schools established through the free school policy initiative.
There are now a range of school types, each with a different level of autonomy. Converter Academies (the most autonomous of the types) had the lowest percentage of pupils with significant SEN, the sponsored Academies (required to convert, governed by outside sponsor) had the highest percentage with significant SEN, while maintained schools (remaining as local authority schools) had percentages between these levels.

We think the policy of secondary schools changing into academies and a focus on raising standards in school may have changed the patterns over time of vulnerable pupils (those with SEN as well as those who experience permanent exclusions) in ordinary schools. The specific aim of our project is to examine whether greater school autonomy and diversity is related to lower placements in ordinary secondary schools and thus greater separate special school and alternative provision placements.

Objective 1: to analyse secondary data from the NPD at a pupil, school and local authority (LA) level, regarding pupils that enter and exit mainstream secondary schools.
Objective 2: to explore the typical educational routes of children with SEN over time since pupil level data was collected. To find out if there is any variation in educational routes by different areas of SEN.
Objective 3: to examine whether greater school autonomy and diversity is related to lower placements in ordinary secondary schools and thus greater separate special school and alternative provision placements.
Objective 4: to examine variations in the educational trajectories of vulnerable pupils at a LA level associated with the extent of acadamisation at a LA level. If there are differences we will examine the characteristics of the LAs that may influence the variations.

By identifying routes from mainstream schools to special schools/alternative provision we hope to identify some factors that explain significant divergence from typical routes through school. This is to enable us to understand pupil, school and LA factors that influence the educational experiences of vulnerable pupils. The project will support original evidence informed policy making and will act as a model of the kind of research that can and needs to be done internationally in the context of international moves towards greater inclusive education.

Planned Impact

The aim of the impact strategy for this project is to inform the review, deliberations and formation of educational policies from the perspective of vulnerable pupils: those with special educational needs (SEN) and those permanently excluded. The proposed research is likely to produce original and much needed knowledge about the placement trends of vulnerable pupils (ordinary versus special school/alternative provision).

There is a wide range of stakeholders in the school education system who will be interested in the knowledge and understanding resulting from this research including organisations and agencies, such as: local authorities; multi-academy chains; teacher unions and professional associations; voluntary-sector disability and SEN organisations; local government and national policy makers; politicians and the education and general media. They will benefit from the research because it will inform their reviews, deliberations and formation of educational policies and advocacy positions that bear on contemporary policy debates.

There are two key groups who would be beneficiaries of this research:
1. Policy-makers (at a government, local authority and school level). The research will bear on contemporary policy debates about the design of the school system and the effects of its design on vulnerable pupils. Whatever the findings about these trends and the factors associated with them, the research will have made a difference when its findings are referred and used in policy deliberations and decision-making in the school education sphere.
2. Voluntary-sector disability and SEN organisations. Discussions have been had with these organisations about this project and they have expressed their interest in joint work in communicating the findings and making sense of their policy and practice implications. Some of the groups work to lobby the government regarding policy changes and implementation and the empirical findings of this research may strengthen their cases.

This project will involve the following communication and engagement activities: prepare electronic flyers; set up a project website and use Twitter account to send out regular updates; prepare Executive Summaries (UK and international) of the findings; organise an invited Policy Seminar in London of key potential users of the research findings (voluntary organisations, policy makers etc. in the SEN/disability field); and arrange individual meetings with key policy-makers, e.g. members of the House of Commons Education Select Committee.

The CI leading on the impact strategy has long-standing and ongoing links with key voluntary organisations who are interested in collaborating to communicate the findings of this study. Senior leaders of these voluntary and professional organisations (NASEN, SEN Policy Research Forum , the Special Educational Consortium, the Council for Disabled Children and the Centre for the Study of Inclusive Education - see Pathways to Impact for more details) will be invited to join a reference group which will advise and support the impact strategy. The SEN Policy Research Forum will organise the invited London based Policy Seminar.
 
Description This research focuses on school changes in England that have involved the introduction of more autonomous state-funded schools (academies), and the inclusion of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in mainstream schools. Recently, the diversity of the school system has increased considerably with the establishment of Academies and Free schools; additionally there has been changes in legislation regarding the identification of children with SEN.
There are two types of academies in England
-Converter Academies: Typically had high attaining predecessor schools.
-Sponsored Academies: Typically underperforming predecessors.
Aim 1: Document the recent trends in academisation and SEN provision in England
Academisation was particularly rapid for secondary rather than primary schools.
Proportions of academies can be very different between local authorities and within metropolitan conurbations.
Do not observe significant differences in how the proportion of pupils with Statements/EHC plans has changed 2011 to 2017 between maintained schools and academies, however, the percentage of children with School Action/SEN support has been falling across all types of schools, but the change was particularly steep for the Sponsored Academies.

Aim 2: Analyse how the introduction of academy schools in England affected the educational trajectories of pupils with SEN

Academisation has not had much effect on the SEN status of new student cohorts in converter academies. However, for sponsored academies the effect was much stronger and obtaining greater autonomy resulted in a decrease in the proportion of pupils with SEN Support.
Academisation to Sponsored Academies shows small negative effects on SEN inclusion and identification; No effects found in Converter Academies.
There is a major difference in the effects of converter and sponsored academisation on SEN trajectories.
Following academisation sponsored academies have fewer children with SEN. Sponsored academies become more likely to re-classify SEN children to the no SEN status when they admit them from primary school, they also become more likely to re-classify existing pupils, and they are less likely to assign the SEN status to non-SEN children. However, SEN children do not become more likely to leave the school after academisation. On the contrary, they are more likely to stay in school, compared to maintained schools.
None of these effects converter academies apart from the effect on the probability to leave the school. In converter academies, SEN pupils (as well as other pupils) are less likely to leave the school after academisation.

Developed a web application for researchers and policy makers to provide detailed insights regarding the trends of academisation of English schools and their inclusion of pupils with SEN. The major features of this web application include the trends regarding the levels of academisation to sponsored academies and converter academies in mainstream schools, special schools, and pupil referral units, and the inclusion of pupils classified as with SEN Support or Statement EHC Plans, visualised by cross-sectional distribution charts, time series plots, and geographical breakdowns to local authority level and parliamentary constituency level. https://sen-england.github.io/
Built research capacity in working with complex government funded data sources (National Pupil Database)
Exploitation Route The wide range of stakeholders in the school education system who will be interested in the knowledge and understanding resulting from this research include organisations and agencies, such as local authorities, multi-academy chains, teacher unions and professional associations, voluntary sector disability and SEN organisations, local government and national policy makers, politicians and the education and general media.
They will benefit from the research because it will inform the review, deliberations and formation of educational policies that bear on contemporary policy debates about the design of the school system and the effects on secondary school pupils with SEN and those permanently excluded. The research will have made a difference if its findings are referred and used in education policy deliberations and decision-making.

The methodology/coding developed may support users of new ADR UK linkage of Education and Justice datasets.
The university of Exeter now hosts a SafePod Network and our experience of using SAIL database, and secure centres in Cardiff may support users of these systems.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://sen-england.github.io/
 
Description CSIE trends/academisation 
Organisation Centre for Studies in Inclusive Education
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Three members of the research team have contributed to a parallel study led by CSIE, exploring placement trends. We have developed a similar webapp to the one developed for this current project, using our expertise in displaying data and making it accessible for all interested parties. We are working together on planning a dissemination event which will launch the findings of both projects (10th April 2019)
Collaborator Contribution The partners are using their links to disseminate our research. We have worked with them to develop a survey and interview schedule to seek reasons for the patterns we have found in our data. We are working together on planning a dissemination event which will launch the findings of both projects (10th April 2019)
Impact We are working together on planning a dissemination event which will launch the findings of both projects (10th April 2019) Webapp has been developed for CSIE project
Start Year 2018
 
Title SEN & academisation shiny-app (Y.Liu) 
Description The web application "SEN & Academisation" is the companion visualisation for this ESRC research project. The web application provides overview and detailed insights into the trends and distributions of academisation and educational inclusion in England with features including geographical breakdowns and trends in the academisation of English schools at Local Authority level. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact not known 
URL https://sen-england.shinyapps.io/sen-england-shiny/
 
Description NPD user group meeting presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented data and research methods SEND trends and the academisation effect to NPD user group (included representatives from Department of Education, National pupil data base, research insitutions) Questions and discussions, including access to NPD in Secure Research Facilities.)Contributed to discussion about secure ways to access and anonymise data, given new Data Protection Act.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description NPD user group meeting presentation, Bristol 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented data and research methods SEND trends and the academisation effect to NPD user group (included representatives from Department of Education, National pupil data base, research insitutions) Questions and discussions, including access to NPD in Secure Research Facilities.)Contributed to discussion about secure ways to access and anonymise data, given new Data Protection Act.
Presentation made available online.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/cmpo/documents/liu2018.pdf
 
Description SEN POLICY RESEARCH FORUM seminar: Summary of recent trends research - rising special school placement, an academisation effect? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Session was part of a seminar exploring changes in SEN / disability provision, pressures on ordinary schools and parental choice: a review of inclusive education and its prospects. Was one of 4 talks, this one focused on data trends regarding pupils with SEND. A range of people attended - local authority staff, teachers, policy makers and advisors, academics. Group discussion, then whole rooom discussion was held after, as well as a Q+A session. On going forum discussion via group email; decision to make public statement, support offered to third sector organisations to make public statement; some participants expressed interest in sharing data with policy makers/MPs. I have been asked to report on session in a journal supplement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018