Postcards from Europe: Lisbon

Philippa Stobbs, Assistant Director, Education, Council for Disabled ChildrenAuthor Philippa Stobbs, Assistant Director, Education, Council for Disabled ChildrenDate 18 Jan 2018

With exclusions from school of children as young as three and four on the rise, there is growing concern about how well we are responding to the differing needs of young children coming into our education system. Yet the challenges are even greater if we leave them until later in children’s school careers.

At the same time as the Department for Education (DfE) published Dame Christine Lenehan and Mark Geraghty’s Review of Residential Special Schools, the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education launched a project on Inclusive Early Childhood Education (IECE). So what have these two projects got to do with each other? And what have they both got to do with exclusions?

They are both about ensuring that leaders of all settings have the vision and skills to ensure children’s needs are met, wherever they are, and to ensure that children and young people do not have a lesser entitlement to a high quality education because of the nature of their needs. 

They are also both about funding: there are all the old economists’ graphs showing the value of a pound spent at different stages of children’s lives in terms of the (significantly larger) impact that pound can have, massively more, the younger you spend it. So, whilst a local authority may spend two or three hundred thousand pounds a year for a residential special school, it makes you wonder what that amount of money could have achieved, or could have prevented, had we spent it in the early years. 

Both are also all about understanding what behaviour is telling us: on the face of it, the behaviour that gets a young child excluded may be very different from the behaviour that gets an older child excluded. But underneath it, the behaviour is the child or young person’s way of communicating when they can’t articulate what they need in any other way. It’s up to us to find out what that child or young person is telling us, whether it’s the frustration of not having the language to express yourself or of not being able to talk about your anxiety because you don’t feel safe to do so. 

The launch of the IECE project was in Lisbon and that evening we were treated to regional Portuguese dishes: so no grouping of food according the stage of the meal but, in each of the four corners of the room, tables were set up with food from a different region of Portugal. If you weren’t careful you finished up with the frustration of pouring cream on the savoury and spicy sauce on the sweet – like so many things, communication was key. 

Wish you were here!

Philippa's postcard also appears in the Winter 2018 edition of the CDC Digest, our quarterly round-up of the latest from the SEND sector. For your free copy and to subscribe to this and our other publications, click here.