DYT’s Policy and Public Affairs Executive, Dan Baynes looks at what’s coming up on the policy agenda and the work DYT will be doing to promote learners with literacy difficulties. Read his first blog looking back on our policy work from 2017-18.

2018 was a slow year for education policy. Brexit dominated the political discourse and the Department for Education had to adjust to yet more ministerial changes. I predicted in January 2018 that Damian Hinds’ appointment would largely bring stability, and this has largely proven to be the case with his bid to improve relations with the teaching profession and focus on social mobility remaining the central tenants of his first year in office.

So, what of 2019?

Assuming that the government survives (an assumption no one can confidently stick by…) the Education Secretary will want to push on with his agenda – here are some of the items that are likely to dominate his in-tray.

Teacher workload and dyslexia specialist teachers

Hinds has reiterated his number one priority is reducing teacher workload.  He is due to announce key next steps the DfE will take in a “recruitment and retention strategy,” to be published shortly.  This is likely to build upon the consultation on QTS and career progression for teachers conducted last year, DYT’s view on this was that inclusion and support for learners with literacy difficulties needs to be “built-in, not bolt on” to ensure the right structures and support are in place at the beginning of a teacher’s career.

Linked to this is the use of specialist teachers in our education system something DYT will focus on in 2019. This year marks ten years since Sir Jim Rose’s “Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties” in which he recommended the government fund training for 4,000 new dyslexia specialist teachers.

DYT will be exploring what happened next and looking at how dyslexia specialists can be deployed in 2019 with the advent of new literacy hubs and the substantial changes to the school system since 2009.

School Funding

Last year saw the school cuts campaign grow into a mainstream issue with over 3,000 heads descending on Downing Street to voice their frustration. Hinds has not yet been successful at convincing the Treasury to allocate more money to education and all eyes will turn to the comprehensive spending review (expected around March) to see if he can secure anything. The political arithmetic in the House of Commons has also meant that pushing through a “hard” national funding formula will be a very tricky task for the DfE, many headteachers, Local Authorities and parents alike will await with bated breath to see what it means for them.

DYT will be continuing our joint campaign with 120 organisations to call on the Chancellor to recognise the need to deliver a comprehensive settlement for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Ofsted’s new framework and school accountability

Alongside funding, Ofsted’s consultation on their new inspection framework is likely to be a key topic of education debate this year. The inspectorate has set out an ambitious vision to base inspection around the “quality of education” looking in greater detail at the curriculum and moving away from a system based on high stakes testing results.

We welcomed Ofsted’s focus on SEND in their Annual Report, but as our Director of Operations, Karen Wespieser told Schools Week: “these words must be turned into action, both in the new Ofsted framework and by inspectors on the ground.” This is what we will be calling for in our response to Ofsted, furthermore, Karen has looked at how the importance of literacy provision could feature in the framework and how this will be balanced with curriculum.

The SEND inquiry

With over 10,000 written submissions and five oral evidence sessions already completed, the Education Committee’s inquiry into SEND will be a regular feature of our parliamentary monitoring and engagement this year.

The inquiry has already covered a wide range of issues and is likely to be concluded with a mega report next summer. The sector will eagerly anticipate what practical recommendations the committee will make as well as the government’s response.

Timpson review into school exclusion 

Originally, planned for publication in December, Edward Timpson’s review into school exclusions is now expected to report around Spring 2019. It will be interesting to see what is (and isn’t) included and whether it will lead to any significant government action.

With SEND learners seven times more likely to be excluded than their peers, we will be looking to see what the former Children’s Minister recommends specifically to support schools and learners to avoid use of exclusion.

The new year will be a busy time for the Education Secretary and for those of us seeking to influence the policy stage. There are significant issues to be ironed out, we hope that SEND learners (and specifically those with literacy difficulties) will be fully considered as policy-makers seek to initiate the solutions.