Posted in Uncategorized

UKIP’s Education Policy

Deputy Prime Minister Farage anybody?

The general election is just four weeks away, how time flies… I’ve just about got to grips with the drama of the last one! In view of this, the editorial team at TheSchoolBus will be writing a series of blog pieces focused around the education policies of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

We’re kicking off the series this week with our first blog on UKIP.

Please note that this is a fictional account of what might happen should UKIP join a coalition next month; it does not represent the political views of either HCSS Hub or any members of TheSchoolBus editorial team, including the author of this particular piece, and should not be taken as such.

A little history

Since the mid-eighteenth century, with the accession to power of William Pitt the Younger, the UK has largely been dominated by two political parties; whether this was the Tories and the Whigs, the Conservatives and the Liberals or the Conservatives and Labour.

There was, of course, the occasional general election when this did not occur; namely the hung parliaments of 1910, 1929 and 1974.  However, the former two coincided with the rise of the Labour Party, and the latter lasted less than 10 months.

The current situation

And then 6 May 2010 happened.

Following this election, when David Cameron (Conservative) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat) stood side-by-side in front of the cameras and announced to the nation and to the world the formation of a coalition government, many political commentators declared it to be a turning point in British political history; the end of two-party politics.

Coinciding with the apparent emergence of a multi-party political system, there has been the rise of a number of so-called ‘fringe parties’, such as the Green Party and UKIP; the last one having elected their first two Members of Parliament (MPs) in the process.

According to the latest opinion polls, no single political party, including UKIP, is projected to secure an overall majority in next month’s general election; although there is still time for this to change. Consequently, with another hung parliament expected after 7 May 2015, UKIP may yet find itself not only a kingmaker, but also in a position of power at No. 10 Downing Street, should they end up in coalition with one of the major parties; namely Labour or the Conservatives.

While, in terms of seat numbers at least, they are likely to end up the junior member of any potential coalition government, UKIP may use their balance of seats in government to push through some of their policies as a condition of helping the senior partner do the same. It is for this reason that schools and academies across the country should take note of what UKIP are saying about education during this general election campaign.

So, what are UKIP saying?

UKIP’s education policies reflect their current strategy of channelling the increasing disaffection of traditional Labour and Conservative voters from their parties’ core roots and positioning themselves not only as the new champions of the British working classes, but also as the true inheritors of the conservative right.

Apprenticeships and the STEM subjects

Should they come to power, UKIP have voiced a desire to undertake a comprehensive review of our education system and qualifications, ensuring that it remains both current and relevant to an increasingly competitive national and global economy.

Over the last few years, the market has given the impression that ‘current and relevant’ means an increasing focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills; a trend which UKIP has tried to tap into, stating that they would enable students to take an apprenticeship qualification instead of four non-core GCSEs, which can be continued at A-Level. UKIP would also scrap tuition fees for disadvantaged UK students taking degrees in such subjects.

Apart from abolishing tuition fees, this policy largely ties into the current government’s educational reforms, and would probably go down favourably with any senior coalition partner.

Likelihood of this policy happening in a UKIP coalition: Likely

Free schools and grammar schools

UKIP would likely channel these reforms through the existing educational system, including free schools; a policy in which it has pledged its support, provided that they uphold British values. However, UKIP will also advocate for the reintroduction of selective education, reversing the current policy of prohibiting the establishment of any new grammar schools.

The Conservative Party have already pledged to create 500 new free schools by 2020, and would likely see eye-to-eye with this particular UKIP policy, although Labour may yet review it should they emerge as the dominant party. The reintroduction of grammar schools is also likely to find many supporters within the Conservative Party and with some Labour MPs on the right of their party. However, it may face severe opposition among other MPs and in the House of Lords.

Likelihood of this policy happening in a UKIP coalition: Possible


School standards have always been a hot topic in any election campaign and it is no surprise, especially considering recent and current issues such as the Trojan Horse affair, to see it on UKIP’s manifesto. Indeed, one of UKIP’s potential solutions to these issues is to give parents and governors the power to trigger Ofsted inspections following a petition to the DfE of at least 25 percent of either group.

Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party have raised the prospect of an overhaul of Ofsted; with other parties, such as the Green Party, pledging to abolish the education standards agency altogether. Whether UKIP’s policy would form part of any comprehensive solution remains to be seen, but it may well find support among more progressive MPs. Either way, some kind of reform looks likely to go ahead in the next parliament, irrespective of who emerges as the dominant party.

Likelihood of this policy happening in a UKIP coalition: Possible

Sex and relationship education

Finally, UKIP have pledged to repeal sex and relationship education for children under 11 years old; another olive branch to traditional conservatives on both sides of the political spectrum.

The state shouldn’t be teaching such things at an age where many kids just aren’t ready for it UKIP Deputy Leader, Paul Nuttall.

However, such a policy is likely to be seen as a political ‘third rail’ among mainstream parties, and would face considerable opposition in both Houses of Parliament.

Likelihood of this policy happening in a UKIP coalition: Unlikely

Whatever the result of the election, you can be rest assured that TheSchoolBus will be with you every step of the way, informing you of the details of any upcoming policies, including UKIP’s if necessary; ensuring that you remain compliant with the education policy of the day.

Posted in communication, education, leadership, learning, policy, schools, SEND, talk, teaching, technology

Speech and Language Therapy, What do I do exactly?

Today we welcome guest blogger, Claire Johnston, a Speech and Language Therapist at Springhill High School in Birmingham, who sheds light on how to support pupils with speech, language and communication difficulties, through the context of her day-to-day work.

“Hi, my name is Claire.”

“Hi, what do you do for a job?”

“Oooo, I know a little boy who has a lisp, I bet you loved the King’s Speech Film.”

And so it goes on!

For Speech and Language Therapists (SLT) I think that this is quite a familiar conversation. Certainly when I first start talking to people, most think that SLT’s just work with children who have difficulty with their speech sounds or we work with people who have a stammer. Many are surprised when I explain it as a birth to grave profession and that we are not a quasi-science. Our work is guided by evidence based practice and scientific research. Speech, language and communication difficulties can occur at any point in our lives and it may hit us like a ton of bricks, a life changing event. We are a birth to grave profession.

From birth we may work with families and new born babies who have been born with a cleft palate or other facial structural abnormality to support safe feeding, and will support the child and their family on a long journey.

We work with children who have an autistic spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pathological demand avoidance syndrome (PDA) and other developmental conditions. We support them by working with the child and the team around them to develop communication skills using various methods from signs to symbols and voice output devices. We also develop behaviour modification strategies and support the school team with differentiation of the curriculum.

Click here to see a video about how speech and language therapy can help pupils with autism to communicate.

We work with teenagers, adults with learning difficulties and young offenders. It is estimated that up to 90% of young offenders have undiagnosed speech, language and communication difficulties. Negative behaviour for some is the only communication tool they have to express their anxiety, embarrassment at not being able to do class work, stresses, peer pressure, bullying, self-harm and trauma, or mental health difficulties. Never dismiss negative behaviour as “Oh, they are up to it again disrupting the whole class”. It is hard to find the time with the pressures of the school day to spend time with students but there is always a function to the behaviour.

Part of our caseloads may be working with adults with learning difficulties to support them in becoming fully active members of their communities. We also work with individuals who have had a stroke and lost their ability to express themselves or understand what loved ones are saying to them and people who have degenerative conditions such as motor neuron disease who lose their ability to speak, individuals who experience a traumatic brain injury, or Parkinson’s disease.

We work with every professional under the sun from teachers to social workers to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHs) to the police/young offending teams (YOTs) to carers to neurologists and audiologists. Most importantly, the person who needs us themselves is central to our role, for many we give them a voice to say thank you and I love you to the people who matter most to them.

And yes we work with children who have difficulty with speech sounds and individuals who have a stammer! This isn’t an extensive list by any means of the client groups or the professionals we work with but this video gives you an idea as to what we do!

I currently work in a specialist independent secondary school based in Birmingham, where we have young people from many different local authorities. Many of the young people attending the school will have experienced numerous placement breakdowns due to challenging, negative and often very aggressive behaviours but behaviour is communication, it is how it is interpreted that is often the challenge. The staff team within school and the residential placements (not all of our students live in our residential provision) work within, and have a thorough understanding of, social learning theory and the need for unconditional positive regard. Every day is a new, fresh page.

As a Speech and Language therapist, I support the staff team within the school and the residential placements in many ways. This is managed by working directly with young people and indirectly by supporting the staff team and families.

First is the development of a whole school approach to understanding speech, language and communication. This is achieved with training to understand speech, language and communication difficulties, starting with development, this is very important.  If a 14 year old child is scoring on an assessment of receptive language skills at an age equivalent of 6 years, what is the point of handing this information over to the staff team without the support to understand the developmental level the child is presenting to then differentiate the curriculum to meet their needs?

Many of our young people have not accessed speech and language assessments, for those who comply (not all do and there has been the odd **** it, I’m not doing that ****) assessment has been very useful in identifying areas of difficulty with receptive/expressive language skills that had not previously been identified. An example is a young person who was not able to recall sentences during assessment as they increased in length and complexity, secondary curriculum language is complex! These difficulties had not been identified by previous settings, by picking this up the staff team were able to plan with this in mind and chunk verbal communication and use additional supports, such as pictures and bullet pointed information, to support comprehension and engagement within the lesson.

I support the development of one page profiles, this is a very useful document which contains:

  • The young person’s details.
  • Diagnosis.
  • Statement objectives.
  • Speech, language and communication assessment findings.
  • Recommendations from speech and language therapy.
  • Recommendations from educational psychologists or specialist support teams to then differentiate the curriculum.

Using this information, and understanding the need to chunk information for one child to allow time for processing of information, or presenting information with visual supports for another, can mean the difference between engaging or not and interacting in a positive manner or not!

I work very closely with all departments within the school and work jointly with many teachers. Examples of this are joining a P.E lesson to support the staff team by modelling ways to encourage turn taking, waiting, encouraging eye contact and extending communication from one word, for example “Claire” to “throw ball to Claire”. Along with support to develop a sensory activity programme for students to engage with during the day to help students focus. I work with and join drama sessions supporting students who may have specifically focused on body language and communication in 1:1 sessions to then use those skills in drama.

I work very closely with the English department supporting planning for students who are working at P levels to GCSE, this can be from supporting sequencing activities to the development of narratives, understanding who, what, when, where questions and sentence structures.

I support some students with small social skills group activities to develop turn taking, conversation skills, and environmental awareness, as many of our students often start off with 1:1 or 2:1 staffing due to risk. This has developed for some KS4 students into coffee sessions at a local coffee shop where skills became generalised.

Support was provided to PSHE planning to support students with understanding passive, aggressive and assertive behaviours within social situations and how we communicate using different behaviours. This has proven very effective for some students to reflect on both theirs’ and others’ behaviours and then modify them.

1:1 work is provided for some students who have very specific difficulties due to trauma, cognitive, mental health, developmental or environmental challenges. This can be to support many areas such as to develop emotional vocabulary, develop inferential skills, consequential/problem solving skills, receptive language skills, expressive language skills and yes, speech sound work!

The support and benefit of a Speech and Language therapist in school can be massive and the feedback from the headteacher and staff team is that it has supported the understanding and development of the school’s special educational needs (SEN) and speech and language knowledge, but the key to this is good team working and communication.

If you have read this blog, I hope that you have found useful!

Claire Johnston

Speech and Language Therapist

If you suspect that a child or young person you work with has a speech language and communication difficulty you can find information to support at;

NHS – Referrals can be made to local speech and language services through GP’s, SENCO’s, child development centres and self-referral.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists

Posted in curriculum, education, leadership, learning, schools, SEND, teaching, Uncategorized

Dealing with Autism in Schools

TheSchoolBus welcomes back FreedomCare, who are contributing their second article to our blog, this time exploring how school leaders and teachers can support pupils with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).

There are certain situations that can be particularly problematic for a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), one of which is school. The very nature of ASD means that it’s not only difficult for children to communicate but they also struggle with social skills, making school life quite a challenge. With over half a million people suffering from autism in the UK, it’s important that the right level of help and support is given.

Children with complex health needs, in this case ASD, can struggle with a number of factors in the classroom including:

  • Communicating with teachers.
  • Following instructions.
  • Following class rules.
  • Concentrating on tasks.
  • Knowing how to behave.

There are a number of things teachers, support staff and indeed other pupils can do in order to make school a much more comfortable environment:

  • Get a child’s attention before giving them an instruction or task, calling their name or using some other form of signalling may work.
  • Give them time to process the instructions you have given, and avoid using metaphors, remember children with autism can be very literal.  Individuals with ASD can be much more visual, which means including realistic pictures or demonstrations in their lessons can help considerably.
  • When introducing a new topic, provide a number of ways to solve the problem or teach in different situations.  For example within mathematics, when teaching addition, teach them to count using objects, fingers and numbers.

Sensory issues can be an area sufferers with autism have difficulties with. This means that bright colours, too much noise etc. can affect their concentration. Providing a quiet, distraction-free environment can help with this.

Consistent classroom rules that have been clearly explained will also help with behaviour, along with a clear explanation of what happens if the rules are broken.

Finally, uncertainty can be a trigger of anxiety, providing a child with a time table of what is going to happen and when will help to alleviate this uncertainty.

Freedom Care offers quality healthcare for individuals suffering from mental health disorders like Autism and Aspergers.  For more information on any of the topics discussed please get in touch here.




Posted in curriculum, education, leadership, policy, schools, SEND, teaching, Uncategorized

Talking about… SEND Reform

Unless you’ve been living on a desert island, unable to access the news, you will know that September 2014 is an enormous month for school leaders up and down the country with monumental changes coming into effect.

Governing bodies and headteachers will have to grapple with reforms to performance related pay, the first teaching of the new national curriculum, implementation of universal infant free school meals, the risk pool scheme for free schools and academies, reforms to teacher’s pension schemes, and meeting their duty to support pupils with medical conditions, to name but a few.

I hope you’re still keeping up?

Well, if that wasn’t enough, last month, the reforms to the special educational needs and disability (SEND) framework, outlined in the Children and Families Bill, was given royal assent and became the Children and Families Act 2014. These changes will also come into force on 1st September 2014.

By now, you must be tearing your hair out (if you haven’t already) over all these reforms, but bear with me. TheSchoolBus has your back.

So, how much do you know about SEND? 

Were you aware, for example, that one in five children and young people have a special educational need or disability? Or that the types and range of SEND is increasing all the time?

Twenty percent is a substantial proportion of the pupils in the education system. To put it in perspective, applying the SEND prevalence rate to a class of twenty pupils, for example, would mean that at least four pupils in that class would have a special educational need or disability. This number is far too great for school leaders to brush aside as a secondary issue.

It is also likely that the SEND of each of those 4 pupils is unique, with varying types of support required to accommodate the pupil’s specific needs. That is why the Children and Families Act 2014 sets out a more individualised and better graduated response to support pupils with SEND.

What are the changes?

The overarching change behind all the other changes is that of autonomy. School leaders, teachers, pupils and their parents will be given greater freedom in the way that they identify, assess and deliver SEND provision.

More specifically:

There will be a new 0-25 SEND Code of Practice, setting out the detail of the new SEND legal framework.

Statements of SEN and Learning Difficulty Assessments will be replaced by joint EHC plans, for pupils whose SEND requirements cannot be reasonably met internally, with the resources normally available in mainstream schools. Pupils, who currently have a Statement of SEN before 1st September, will be gradually transferred to an EHC plan. Schools will need to manage a dual system of SEN Statements and EHC plans for the next three years.

School Action and School Action Plus will be replaced with a single SEN Support system. SEN support will be the support available in school for pupils who have a SEND requirement but do not have an EHC plan. Your school should review the support currently given to pupils on School Action and School Action Plus in light of the changes in the 2014/15 academic year.

Local authorities will have a duty to publish a local offer outlining the support that pupils and their families can expect from a range of local agencies, including in education, health and social care. Your school should already be working with the LA, and local health and care providers, to develop the local offer and create the systems and partnerships needed to deliver the changes.

School teaching staff will be held specifically accountable for the progress of their pupils with SEND and will be expected to demonstrate this during their performance appraisals. The training and development of the employees at your school will, therefore, be vital, to ensure that they have the knowledge and expertise of SEND to provide quality provision.


TheSchoolBus has a range of resources in our SEND section that may help you prepare for the new SEND reforms, including:


Our editorial team is also on hand to provide you with any bespoke document or template that you require, so if there’s something we can do to help you prepare for and implement the SEND reforms, just send us an email to:

Posted in curriculum, education, leadership, learning, policy, schools, teaching, Uncategorized

Religion and Belief in the Equality Act 2010

You will not have missed the growing media attention surrounding the investigation into claims that Islamic fundamentalists have strategically taken over the governing bodies of schools and academies in Birmingham.

So, let’s look beyond the sensational headlines and delve into the facts, answering  the questions you might have about schools and their pupils with regards to faith.

Establishing religious character

Schedule 1 of the Establishment and Discontinuance of Schools Regulations 2013 specifies information that the proposers of new schools are obligated to provide the DfE, including whether the proposed establishment leans towards any particular faith group.

Once the initial proposal has been approved, local authorities and governing bodies cannot deviate from or change the school’s religious make-up, without first closing the school in its current format and submitting a fresh proposal to establish a voluntary school with a different religious character. This will enable staff members and registered pupils to terminate their association with the old school and transfer to an alternative school, if the religious denomination of the new school is no longer amenable to their own value systems.

Secular schools

Where a school is secular and does not prescribe to a specific religion, the school leadership is prevented by the Equality Act 2010 from discriminating towards any pupil or staff member on the basis of their religious beliefs, even if the majority of the governing body leans towards a particular faith.

This means that a person’s religious persuasion cannot be a determining factor in the admission of pupils or the recruitment and continued employment of staff members, including the headteacher.

Furthermore, pupils and staff members have the right not to be harassed or victimised on any basis, including their faith.

The provision of services, including the curriculum, must also be free from discrimination towards a particular faith, and secular schools are obligated to teach religious education in a holistic manner.

Schools with a religious character

Only where a school has been established with a specific religious denomination, is the governing body exempt from certain aspects of the Equality Act 2010, including provisions prescribing non-discrimination in the following areas:

  • Admission arrangements
  • The way it provides education.
  • By not providing education for the pupil.
  • By not affording the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service, including collective worship.

Governing bodies of faith schools should be aware that all other aspects of the Equality Act 2010 remain applicable.


Posted in curriculum, education, leadership, learning, opinion, policy, relationships, schools, teaching, training

Elly’s Guidance on LGBT Inclusion in School – Part 2

Following on from our last post, Elly now goes on to talk about exactly what Ofsted inspectors will be looking for in terms of LGBT discriminatory behaviour and policies during inspection.

It is essential that governing bodies take note of the following guidelines to ensure that their school or academy is in the best possible position to meet and exceed expectations the next time that Ofsted undertakes an inspection.

When assessing primary schools, inspectors will be looking to see whether:

  1. Pupils ever hear anyone use the word ‘gay’ when describing something or whether they have been told by teachers that using the word ‘gay’ to mean something is wrong, scary or unpleasant.
  2. Pupils ever get picked on by other children for not behaving like a ‘typical girl’ or a ‘typical boy’.
  3. Pupils have had any lessons about different families (single parent, living with grandparents, having step-parents, having two mums or two dads).
  4. Pupils think if there is someone born a girl who would rather be a boy, or born a boy who would like to be a girl, they would feel safe at school and be included.

When assessing secondary schools, inspectors might explore the above, but also ask whether:

  1. There is any homophobic bullying, anti-gay derogatory language or name calling in school or on social media sites.
  2. If a gay pupil was ‘out’ in school, that pupil would feel safe from bullying, they have learned about homophobic/transphobic bullying and ways to stop it happening in school.
  3. Pupils learn in school about different types of families, including whether anyone is, or would be, teased about having same-sex parents.
  4. There is any homophobic bullying or derogatory language about a pupil or teacher who thought of themselves as the opposite gender and whether they feel safe and free from bullying at school.

With senior leaders, and when looking at documentary evidence, inspectors might explore:

  1. Whether they are aware of any instances of homophobic or transphobic language in school, whether this is recorded and how it is acted upon, or whether there is any homophobic language used against staff.
  1. Whether the school’s bullying and safeguarding policies and equality objectives address gender identity and sexuality.

With governors inspectors might explore:

  1. How the school meets its statutory duty to prevent all forms of prejudice-based bullying, including homophobia and transphobia.
  2. Whether they are aware of any homophobic/transphobic bullying or language in school and whether incidents are followed up effectively,
  3. How they ensure that sexuality and gender equality are covered within the school’s behaviour guidelines and policies.

What’s next?

Every change must start from within.

Whether you are a school governor or a headteacher, the above criteria should emanate from staff and pupils through their own behaviour and actions i.e. making sure that everyone in our school communities refrains from using derogatory words and phrases that may cause offence amongst people that identify as LGBT.

You might also consider undertaking a comprehensive audit of the school’s policies, procedures, curriculum, environment and working practices to see how they measure up to the requirements. Steps should then be taken to bridge the gaps towards creating a fully inclusive school.

The approaches used in ‘Educate and Celebrate’ have been recognised by Ofsted as ‘best practice’ for taking a whole-school approach to tackling homophobic bullying and ingrained attitudes in the education sector.

The ‘Educate and Celebrate’ program is available to all schools, local authorities and workplaces to eradicate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in line with Ofsted criteria and the Equality Act 2010.


For help, advice, consultation and training please contact

Posted in Uncategorized

Elly’s Guidance on LGBT Inclusion in School – Part 1

This week we have our first guest blog post by Elly Barnes, who was voted No. 1 in The Independent on Sunday’s Pink List 2011 for her commitment to people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered (LGBT) in education and awarded a ‘highly commended’ by the TES ‘Teacher of the Year’ 2012.

The LGBT movement has been a long and contested one, but a movement which, in recent years, has begun to gather pace across the country, with some profound changes made to the social and legislative frameworks, including those in the education sector. School governing bodies must now take steps to create an inclusive working and learning environment where the rights of LGBT persons, including both staff members and pupils, are promoted and protected at every level.

A major turning point was reached in 2003 when Section 28 was repealed. This ended the long running confusion within schools about their obligations towards LGBT pupils and staff members, particularly victims of homophobic and transphobic bullying and abuse, who could now access the appropriate counselling and support services.

The rights of people who identify as LGBT were then enshrined in the Equality Act (2010), which consolidated a number of pieces of existing legislation, including regulations making it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender reassignment. This means that school governing bodies must ensure that its policies and procedures are aligned with the provisions of the new framework.

This was swiftly followed up in September 2013, when Ofsted took action on one of the main issues affecting LGBT staff members and pupils. With the publication of a new briefing, the actions that schools took to prevent and tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying became a specific judgement of section 5 inspections.

In the second part of her blog on Monday, Elly will talk about what will happen in your section 5 inspections.

elly-barnes-logo copy

For further help, advice, consultation and training please contact