The RET, SEN and employment of fully qualified teachers

Earlier this month a letter was published in the Brentwood Gazette that accused the proposers of Becket Keys Church of England School of discouraging a parent of a child with special educational needs (SEN) from attending their school. In the letter “J. Colson” challenges the Russell Education Trust (RET) and the “founding head teacher” Mr Andy Scott-Evans to explain why this might be. As this is potentially illegal I waited for a response or an investigation by the local press. None has so far been forthcoming.

The letter is not available on line but a photographed copy is available here:

 

Earlier this year we were contacted by a prospective parent of Becket Keys following our post “The search for information on Becket Keys backers” http://wp.me/p2dr6s-75 who was seeking reassurance about the record of the RET in supporting SEN children. We were unable to provide anything further than that presented in the post because, as we have pointed out several times, none is available on their websites and they will not answer questions from our group.

I decided to revisit this issue this week in an attempt to get a picture of how existing free schools cater for SEN children and came across a revealing piece written last November by the blogger SchoolDuggery.

The article presents figures provided by each of the 24 existing free schools regarding how numbers of SEN children compare to local averages. It also gives comparison figures for those eligible for free school meals (FSM) and also the numbers of fully qualified teachers in each school. One of these schools is the Bristol Free School which is run by the RET so this provides an opportunity to see how they compare to other free school providers as well as the local average.

The full post is available here:

http://schoolduggery.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/free-schools-and-disadvantaged-children-the-data/

It is important to note again that the figures within the post were provided by the schools themselves. You can assess for yourself how they compare against one another, but it appears that the free schools programme is struggling to meet the government’s professed aim to extend inclusivity and social mobility.

From a Brentwood perspective, the figures for the RET run Bristol Free School reveal some interesting points:

  • The number of children attending the school total 80. 150 places were available.
  • 6 of those children are reported to have a statement of SEN. This represents 7.5% against the Bristol average of 21.8% and the locality average of 17.9%.
  • 8 children are eligible for FSM (10%) against a Bristol average of 23.3% and a locality average of 14.9%.

Following on from J. Colson’s letter, it would be good to have confirmation from the RET that these figures have nothing to do with a specific policy of discouraging SEN children from attending their school. It would also be good to know how they intend to ensure Becket Keys accepts a fair proportion of the town’s children with SEN.

One other point that struck me from this article was the figures on qualified teaching staff. The table shows that Bristol Free School clearly employs the highest proportion of non-fully qualified staff than any other secondary free school.

They have declared that they have a teaching staff of 12 of which 4 (33%) are not fully qualified.

This may explain the RET advice, reported by J.Colson, to encourage SEN children to “seek a place elsewhere in schools better able to meet their needs.”

Stephen Mayo

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