February 2021: Inclusive Education Briefing

This briefing is ALLFIE’s February inclusive education round-up, covering Coronavirus news for Disabled learners and ALLFIE’s work in 2021.

Children playing together, some in wheelchairs, some notDear friends,

We began the new year with a third lockdown, including another closure of the majority of education institutions. Within the first few weeks, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, made a number of announcements. This briefing is ALLFIE’s round-up in relation to Disabled learners, and covers:

  1. Coronavirus News: Additional funding; School closures; Remote education; Further education institutions; OFSTED Remote Education Report; Children and Families Act easements; Consultation on alternative arrangements for the award of vocational, technical, and other general qualifications in 2021; SAT, GCSE and A Level examination arrangements
  2. ALLFIE’s work in 2021: National; London Mayoral Elections; SEND Reform political update

1. Coronavirus News

Additional funding

In response to the continuing crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Family Fund has received extra funding to support families on low incomes. They have received £3.5 million from the Department for Education to provide an additional 7,000 grants for families in England and Northern Ireland.

More information about the grants offered for families with Disabled children

School closures

Early Years provision remains open for all children. However, primary and secondary schools will only remain open for children labelled “vulnerable”, including those with education, health and care plans or those unable to access remote education because of home circumstances.

The Government has issued additional guidance outlining schools’ duties in delivering remote education, including:

  • Schools will be given additional online devices, 4G routers and free mobile data to give to families who need to access the internet.
  • Primary schools will be required to demonstrate they are providing three hours of high-quality remote learning for their pupils.
  • Secondary schools will be required to demonstrate they are providing five hours of high-quality remote learning for their pupils.
  • Schools are expected to arrange some school-led videos provided by themselves or other providers like Oak National Academy on a digital platform, such as G-Suite or Microsoft Education.
  • The BBC are broadcasting school lessons and curriculum materials for both primary and secondary school pupils.
  • OFSTED’s school inspections will cover the quality of remote education. Parents will be able to raise concerns and complaints about their children’s experience of remote education with OFSTED’s inspectors.

Remote education

The Government has published further guidance on the minimum remote education provided by schools:

  • 3 hours a day for Key Stage 1 (years 1 and 2 when pupils are aged between 5 and 7)
  • 4 hours a day for Key Stage 2 (years 3-6 when children are aged between 7 and 11)
  • 5 hours a day for Key Stages 3 and 4 (secondary school children aged up to 16)

Further Education Institutions

  • Schools with sixth forms, colleges and other further education institutions will be invited to order laptops and tablets to further support disadvantaged young learners (aged 16-19) to access remote education.
  • Further education colleges will remain open for vulnerable children and young people, including those with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) or those who are unable to access remote education because of home circumstances.
  • Further and higher education institutions are expected to move their campus-based courses online. However, some courses such as medicine, veterinary, and health and care courses involving significant practical learning may continue to be provided on campus.
  • It will be for higher education institutions to determine how they will go ahead with their end of year or course assessments.

Gavin Williamson’s oral statement in Parliament on Tuesday 6th January can be read here.

OFSTED Remote Education Report

OFSTED have published their report on remote education. Their findings have confirmed many of the concerns ALLFIE raised in our oral briefing with Vicky Ford (Minister for Children and Families), and highlighted in our Parliamentary Committee submissions and during Coronavirus Act debates.

OFSTED found that:

  • 59% of parents said their SEND child compared with 39% of parents of non-SEND child have been disengaged from remote education.
  • Disabled children were ‘disengaged with remote learning” Fewer than half (46%) of the teachers surveyed stated that their school offered additional remote learning arrangements for pupils with SEND.
  • Schools also raised concerns learning gaps would be greater for pupils with SEND and that the negative social and emotional impact of the disruption of remote learning would be more severe.
  • School leaders concerned learning gaps would be greater for SEND pupils.

OFSTED have highlighted potential benefits of remote education for Disabled children where they are able to have greater control over the pace and environment that learning take places.

Read OFSTED’s full Remote Education report

Children and Families Act easements

As schools and colleges remain open for children and young people with EHCPs, there is an expectation that SEND provision will continue to be arranged. The good news is that no notice has been given concerning reinstating the Children and Families Act easements setting aside local authorities’ duties to arrange SEN provision as set out in the child/young person’s EHCP and 20-week completion period for EHCP assessments and plans. However, be aware that the Care Act easements are still in place that allow local authorities to put aside their duties arranging adult care.

SAT, GCSE and A Level examination arrangements

Statutory Key Stage tests, GCSE and A Level summer examinations have been cancelled. Ofqual and the Department for Education have now published their joint proposals on how GCSE, AS and A Level grades should be awarded in summer 2021. The main proposals cover:

  • Students’ grades in each subject will be based on their teachers’ assessments of the standard at which they are performing.
  • Schools and examination boards making available sets of examination papers which would be marked by teachers.
  • Students’ grades would cover a range of assessment performances in formal and mock examinations and substantial pieces of independent work
  • Internal and external assessment quality control
  • Student appeal arrangements
  • A draft schedule of deadlines so that students know their awarded grades during July instead of August.

The Department for Education and Ofqual have reassured stakeholders that they will not be using the discredited algorithms that previously awarded students their grades. A consultation is being held, as outlined in the Department for Education and Ofqual consultation document on how students will be awarded grades fairly

Consultation on alternative arrangements for the award of vocational, technical, and other general qualifications in 2021

Unlike GCSEs and A Levels, it will be for schools and colleges to decide whether vocational qualification examinations will continue or be cancelled.

Some vocational qualifications that require a practical assessment to demonstrate occupational competency or a license to practise should continue to take place wherever possible, subject to public health guidance.

Under Ofqual’s existing regulatory arrangements, the Extended Extraordinary Regulatory Framework (Extended ERF) has been introduced in October 2020; this provided awarding organisations with the flexibility necessary to adapt their assessments and qualifications to mitigate against the disruption the pandemic has caused.

The main proposals covered varying arrangements for students completing:

  • General Vocational Qualifications
  • Functional Skills
  • T Levels
  • Licences to practise

Separate arrangements are in place for vocational qualifications at Level 4 and above and Apprenticeship End Point Assessments. A consultation is being held, as outlined in the Department for Education and Ofqual consultation document on alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021

2. ALLFIE’s work in 2021


Like the Government, we are very much expecting that, once the overwhelming majority of adults are vaccinated against Covid-19, there will be a return to some degree of ‘normality’, including education institutions being able to provide teaching and courses on site safely.

We are expecting a very busy year and will be arranging engagement events around making inclusive education a reality.

The Government will be publishing their response to the Special Education Needs Review together with a consultation containing further proposals. We expect the consultation to begin in the spring: ALLFIE’s submission to the SEND review.

The Government are reviewing the University Admissions System that will include options for change: ALLFIE’s Higher Education Administration Reform briefing

London Mayoral Elections

In 2019, the Mayor of London is responsible for the development and funding of adult education across the capital. They hold a vast budget to cover adult education provision across the 33 London Boroughs. This is our first real opportunity to ask for the Mayor of London’s commitment to develop an inclusive adult education plan and the funding of inclusive courses that are open to all, including Disabled and non-disabled Londoners.

Manifesto co-creation

ALLFIE, Transport for All and Inclusion London will be publishing a joint Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) manifesto containing a range of policies that we want the Mayoral of London to implement whilst in office.

ALLFIE took part in the Inclusion London’s manifesto event where we ran a break-out session on inclusive education. A lively and informative conversation took place that will help us frame our policy asks. Additionally, we will be arranging an event with our Inclusion Champions members.

SEND Reform political update

We started the new year with a positive meeting with Vicky Ford (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families) in which she shared some of our goals in developing stronger inclusive education practice in mainstream schools. We were asked what needs to happen to make mainstream education a real possibility for the majority of children. Justine Tomlinson (Minister of State (Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work) during the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Disability webinar on the Disability Discrimination Act, said that the Government would be looking for advice around Special Education Needs and Disability from the Education Select Committee and Education APPGs.

Given that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the increasing inequalities between Disabled and non-disabled children and young people, we have been busy attempting to secure support from Dr Lisa Cameron (Disability APPG chair), Olivia Blake (SEND APPG chair), Kate Green (Shadow Minister for Education), Steve Reed (Shadow Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families), Daisy Cooper (Liberal Democrat Spokesperson), Vicky Foxcroft (Shadow Minister for Disabled People), and Siobhain McDonagh (Sponsor of Internet Access (Children Eligible for Free School Meals) Bill 2019-21; Private Members Bill) for cross party support for inclusive education and a major inquiry into good inclusive education practice and what needs to change to make inclusive education a right and not a struggle.

Our meetings with individual politicians are building on our existing written submissions to various committees.

In solidarity.