Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg - Y Bumed Senedd

Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dawn Bowden
Hefin David
Janet Finch-Saunders
Lynne Neagle Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Sian Gwenllian
Suzy Davies

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Denise Wade Arolygydd Ei Mawrhydi, Estyn
Her Majesty’s Inspector, Estyn
Dyfrig Ellis Cyfarwyddwr Cynorthwyol, Estyn
Assistant Director, Estyn
Jane Houston Cynghorydd Polisi, Swyddfa Comisiynydd Plant Cymru
Policy Advisor, Office of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales
Jassa Scott Cyfarwyddwr Strategol, Estyn
Strategic Director, Estyn
Neil Foden Undeb Addysg Cenedlaethol
National Education Union
Professor Sally Holland Comisiynydd Plant Cymru
Children’s Commissioner for Wales
Tim Cox Swyddog Polisi a Gwaith Achos Cymru, NASUWT
Wales Policy and Casework Official, NASUWT

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Siân Hughes Ymchwilydd
Tanwen Summers Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:34.

The meeting began at 09:34.

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. We've received no apologies for absence this morning. Can I ask if there are any declarations of interest from Members, please? No. Okay. Thank you.

2. Addysg Heblaw yn yr Ysgol: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 2
2. Education Otherwise than at School: Evidence Session 2

We move on then to item 2 this morning, which is an evidence session with the Children's Commissioner for Wales for our education other than at school inquiry. I'm very pleased to welcome Sally Holland, Children's Commissioner for Wales, and Jane Houston, policy adviser in the Office of the Children's Commissioner for Wales. They're both joining us via video conference from Colwyn Bay. Is that right? Yes. So, thank you for making the time to talk to the committee this morning.

If it's okay, we'll go straight into questions from Members, and I'll start by just asking you why you think there has been this continued increase in pupils being excluded and also having to access education otherwise than at school provision in recent years?


We know there's been an increase. As with almost anything human, there's not one simple answer to that. There's likely to be a range of issues, but we do know some of the factors that drive demand for EOTAS provision. One is a lack of appropriate additional learning needs support—ALN support—in schools. Almost universally, children that end up accessing education otherwise than at school—EOTAS, I presume, we're going to use today for short—have got additional learning needs of some sort, and a much higher than general proportion of the population have got actual statements as well. So, not getting that right in school first of all is a big issue, and we know that when we intervene as an office some times to make sure young people are getting that right support, we can either get them back into school or get help for them to remain in school. So, that's a big issue for us.

We're concerned about a perceived rise in younger children being excluded, or not always being formally excluded—in fact, often not, but schools saying, 'We don't feel we can any longer provide for this child's needs', and that's usually around their behaviour presentation in school and they're unable to keep the child and other pupils and staff safe. We've been particularly concerned about the rise in cases of children in the foundation phase coming into our office, and we're in the midst of a deep dive into that at the moment as an office. We've got data from nearly every local authority on it. We're analysing the cases that come into our office and we've commissioned an external review as well. We'll be reporting on that in May. But there does seem—. Schools that I visit are reporting to me that they're concerned about a rise in children coming into school that are struggling to adapt to the school environment.

I think that mental health, of course—. Again, in the casework that comes into our office, children are often not having their needs met in relation to mental health issues, and that's why, of course, the whole-school approach that we've been working on—your committee and ourselves have been really working on trying to get that approach there. It's not necessarily about something being fixable in a child in terms of a treatment or an issue like—. It's not straightforwardly just additional learning needs. Some of the children that schools are struggling to provide for may have a much wider range of social and emotional needs, including early trauma. So, we know that looked-after children and children who were previously looked after and have now been adopted—often, schools are struggling to provide the right adaptive environment for them that meets their needs.

The good news is that this is not a universal phenomenon. Some schools are rapidly adapting to make sure that they're not just simply—that their response is not to exclude children, and, in our evidence, you'll see some really fantastic examples where schools themselves—. It's not always a local authority approach; it's often that schools themselves have really worked hard to respond to those broader needs of children that are in their schools. So, increasingly, when I visit schools, they'll have set up a nurture class within the school, which helps them to keep children within the school and gradually introduce them into the classroom and meet their needs. I've come across those everywhere. I've come across them in Gwynedd in Glancegin school, in Pembrokeshire in Monkton Priory, in Pillgwenlly school in Newport, in Lewis Girls' school in Caerphilly, and a school in Llanelli, whose name has just escaped me, just a couple of weeks ago. So, we know that some schools are responding to those broader needs.

I think the other key point that I want to make just at the beginning of this discussion is that a lot of this needs to be seen in a wider context of the child's life and it is important that we don't label the child themselves as problematic but look to understand the context of the child and the child's difficulty in adapting to school. So, I've already mentioned about the school environment adapting to the child, but also we need to think of the social context of the child outside of school. Often, we find that there are whole-family issues, including whole-family difficulties engaging with schools, perhaps with the parents' own histories with schooling and the parents' own mental illness, or the parents' learning disabilities, that could be causing an issue.

Where we've had groups or projects looking at that, we've had some real success. So, Sylfaen Cymunedol Cyfyngedig in Gwynedd and Ynys Môn is an example of a very small voluntary sector project that works with children at risk of being deregistered from schools. They work with the whole family to look at the issues that are preventing the child from settling in school, and really recognise that there are wider family and, often, community issues there.

I just want to make a couple more points, Lynne. I won't answer as long as this to all of the questions, but you've asked about such a fundamental issue about what's behind all of this. In secondary schools, where we often see a spike of children coming out of schools, I think that, as a committee, you've recognised many times that the narrow exam-led curriculum, especially from key stage 4 onwards, doesn't meet the needs of all of our children. Young people can find it really demoralising and demotivating to receive low grades and to be predicted to be not achieving at the level of C or above in GCSE. So, our curriculum isn't meeting the needs of children. They're often ending up in other provision.

But, again, we've got schools—we've seen some secondary schools that have turned around what have been very high exclusion rates to an almost zero exclusion rate. They're really thinking about how inclusive they can be, using things like restorative approaches and trauma-informed approaches. We're seeing, again, schools that can turn this around. So, what I'm trying to get across is that this is not inevitable—this rising rate—and there are pockets of good practice we can learn from.


Okay, thank you very much. We're going to go to questions now from Dawn Bowden.

Thank you, Chair. Sally, can you tell us what your main concerns are about the unregistered status of some EOTAS providers?

Well, we know about this from Estyn, from Estyn reports. They've highlighted in two reports—one in 2007 and one in 2016—that local authorities throughout Wales have been using unregistered provision. We don't know enough about the quality of that provision. I suspect that some of it is excellent, but the key issue is that, as unregistered provision, there are safeguarding risks there—they won't fall under the regulations governing independent schools, which, as we know from recent events, themselves need some improvement, but which do currently include safeguarding requirements like Disclosure and Barring Service checks at recruitment. It doesn't have the same quality assurance that registered provision has, of course, in terms of external inspection.

So, how common it is—the Estyn reports don't give us figures on that, but we know that the Welsh Government has got a review that's coming out soon on EOTAS commissioning practices across Wales, which will identify any persistent use of unregistered provision. So, I think it's been highlighted as an issue by Estyn. That concerns us in our office, especially around safeguarding. We do know that there is work under way to find out more, but we don't have that data yet.

In the framework for action, is it, that you're talking about?

It's one aspect of the framework. You know, the framework for action contains lots of actions within it, and one of the actions was to do more research on commissioning arrangements, and to produce, then, following that, guidance on how to commission well. We understand that the research will provide us with a stronger picture. Do we—[Inaudible.]

[Inaudible.]—at the moment, and we've contributed to that commissioning research.


Okay, so there's the potential there for that report to help in terms of identifying that particular issue. Have you been able to identify whether there are particular parts of Wales where this is more of an issue than others?

We don't have that information. I suspect it's happening at pockets throughout, and there's an issue of whether the local authority itself has a handle on the provision and is proactively commissioning the range that it needs according to local need, and that's exactly what—[Inaudible.]—this current review is looking at, but we don't have any information when it's coming out. But I assume that's something you'll be able to ask the Minister and others when they give evidence.

Yes, just for me to understand exactly what we're talking about when we are talking about unregistered locations or provision. Are we talking private sector? Are we talking voluntary? What are we talking about?

It's often—. It can be—. It often will be voluntary sector organisations, community-type provision, which haven't registered as an independent school. So, following Estyn's 2016 report, which highlighted that this was happening across Wales, we know that Welsh Government did write to all local authorities setting out that all providers used for EOTAS should be registered and we know that, following that, there was an increase in registration of settings as independent settings. But there may still be some authorities commissioning from settings that haven't registered, so that should be picked up in this current work, but the really key thing is that, when that research is complete, Government then progress the next actions in the framework for action in terms of creating guidance and ensuring that this doesn't persist, if it is, so taking the actions to prevent it from happening in the future.

And, if the provision isn't registered, is there any supervision at all happening?

From what Estyn—. The research that we're aware of suggests that there would be supervision of the young people or the children within the setting, and that the local authority had commissioned an organisation that just isn't registered as an education setting, so it's not registered as an independent school.

Was that about inspection? We missed the beginning of the question.

Sorry. So, if they're not registered, would they then not be inspected?

Not necessarily, no. So, that's another issue. In addition to the safeguarding concerns that we would have around that situation, there isn't the quality assurance that you'd get, so they wouldn't necessarily be having external inspection.

Yes. It is only a short one. Have you got any indication about whether some of these independent—about the balance of the provision by these independent providers between a specific setting like a pupil referral unit or where it's EOTAS at home? Basically, are some of these unregistered pupils going into people's homes?

We wouldn't be expecting that and I don't think Estyn found that in their report, that it was going into people's homes. It would be more like a community provision or a voluntary provision, but one that wasn't registered as an independent school. But that should be something that is pulled up through this commissioning research, which will give a more detailed picture than was able to be provided by Estyn in 2016. 

We don't have any evidence that the home tutors that they would commission would not have gone through the usual checks. We've no indication of that. 

We would expect them to have gone through the usual checks.

Thank you for that, both. Can I just ask a couple of questions on the lack of and delays in accessing provision? What, in your view, are the reasons for delays in providing vulnerable learners with suitable EOTAS provision?

Well, of course, children sometimes come out of school in a crisis, so it can be very often unplanned, but there is an expectation that we set in place with them—15 days—and Estyn again have shown that that doesn't happen in a fair number of cases, and that would be backed up by our casework, where we sometimes will get a call from a parent and find a child's not had any provision in for much longer than the 15 days.

Sometimes, it's around delays in having the right information about the child's needs. So, that, of course, links into the wider system in assessments around autistic spectrum disorder, potential autism, Asperger's or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So, it links into other delays in our systems, and, obviously, sometimes, as well, other forms of mental health assessments. But I think sometimes individual children do get a bit lost in the system if they don't have a persistent adult behind them to push their case. We do come across in our office sometimes children who have been out of school for some time and the parent will ring us and say, 'Well, we're waiting to get some home tuition'. Sometimes, they've misunderstood elective home education and have agreed to that and haven't understood that doesn't mean that you get home tuition and there's quite a lot of work to be done on children who might be on the cusp of being taken out of school and home educated but the parents don't understand the full implications of that—it's not been made clear to them.

I can't emphasise enough how getting this right for children coming out of school links so much to the wider reforms that, as a committee, you've been so engaged with. So, we've got this crucial moment now, getting the ALN Act right in its implementation, because, if we can really improve how we respond to children and their families when we first identify that they may have additional learning needs, then we will, hopefully, have a much more preventative approach and not be reaching these kind of crises. The child and adolescent mental health services transformation, the mental health transformation in schools, again should support schools to adapt their environments to be more suitable for children with trauma or mental health challenges that mean that the standard school environment makes it hard for them to settle.

The other education reforms that work on the performance framework—are there drivers? We know there are some drivers for schools at the moment around key stage 4 in particular that may drive unhelpful practices for these children. If we start to get some of these cultural issues right and the implementation of new legislation—you know, the preventative side should help, but, in the meantime, they are the kind of issues that can lead to delay. But there's a real risk of some individual children who don't have a champion behind them getting lost in the system. Did you want to add anything to that? 


Just that there's—. Sometimes, delays in wider services can cause other delays as well, which shouldn't happen, because there's no reason why a child or a young person shouldn't have their educational needs met, but occasionally we've had casework where we've had children and young people waiting for assessment and diagnoses and that's led to long delays in them having appropriate specialist support in education. So, they've had gaps where they haven't been attending. 

So, it's no one agency or service that necessarily is responsible for delays in provision. It could be a multi-agency issue. It could be—. There's no one agency or organisation that you'd point the finger at and say, 'If we put that right, then these particular learners would get their provision more quickly'. 

I suppose the one that comes up over and over again is neurodevelopmental services, but, again, that's not—. Just fixing those waiting lists is not, in the end, the best long-term situation. We do need to do that, by the way, but it's more the preventative issues and the potential there around acting to support that as well. But wrapping services around a child—. Because remember that the child's come out of school particularly because they've been violent towards a member of staff or another pupil or they're too anxious to go to school or something like that; there may be wider issues as well, as I've already alluded to. And if we—[Inaudible.]—at the moment, where we have education, mental and social services coming together to create panels looking at children and families who are struggling and are trying to get the best response straightaway, and that includes children really struggling in school, then—[Inaudible.]—we've got green shoots. But here in mid Wales and—[Inaudible.]—the risk of children coming out of school as well. So, as I say, it relates to the wider reforms we're getting. But these are just green shoots; they're not implemented throughout Wales. And, in the meantime, we're still having these children falling through gaps and not getting their article 28 and 29 rights to education in the meantime.


And what's your view on the potential impact on those learners of having that provision delayed for them?

Well, we see children becoming isolated at home, and, even when home tuition is put in, which would be a fairly normal stopgap—. We do come across situations where children haven't been offered anything, but, if home tuition is put in, it can be the right thing for that child at that moment, but, in the long term, there is a risk of isolation of children who aren't getting their rights to socialise with their peers, and, obviously, risks to their education, which links to all sorts of other aspects of their self-esteem, mental health, et cetera. So, it's really crucial that we scoop children up at this point and make sure that we rally around them and get all that they need.

Thank you. We've got some questions now around access to the curriculum and qualifications from Suzy Davies.

Yes. Thank you. Yes. Thank you, Sally. You've touched on this a little bit already—about access to the curriculum and how targeted it can be for the specific needs of every individual child or young person that we're talking about. Can you give us some sense of the evidence you've had that, for example, home tuition, people getting home tuition, are getting more of the curriculum than perhaps in some settings—or maybe it's the other way around—also, if children are in either a local setting or at home for a shortish period of time, which you've just been talking about, how disruptive that can be to their access to the curriculum when they go back to school?

So, on the one hand, there are some really excellent examples, particularly of some of our PRUs providing really wide access to the curriculum. But I would think a more general picture is that often a very narrow curriculum is offered in alternative settings to children and young people. We've come across individual children in our casework who haven't been able to follow their interests in the curriculum or follow a broad enough curriculum to progress further. I think one example we give in our evidence is of a young person who wanted to pursue art at a further education level, but art wasn't being offered to him in his current setting.

Welsh language provision we know is severely lacking across Wales as well. And not only that, but the learning of Welsh as a second language as well is not always on offer in the settings. And I think something that really struck us is that the provision often—in the weaker settings, let's say—doesn't feel valuable to children. So, we came across a young person who had repeated the same course over and over again, because they were intended to be short courses and a short-term provision, and no wonder he was feeling quite disengaged with his education. And I think Estyn support, in a wider view of our casework, that there's a lack of specialists in some areas, such as science. Do you want to add any more to that, Jane?

Yes. That issue of young people repeating courses is something that happens in quite a few EOTAS settings and can also happen as well in specialist FE colleges for learners with additional learning needs too. There needs to be the flexibility—[Inaudible.] Every learner can progress, and progression isn't always happening. That's been picked up, and that's certainly something that comes through our work—cycles of courses that are repeated and the young person being unable to access a broad curriculum.

Also, we know that learners with additional learning needs aren't always given the support that they need in EOTAS settings as well, and Estyn's found that. So, as well as them potentially not getting the right support in mainstream, they then may be moved to an EOTAS setting and they don't get appropriate additional learning needs support there either, and there isn't a specialist there.


Which is very surprising when we can predict that the vast majority will have some additional learning needs. We know that from reports.

Okay. With the cyclical stuff, is that because the individual young person is in an EOTAS setting for a long period of time, or is it just that the—I think it would be the local authority, wouldn't it, haven't managed to secure the appropriate teachers, I guess? You mentioned that there was a lack of specialist provision, which perhaps doesn't surprise us, but where do we look to try and resolve this problem? Is it with the commissioners or is it with the inspectorate, or is it with schools?

It's probably a mixture of commissioning, so making sure that they are able to offer what they know their local learners will need if they have to access EOTAS provision, but also really keeping on top of individual learners and where they're at. Because I think if they struggle to get the right provision for the young person and they settle in somewhere everyone might breathe a sigh of relief and perhaps take their eye off the ball and not think that that's actually probably designed to be a short-term provision and is someone really assessing with that child and their family and their current teaching staff what their progression should be and how they're going to be able to meet it. So, it's probably a mixture of commissioning and a really good system for making sure that they are on top of individual learners' needs. 

Okay. Have you any evidence about what happens to more able and talented children who are educated out of school for some reason? I'm getting a sense that maybe the core curriculum—that's maybe what commissioners focus on, and hope for the best with maths, English and Welsh, and maybe science, but anything else is probably not a priority, or is that overstating it?

I think that there's a bit more of a mixed picture, so I think, sometimes, actually, young people don't get enough of that core curriculum—or they would say that. So, in our casework, some of the young people we've had casework relating to have themselves felt quite frustrated that they haven't been accessing the core curriculum in the way that they would like to as well. So, I think there's a bit of a mixture. Others have been frustrated with their lack of opportunity in, say, expressive arts. But it is a narrower curriculum, on the whole, that's offered to young people.

Where we have seen, in casework in the past, some young people really valuing the provision they've had is where they've engaged in 14-19 pathways and taken core curriculum subjects alongside vocational courses in an FE setting. That's been really beneficial to some of those young people. So, that's been reported to us as a beneficial route, but that isn't always on offer and isn't always being made available to young people.


I was just going to say we feel there's been a bit of a lessening of emphasis of the 14-19 route for young people in general across Wales.

Okay. Would it be fair to say, then, that, in the example that you gave, Jane, those young people are more likely to have had meaningful qualifications that are useful to them when they leave school?

Of young people following the 14-19 pathway?

Well, I think the cases that we've had, where that has been valued and young people have got qualifications that have been meaningful to them—we've certainly got cases that indicate that, yes. We've also got cases where we've questioned why those options hadn't been made available to young people.

Okay, that's helpful. And then, just finally from me, obviously, we're talking about the existing curriculum with these questions. The new one is on the horizon. Do you have any concerns about that, or is this an opportunity? 


Well, throughout our responses to Government in terms of the draft of the White Paper and the draft curriculum that came out last year, we've been raising issues of making sure that there's been proper attention to the progression of children in EOTAS settings. We think that, in the draft that came out last week, some of the issues have been taken on board. So, we were concerned that there seemed to be—. The White Paper set out that pupil referral units did not have to deliver the entirety of the new curriculum, but there seems to be a change of emphasis on temporarily disapplying individual students rather than whole settings, which we would agree with. But in general, we do think there's been a bit of a lack of attention given to EOTAS settings, both in the thinking around the curriculum and also in the attention to the whole-school approach to well-being. We've also raised it in our feedback on that. We have asked for EOTAS settings to be on the agenda for the next strategic stakeholder group that's looking at the curriculum, because we were concerned. We want to make sure there's some focus on that in the next stage of development.

That's helpful. A tiny supplementary on that: do you have any concerns at all that the teachers in these settings, and home tutors, won't have access to the CPD that teachers in school settings are bound to have, really? And what are the implications of that?

That's something that we need to find out in the professional learning offer, as it develops. It's important that Government has that in mind; that those professional learning opportunities are available to tutors who are tutoring in EOTAS settings, or teachers in EOTAS settings as well. There are particular areas—for example, the relationships and sexuality education—where it's really highlighted that there's a big need for professional learning across all sectors, and it's really important that those sectors aren't forgotten in that, and the other professional learning opportunities as well.

In our responses on relationships and sexuality education, we've really been pushing the need to make sure that materials are available that are suitable for children with additional learning needs.

Thank you. We've got some questions now from Hefin David.

With regard to participation, how are learners and parents supported through the EOTAS process?

In terms of our casework, I think it's important for me to always remind the committee that my casework tends to reflect people who are least satisfied with services—that's why they come to us for support. So, we tend not to hear from families where these things have been achieved really well in our casework, so I just want to put that caveat in before I start to talk about the problems of participation.

But both professionals actually working in EOTAS, such as those providing home tuition, and children and young people have informed us that often there isn't meaningful involvement of children and young people in the reviews of their provision. An example a tutor gave us was that they see examples where, at every review, both the tutor and the young person are invited to give their feedback and their views as to how things are going and what should happen next, but they don't get any feedback following that as to what decisions are being made and how their feedback is being taken on board. And if the decision is for the provision to go unaltered, at the next review they're asked their opinion again, and it disappears off into a form somewhere. That's a not good model of participation practice, of course.

Is that because there are not many other options, so there's not much to offer?

Well, we don't know, because they're saying they're not getting any feedback as to what's being done with what they've said, but that's potentially an issue. But at the very least, we know that children and young people in these situations are likely to feel very powerless in general, and one way of making them feel less powerless—of course, an important right for them—is that they are involved in being asked their views of their provision, being part of reviews, and being told what's being done with their feedback as well. It's quite basic practice, and something that we've been working hard to be included in the [Inaudible.] and in the Act as well. But we need to make sure that that becomes standard practice across EOTAS decision making [Inaudible.] 


Good morning, Sally. You make reference quite frequently about casework. What sort of numbers are we talking here in relation to this specific subject? 

That completely broke up. I just heard 'what numbers', but I don't know what you're referring to. 

This topic of EOTAS. When you say casework, could you be a little less vague in terms of some numbers? 

Of our casework? 

For the evidence that I'm talking about now, we analysed how many cases? 

So, we broke these into two batches. We looked at a number of cases of children aged eight and under, and that was over an 18-month period. We looked at over 20 cases, it was 21 that we looked at over 18 months, for children aged eight and under. For the number of cases that we had of older children, we broke them down by theme. So, we'd need to come back to you on the exact number that we looked at, but basically because the cases touch on lots of issues, we broke them down by theme. So, for example, we had 10 cases where we had insufficient EOTAS provision, and that was over a three-year period. We had seven cases of young people with a statement of special educational needs over that period. We had five cases over that period of young people that were involved in child and adolescent mental health services. So, there's a breakdown of that in our evidence, and we can give you some more detail around that and numbers, if that would be helpful. 

But a large amount of casework involves parents contacting us when their child is at risk of needing EOTAS provision, and we put in measures at that point to get school meetings in place and to bolster up the support in school to prevent it. Children with additional learning needs and difficulties associated in school is the biggest group of issues that we have in our casework service, and we had over 600 cases last year. 

I think what both Janet and I are trying to understand with that line of inquiry is: is it representative of the whole population? 'Yes' or 'no', really. 

'No', that's the exact point I was making. We hear from people who are dissatisfied, in general. 

So, you don't know whether it's representative or not.

Our broader understanding comes from other evidence like Estyn reviews and our own visits and engagement with settings.

Okay. I understand. With regard to individual tuition—14 per cent of EOTAS enrolments are individual tuition—is there an educational and well-being impact for learners receiving that?

Yes, as I said earlier, there is. It is the right thing for some children, particularly over a short-term period. There may be children who are suffering from mental health difficulties that make it difficult for them to leave home or to engage with other children. So, it's an essential offer, actually, for some children, to make sure they don't miss out on their education. But it does potentially create barriers for them to access their other rights around play, culture, meeting friends. That can be met, of course. We've regularly, for example, put families in touch with the youth service of their local area, who are at home otherwise receiving home tuition. Many of our youth services will engage with individual children and then involve them in community activities. So, it doesn't have to be the result of it. But unless agencies have come together to look at the needs of a child, that can be the result. What's important is that children receiving individual tuition, as with all children in EOTAS settings, should be under constant review, really, to look at [Inaudible.] Then there are other options, such as flexi schooling, part time [Inaudible.] et cetera that can be put in place.


Sally, you're breaking up really badly. Could you possibly repeat that answer, please? The latter part of that.

Okay. Yes, it's breaking up a little bit the other way, but I got that. I was saying to keep a constant review of all children in EOTAS settings, but particularly those in individual tuition, to look for opportunities to make sure they don't become isolated, such as group tuition, flexi schooling, or joining another setting on a reduced basis, depending on their individual health and social needs.

You also mentioned the review of individual tuition. How responsible are local authorities for that review? How do they engage and how often do they engage with the reviews of individual tuition?

We don't know exactly what different authorities are doing in terms of their timescales for review. What we do know through our casework is that the review isn't as active as it needs to be in some cases. So, we would say that there needs to be a greater and a more active emphasis on review, certainly in some authorities. So, for example, we've had the case of a child who was out of a setting and receiving individual tuition for over two years, and then when they contacted our office it was clear that that wasn't what the child wanted or that that was right for them, and following intervention of our office they were back into a setting in nine weeks, as a more appropriate provision for them. There are other cases like that that we've had. So, it does indicate that there are cases where individual tuition is allowed to lag for too long without being addressed and considered whether it's in the best interest of the child.

To return to the 'Framework for Action', it's still been for some time in the gathering-evidence phase, but we're keen to see it move on to the producing-guidance phase, so that we can increase the consistency of local authority processes across Wales.

And do you think parents, on the whole, would welcome local authority review? 

Yes, I would imagine. It has to be done well, of course, and make sure that they feel they've been heard as part of it. But yes, I think people do feel a little abandoned sometimes.

Okay. Thank you. We've got some questions now from Siân Gwenllian.

Bore da.

Good morning.

Rydym ni wedi trafod yn barod y bore yma bod nifer fawr o ddisgyblion sydd yn derbyn addysg heblaw yn yr ysgol yn ddisgyblion sydd efo anghenion addysgol arbennig, neu anghenion dysgu ychwanegol—88 y cant o'r plant a'r bobl ifanc yma—ac eto, mae'n ymddangos nad ydy'r math o addysg y maen nhw'n ei gael yn diwallu eu hanghenion nhw yn effeithiol. Pam ydych chi'n meddwl bod hynny? Rydych chi wedi cyffwrdd ar yr anghenion dysgu ychwanegol newydd, y cynlluniau newydd efo hynny, sut mae hynny'n mynd i wella'r sefyllfa?

We've discussed already this morning that many EOTAS pupils do have special educational needs or additional learning needs—88 per cent of these children and young people—and yet, it appears that the type of education they're receiving does not effectively meet their needs. Why do you think that that is the case? You have touched on the new ALN plans, so how is that going to improve the position?

Diolch am y cwestiwn.

Thank you for the question.

I hope that the ALN Act, when implemented—and we're in this crucial moment now when we need to make sure the code of practice is correct—should provide for more sensitive and earlier support for children and young people with potential additional learning needs. In terms of if they do end up requiring education in alternative provision, then I think we do need to develop a stronger expectation, really, of progression, both of course amongst staff in those provisions, those who commission the services, and also young people themselves, who may have quite low self-esteem about their progression. We would expect every young person to be given the opportunity to reach optimal progression themselves, and we feel that even some of the—[Inaudible.]—statements around EOTAS provision don't encourage that view. So, the earlier iterations of the curriculum—the White Paper—we felt did not reinforce the fact that children in EOTAS settings were expected to progress in the same way as children in mainstream settings. We think it's a bit—[Inaudible.]—but it is a point we keep wanting to make. It doesn't matter if their progression isn't, you know, going on to do all A* at GCSE and A-level—it's about the right progression for them. We must expect them to progress, not to stay still or go backwards.


Yn union, yn union. Pa mor hyderus ydych chi ein bod ni'n mynd i weld y newid mawr yma sydd angen digwydd, o gofio, wrth gwrs, fod yna rhai lleoliadau ddim wedi cofrestru hyd yn oed, felly does yna ddim ffordd o fonitro beth sydd yn digwydd i'r plant a'r bobl ifanc? Dydyn ni ddim yn gwybod, yn rhai llefydd, os ydy'r cynnydd yma yn digwydd o gwbl. 

Precisely, precisely. How confident are you that we are going to see this step change that is needed, given that, of course, there are some settings that are not even registered, therefore there is no way of monitoring what is happening to these children and young people as to whether there is that progress? We don't know, in some places or settings, whether there is this progression.

Even when children are in unregistered settings, we would still be expecting them to be reviewed, and their progress to be reviewed, by the local authority. I think, as I said, this is a key moment, isn't it? The ALN ambitions for Wales are very strong and good, with great principles behind them, but how it is going to be implemented on the ground is a key question at the moment. Will there be enough finance to support that? Is there enough finance going into the parent-partnership services that local authorities must provide to support parents and children going through assessment for additional learning needs et cetera? It's very difficult to see how this will be done well, although it's got very good intentions, without appropriate funding.

Ocê. Wel, gan droi rŵan at y cymorth gan y gwasanaethau iechyd meddwl plant a'r glasoed, i ba raddau y mae dysgwyr mewn addysg heblaw yn yr ysgol yn cael anawsterau wrth gael gafael ar y cymorth penodol yma?

Okay. Well, I now want to turn to the support offered by CAMHS. To what extent do EOTAS learners experience difficulties in accessing this specific support?

We know that is an issue. We don't have any concrete evidence on whether children in EOTAS settings have a greater difficulty in accessing CAMHS support than children in other settings. We know this has been an issue right across the board, and, as a committee, you've looked at this in great depth. But we do know that, from our casework—bearing in mind the caveats we've said about the casework already, we've certainly had casework where that's been part of the picture, where children and young people have been waiting to access CAMHS support as part of the issues that they're facing.

Can I just add that Estyn have also highlighted that nearly all local authorities have difficulties in securing CAMHS for EOTAS learners? That was in the Estyn report as well.

Oes unrhyw arwydd fod hyn yn gwella, neu ydy'r sefyllfa hyd yn oed yn mynd yn waeth?

Is there any sign that this is improving, or is the situation even deteriorating?

We know that waiting lists have gone down in most areas for specialist CAMHS support. There's been much less success in increasing access to neurodevelopmental assessments, and, of course, some children will need both, or a combined expertise there. This is what I, and you, have been driving on over the last year. I've just recently completed my visits to every regional partnership board to ask them how they are providing a no-wrong-door approach to children needing mental health, behavioural or emotional support. How are they planning—[Inaudible.]—on that next month? I think it's fair to say that there's a mixed picture, with some regions started to pool together the education and mental health services and family support services to ensure that the children are getting a joined-up response, but some are just really beginning that conversation, and we'll be reporting on that next month.

We're just trying to work out how to extend the meeting this end for fifteen minutes. It's asking us to tick a box that we can't find. Excuse us a second.


We can always write if we can't get through everything. So, Siân.

Dwi jest eisiau gwybod wedyn ynglŷn â’r grŵp gorchwyl a gorffen sydd gan y Gweinidog ar y dull ysgol gyfan o ymdrin ag iechyd a llesiant meddyliol. Faint o sylw mae disgyblion yn yr unedau cyfeirio neu sy’n cael addysg heblaw yn yr ysgol yn—? Faint o sylw maen nhw’n ei gael yn y gwaith yma mae’r Gweinidog yn gwneud?

I just wanted to know about the ministerial task and finish group on the whole-school approach to mental health and well-being. How much attention do pupils in the PRUs or other EOTAS provision—? How much attention are they being given in the ministerial work?

So, that's something that we've been alert to and when we were invited to give written feedback to a draft of the new framework for a whole-school approach, we raised this issue, saying that while the draft paper recognised a relevance to EOTAS settings, we believe they should be actively encouraged to use the guidance, and we wanted to know far more about Government plans to include EOTAS settings in a whole-school approach. And as Lynne will be aware—. The Chair will be aware, because we were in the same meeting very recently, I did raise the issue with the Minister as to what the status of the whole-school approach guidance would be, whether it would be statutory, and, of course, a key question is whether it will apply to all settings. 

Just for the very youngest learners, what can you tell us about the EOTAS provision that's available for them?

This is—as I highlighted at the beginning—a real concern for us. We noticed that we were getting a number of cases in where parents were saying, 'My child's being excluded'—not always formally, sometimes informally, and being asked to pick them up regularly after registration. And when we investigated further, the schools were saying, 'We're really stuck. We don't know how to support this child. The local authority doesn't have any alternative provision that they can offer for children that young', and that's why we're investigating it further.

In most of these cases, we've been able to support the school or the local authority to provide provision for these children as individuals, but we really feel that we've picked up a systematic issue of the youngest children, foundation phase, not being properly supported to stay in school, and schools really wanting to do the best thing but really struggling to know what that is. We do, as I highlighted—I read out a list of some schools earlier. What's been interesting is that in nearly all of those cases, the headteacher and the senior leadership team themselves have decided to use their own resources to meet the needs that they're seeing in their schools and they've not necessarily done that as a wider local authority approach. And in one or two of them—I can think of one in Carmarthenshire and one in Pembrokeshire recently where they said, 'And now, of course, we've got lots of requests to admit children from other schools because we're successfully including children in our school.'

So, I really hope we can learn from those settings where they are successfully including those children in school life, because, remember, if they do move on—. If we only just provide other alternative provision, we're removing those children from their community and from the opportunity for the whole-school life. So, the more we can provide provision that's right for those children within the schools, the better. So, that will be our drive, and we'll be reporting on that in May, but we're looking at it in an in-depth way at the moment.

—if that's okay. I'm sorry that we've had these problems with the video-conferencing, but I didn't want you just to disappear.

So, can I thank you both for your time this morning? We will write to you with some questions that we haven't covered, but, as always, thank you, and you'll receive a transcript to check for accuracy. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you. Members, we will break until 10.45 a.m. 


Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:30 a 10:44.

The meeting adjourned between 10:30 and 10:44.

3. Addysg Heblaw yn yr Ysgol: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 3
3. Education Otherwise than at School: Evidence Session 3

Welcome back, everyone, to item 3, which is our third evidence session for our inquiry on education otherwise than at school—an evidence session with Estyn. I'm very pleased to welcome Jassa Scott, who is strategic director at Estyn; Dyfrig Ellis, who is assistant director at Estyn; and Denise Wade, Her Majesty's Inspector at Estyn. Thank you all for coming.

We've got lots of questions to get through, so if it's okay, we'll go straight into questions, and if I can start just by asking you how well established you feel the collaborative approach is to ensure that children stay in mainstream education are.


I think it varies across Wales. I think we're clear that where that collaboration happens between schools and local authorities and other partners at an early stage, that's of most benefit to young people. So, that means early identification of need, early collaboration to get specialist support, in collaboration, potentially, to provide elements of off-site education for periods of time before reintegration. So, that collaboration, if it happens early enough, then it can avoid pupils certainly being excluded or even going in a planned way into other provision through a managed move or into a pupil referral unit, for example. I think that's done best when it's actually planned strategically to be a continuum of support and provision, which makes it clear where that collaboration comes in—at which point—and I think we do see some authorities where that's done really well across a range of schools there, but, unfortunately, it still is inconsistent across Wales.

I think the other element where collaboration can play a really important part is around that 14-16 age group. So, in the best examples, we see a range of learning pathways being available at that point, because for some young people, the traditional curriculum, perhaps, that is offered, which suits the majority of young people, maybe doesn't suit their interests, their needs, the way they want to learn. So, in the best examples there's collaboration to offer a range of learning pathways—some more practical routes, perhaps coupled with some work in school where that's something that those young people are engaged with—and that can, again, help prevent it getting to the point of disengagement, and then, ultimately, potentially exclusion as a result of the behaviours that may result from that.

So, I think that focus of that continuum and collaboration on early nurture, supportive approaches—inclusion rather than earlier labelling, isolation and, ultimately, exclusion. I think that collaboration we find also is particularly important, for example for primary age pupils, for which, I think—as you've already noted in various pieces you've done in this inquiry—there's an increase in exclusions for primary-age pupils. In some authorities, there's some really, really good practice at that age group to have a collaborative approach that brings a—for example, the specialists from the PRU who work together with a primary school to have a package or a programme of intervention at a very early stage, which has a really high success rate of then meaning that those young people through their secondary education don't end up in EOTAS or being excluded. And I think that collaboration is particularly important, because for that age group, maybe there aren't those alternative specialist placements always available as well, so it's important to make sure that collaborative approach brings that support into school for them.

I think Welsh is another area, for example, where collaboration can help strengthen that in-school provision. I think we're seeing some good practices elsewhere where PRUs are reaching into schools, rather than pupils being taken out of schools. So, I think that idea of trying to, wherever possible, support and maintain that placement is really helpful.

Okay, thank you. And once a child has gone into EOTAS, then, are the same messages there in terms of mixed patterns of collaboration once they're in there and returning to mainstream, or are there any different messages the committee ought to be aware of?

I think we would say that for too many pupils who go into EOTAS, there isn't a vision that that will result in them ultimately potentially being reintegrated, and for some pupils, where that's the right pathway and the right package of support for them, and they're in year 10 or 11, then perhaps that's the right thing for them. But we'd say that probably, too often, that loop back isn't always planned and thought about, so in the terms of the entry criteria into EOTAS, there's not enough thought given to perhaps that exit criteria at that point, and what that's planned to try and achieve for those young people.

I think, in terms of collaboration, some EOTAS settings, particularly the PRUs, do lots of collaborative work. They're certainly often working with a range of partners to put together the programmes of learning that they might offer, particularly in the best examples. So, there is that collaboration. In the best examples, they will collaborate with schools to perhaps maintain some continuity in particular aspects of learning where that's suitable for a particular individual. So, I think it's important that that collaborative approach continues, and also those elements of identifying need, supporting that need, working with those specialist partners around the PRUs to do so.


Rydych chi'n disgrifio'r darlun yn fanna o ymarfer da o gwmpas cydweithio, ond pa mor gyson ydy hwnna? Nid dyna'r argraff rydym ni wedi'i chael cyn belled—mai nid hynna sydd yn digwydd, yn anffodus.

You describe the picture there of good practice around collaboration, but how consistent is that? That's not the impression we've had so far—that that isn't what's happening.

Ie. Dwi'n meddwl, yn anffodus, dyw e ddim yn gyson ar draws Cymru. Dyw e ddim yn gyson o fewn awdurdodau weithiau. Mae yna rai ysgolion sy'n arbennig o dda yn cydweithio ag asiantaethau eraill a gyda ysgolion eraill. Yn ein barn ni, mae gan yr awdurdod lleol rôl hollbwysig yn arwain y gwaith yma. So, os ydych chi'n cael yr arweinyddiaeth strategol a'r cynllun strategol o'r awdurdod lleol, sy'n cynllunio'r ystod eang o ddarpariaeth yna i gefnogi, o'r dyddiau cynnar pryd rydych chi wedi gweld, efallai, bod rhyw angen gyda'r bobl ifanc, dyna pryd mae e'n gweithio'n well, ac maen nhw'n arwain yr ysgolion ac yn creu'r cyd-destun lle mae'n bwysig bod yr ysgolion yn cydweithio â nhw a gyda'i gilydd hefyd. Ond dyw e ddim yn gyson ar draws Cymru eto.

Yes. I think, unfortunately, it's not consistent throughout Wales. It's not consistent within authorities sometimes. There are some schools that are excellent in terms of collaboration with other agencies and other schools. In our view, the local authorities have a crucial role in leading this work. So, if you have that strategic leadership and a strategic plan coming from the local authority, which plans that broad range of provision to support, from the early days when you've seen that perhaps there is some need among the young people, that is when it works better, and they're leading those schools and creating a context where it is important that schools collaborate with them and with each other also. But it's not consistent throughout Wales.

And just before we move on, what can we do to spread that good practice? Because that's really important, isn't it?

Yes. I think there have been some positive developments recently from the PRU point of view, in terms of ADEW—the Association of Directors of Education in Wales—have had a stronger focus in this area, and there's a PRU network nationally now. So, I think those settings are feeling more supported, more keyed in to all the developments that are happening.

I think it's about taking that good practice and spreading it. I think there's probably more we can do, and keep doing, through the thematic work we do in terms of secondary schools, in particular, and keeping the focus on the approaches they're taking. Things like the whole-school approach and things like that will all help to embed that inclusive culture that does look to identify needs early.

Lots of the work that's being done around staff training is starting to have an impact, but it's impacting more in primary schools than secondary schools at the moment. So, we've got some great work in primary school around trauma-informed practice, adverse childhood experiences, where schools are really taking that agenda on and using it to look at their whole-school approach, including supporting their staff, as well as young people, and really allowing staff to have enough understanding to pick up early on those signs, make appropriate referrals, get specialist support.

But as you'll have seen, probably, from the recent vulnerable learners report and the one about ACEs, it's starting to reach into secondaries, but they're big organisations with lots more staff, and to create that whole-school culture and approach will take a bit longer, I guess.

Yes. Just on that, because we've just heard from the children's commissioner, and she was saying that, in her experience, the pre eight, the foundation phase age group, when problems arise, there are teachers there who really want to do something but feel ill equipped. So, the work that you're talking about, can you give us some indication of the pace at which it's happening and whether you're aware of whether the new initial teacher training education is already embedded into that so that people don't have to catch up later?


It's not embedded yet, but I know that there are discussions in place. As you've identified, that phase is really important. My understanding is that the Welsh Government plan is to develop a series of modules around some of these areas that can be taken either as part of the initial teacher education or in that very first year as part of that induction programme for teachers to avoid us having to do that catch up later on, so people are starting their careers with, actually, this better foundational knowledge of child development, the impact of trauma, attachment, those kinds of things, so that they can understand.

Are you seeing it in preschool settings as well, at the age where Estyn still has a role?

I might direct this to Dyfrig, because he's done more work in those areas. I'd say staff in those settings probably have a greater general, basic awareness of child development.

Yes, that overall wraparound care and well-being is coming through quite strongly in non-maintained settings, and we're working closely with Care Inspectorate Wales to evaluate that. Our current framework reflects it. But I think you're right, it's a non-specialist, overarching approach, so it's the child-centred approach, looking for early indicators, and then referring those early indicators, putting those structures and procedures in place, so that when a child transfers over to a maintained school, then those—

Thank you. We've got some questions now from Hefin David on the education reform journey.

Pa mor dda y mae lleoliadau EOTAS wedi eu paratoi ar gyfer diwygiadau addysg Llywodraeth Cymru?

How well are EOTAS settings prepared for the Welsh Government's education reforms?

I think that the schools and the EOTAS are at different stages of preparing for the curriculum, and that's very polarised across Wales. So, it's not exclusive to EOTAS. But I think from our evidence of inspection work and our recent pilots for the engagement visits—. I'm not sure whether you're aware of our current work during the transition year, which will be the next academic year, in suspending inspection. Part of our work will be to conduct engagement visits throughout Wales to all maintained schools and PRUs. So, we've conducted some pilot visits to PRUs already this term and last term. I think the headline is that PRUs and EOTAS are making assured progress in planning for implementing changes for the curriculum for Wales.

We welcome the mandatory requirements that are being proposed. I think one we've got in place is that EOTAS, in planning for the implementation of the new curriculum, are conducting very effective awareness-raising events. So, they're engaging with stakeholders, with parents, with the schools that are feeding them and with partnerships about the way that the curriculum is changing. A few of the PRUs that have been pioneer schools have been very effective and innovative in the way that they've been introducing activities and planning for activities to prepare pupils and staff for the new curriculum.

Of that. Of the innovative approach that the pioneer schools have taken.

Well, they're mapping out the provision against the four purposes. That's a really good thing. So, looking at the four purposes and how are they going to develop individuals to be contributing as lifelong learners, as members of society, focusing as well on the curriculum for Wales. So, there are good examples out there of schools. I'm thinking of Denbighshire—

Denbighshire. I'm just thinking, Torfaen is actually—I last visited there about six months ago, and what they're doing is actually restructuring. They originally used to have a curriculum where staff were moving around the building. They have actually redesigned in terms of the areas of learning, so that they now have thematic areas. So, they've actually changed the fabric, if you like, in terms of the building, so that the pupils are focusing. They know that when they're in this part of the building, this is what they're particularly focusing on.

But what they've also done as well there is that they have renegotiated the roles and responsibilities of their teaching and learning support assistants, so that they play a different and more integrated role in terms of actually supporting pupils in the learning in those thematic areas as well. So, not only have you got what you would see in a traditional primary school, where you would get your literacy or numeracy co-ordinator, in that particular pupil referral unit, you've actually got a member of staff and a teaching and learning support assistant who have the overall responsibility for leading that and co-ordinating it across the pupil referral unit. We haven't seen that previously, the curriculum being so well co-ordinated and so well focused.


.The other example to cite would be the way that the most effective PRUs are giving ownership of the curriculum over to the staff and also including pupil voice. So, engaging with pupils as to constructing the activities, so that the planning is shared not just with the staff, but with the pupils as well. That's another great example.

The other thing, and Denise has already alluded to it, is identifying the gaps in the curriculum, what the new curriculum for Wales is offering and what should be progressed, and identifying those gaps and making the provisions then to develop those further. Of course, again as Denise has mentioned, there's the enhanced learning environment, and making that a stimulating environment for the pupils. So, there are good examples In the good PRUs, that's what's going on, that's what's happening.

There are challenges, and the challenges are coming through in our inspection work, and indeed in our engagement visits. In the preparation for ALN legislation, the evaluation of professional learning is less developed. We've come to the conclusion that that's a capacity issue with the staff and their professional development. We have a small number of staff in the PRUs with multi-roles and multi-responsibilities, so that makes it very difficult for them to learn from and make an effective contribution to the professional learning activities that are going on.

That's really how we see things at the moment. It's identifying the gaps, the needs for professional development, and it might be helpful for Welsh Government to consider how they could provide possibly more creative ways to ensure that the staff engage in the recent reform process.

Okay. I think there'll be additional questions on the additional learning needs link with EOTAS, so I'll stop at that point and let colleagues come back to that. With regard to recording, monitoring and reporting outcomes, how well do local authorities record and monitor the number of learners at EOTAS in their respective areas?

I think we have seen some improvements in this in the last few years. For example, we've done more work to register what would have previously been unregistered settings as independent schools, which then obviously means that we are regularly visiting them, and that helps ensure quality. So, I think local authorities have been helpful in that, because some of their commissioning arrangements have driven that, and often they've referred to us, and that's allowed us to put in place better quality assurance around those settings.

I think, however, local authorities on the whole, with very few exceptions, in terms of their independent school provision that they commission as part of that EOTAS, are still not regularly visiting and monitoring first hand the quality of that provision to ensure that's it's appropriate for the young people that they've placed there. And on that point, we do still see sometimes care-led commissioning, which means that perhaps there's a care need that is met, but actually the education need for those young people hasn't been thought about. So, on the whole, authorities do know where young people are. In terms of the monitoring of where those young people are in EOTAS, that's still variable.

I think there's a difference then between that, in terms of EOTAS, and there's another aspect I think it's worth touching upon, which is the range of off-site education provision that schools themselves arrange or commission. So, these are pupils who are on the roll of a maintained school but are perhaps spending between one and five days a week regularly off-site, accessing something somewhere else—in a college, or a training provider, et cetera. I think from that point of view, local authorities don't have a handle on that enough. In the best cases, they do, they've put in place quality assurance arrangements. None of that provision that's being used by schools hasn't been quality assured in some way by the authority first. There'd be a list that schools could choose from in terms of what they might draw on to supplement what they're doing in school for their young people. But overall, local authorities haven't got to grips with that well enough.

Does that mean we don't have qualitative attainment data for learners in education other than school?

For the ones that the authority is commissioning, they would collect that information, yes. So, they'd have the minimum qualifications outcome, so they'd know which young people were in EOTAS, and they would get that qualifications outcome.

But it doesn't compare in any way to a school setting.


But they wouldn't do that.—they wouldn't have that broader qualitative information for the work that's being commissioned by schools, and although they've got that high-level information, how well they use that and how much—. I think we've got another question further on that you may touch upon about the more qualitative information.

They're doing the minimum, I think, at the moment in terms of collecting some data about those EOTAS students, but they're not going under the skin to actually understand the quality and the progress that they're making.

So, what you're saying is that a learner in an EOTAS setting—there are gaps in information and therefore they will be disadvantaged with regard to recording the learning journey compared to a pupil in school. 

Yes, and it's thinking about what we mean by that. So, there's assessment. I think in some of those settings there is very good work at that individual setting level to work with the pupil, with their parents et cetera, to think about what targets there are for their learning, for their attendance, for their attitudes to learning, their behaviour, to set a range of really helpful progression steps that would be expected and to assess their progress against that, and to recognise that. So, I'm not saying that that's not happening at an individual setting level.

We have some concerns over certain aspects of EOTAS; so, for example, home tuition I think as an area that we don't have a lot of evidence about the quality of the work that's happening there. We don't think local authorities have a lot of evidence. They know who is receiving it. They can probably tell us how many hours of provision they're getting, and they can probably tell us if they get any qualifications at the end of it. But in terms of the actual quality of the work that's happening, they wouldn't have an overview.

Looking at EOTAS as a whole—not just home learning, but the whole picture—is there any reason why we can't have that data and we can't measure in exactly the same way as we would a pupil in a school setting? What's the barrier? 

There shouldn't be. I think the tricky bit is that EOTAS is made up of quite different bits of provision, so casting a loop around it as a whole is not necessarily the most helpful way to think about it, because you've got some pupils who are receiving full-time education in somewhere like Kings Monkton School in Cardiff, who are EOTAS. You've got some who are having five hours of home tuition who are EOTAS, and we've got different data collection methods for different ones. The important point is that any local authority, I think, should have that overview, understand where all those pupils are, and understand the quality of the work that's happening with them, and I think that's the bit we feel there's some gaps in at the moment and, ultimately, as you're saying, understand what progress and what that's resulted in, really. 

So, it can be done but it's a complex exercise to achieve it. 

I think so, yes, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't stop it from being done. 

Okay. Thank you. I'm going to go on now to some questions from Janet Finch-Saunders. 

Thank you, Chair. What are the reasons why there have been continued increases in pupils being excluded and pupils accessing EOTAS over recent years?

It's a very important question and I'm sure you can appreciate I don't think there's a simple or easy answer to it. From our point of view, our inspection evidence and our thematic report evidence suggest that there may be a number of reasons for this. Can I just point out, actually, in terms of EOTAS numbers, I know the exclusion numbers have gone up but the overall EOTAS numbers have not increased significantly in the most recent years? The patterns have within them, though, as we said earlier; Jassa was saying about the primary going up and so forth. But in a more general sense, certainly, you will have seen our recent registration remit, which is often referred to as the off-rolling remit, and in our view there are a small number of settings' accountability measures that may be driving behaviours. Now, that remit doesn't actually look at the reasons for why pupils are there in year 10 and moving on in year 11, but what we have seen is an increase in the number of pupils in year 10 entering into EOTAS provision, and we've also seen practice going on where the actual registration of them in terms of main registration that counts against their mainstream school when they're in key stage 4 flips, so that when they reach year 10 to 11, they actually come off the mainstream school as their main register, and they become mainly registered in the EOTAS provision.

So, the accountability measures, going back to perhaps one of the points you were making there, for want of a better expression, are counted against the PRU rather than against the mainstream schools. So, that area may be impacting behaviour patterns in terms of things that are happening. What we do know is there's a significant variation in terms of those behaviours across Wales, going from 1 per cent in some local authorities to as high as 10 per cent in others. So, you can't ignore something like that in terms of numbers going up in certain areas.

I think another thing that may be contributing to increased exclusions, really, is that lack of professional knowledge and skills in terms of the profession generally, particularly at the secondary stage, in terms of knowledge about trauma and early impact of that on young people's lives. Both of my colleagues have spoken about a nurturing environment in primary school where you have a pupil in one-to-few setting, and they go to secondary school—and I've been a head of a secondary school and I think many secondary heads would say, curriculum-wise and timetabling-wise, not untypically, you may have split classes—the exams, in terms of the curriculum, and the specialist staff are driving that timetable, and you may have non-specialist teachers and you may have split lessons in terms of split staff in terms of some subjects. And the pupil suddenly goes from this environment where they're spending five hours a day with a main professional to one where they're spending an hour a day in different settings. And if a pupil has had those early childhood experiences—trauma events—moving into that context can be quite challenging, and secondary schools, sometimes can, for want of a better expression, contain that rather than look at why a pupil is behaving—. One of my colleagues expressed the view that in primary schools what you get is children who are doing naughty things. In secondary, sometimes, you get the position of 'naughty children' and they become labelled with that as well. So, I think that whole area of professional knowledge—you spoke about initial teacher education and training earlier and that post-early-year training as well—there needs to be an updating of professional knowledge in terms of the impact of early trauma on young people's lives.

So, the professional knowledge side of it, the accountability side, and I also think as well that there is the social context, really, in terms of needs that are not met. And if we think of the wider social context, family units are different now. What we're getting in pupil referral units, where the extended family may have been looking after children in a challenging family context—maybe that's not happening now. People are more isolated. Where there are mental health issues, perhaps the support is not available there, and that is all putting pressure on the system. So, that also is a contributory factor.

What we find is—we spoke about the nurturing element and the different models of collaboration as well, but also, as well, more community-focused schools are able to make better use of those multi-agency teams working with the family as well, to put in support structures that try to, along a continuum of need for pupils and provision, avoid that escalation to permanent exclusion and those figures going up.

I think, from our point of view, what is deeply worrying, and we put it in our response, is the doubling over the last five years of permanent exclusions in the primary sector, and that is a significant concern for us. Sorry if I've been a bit—[Inaudible.]


No, I wasn't expecting a one-reason answer, if you like. Okay, thanks. You've explained it quite well.

What more can be done and by whom to help schools to support pupils to remain in mainstream education? Estyn, of course, suggest that there is a lack of professional knowledge in mainstream schools about the impact of early trauma and ACEs. How are we going to address this? We have regional consortia now, and we have lots of layers, but we're finding these children are being left behind, or in some—

I think Denise has picked up on some of those areas there. I think professional learning is key, and I think, as I said, we are seeing some of the early impact of some of those things, like the ACE awareness, the attachment awareness and the trauma-informed practice, particularly where schools have embraced it as a whole staff rather than just seeing it as being, 'This is for this specialist person over here'—that's really had an impact.

I think the community-focused schools agenda is something that we're really keen to see developed. We've been saying that for a while, and I think we do have great examples where schools do this, and it is about them being open and having those partnerships in place with their parents and with the community, but with those specialist agencies as well, because they can't do it all themselves. As Denise described, that social context I think has become more challenging in some areas for some schools. They're having to take actions that they may not have taken in the past, in terms of trying to support the families of the pupils that they're working with. 

So, I think that idea of seeing yourself as beyond the school walls and drawing on the community around you to help provide the solutions is really important. That's not just about school buildings—I think there needs to be a slightly stronger steer from the Welsh Government in that area to help support that direction of travel. So, I think those aspects—we have seen a reduction in things like behaviour support and attendance support services in local authorities. They've faced a few years of challenging budgets, so I think that considering how that breadth of support services is sitting around schools—whether it's being prioritised and targeted in the right place is, perhaps, something else that can make a difference.


I think, as well, perhaps adding to what Jassa has said, it's also about understanding the type of pupil that is in EOTAS provision, because some people just think of EOTAS and they jump to poor behaviour. Well, it isn't—EOTAS is also about people who may have anxiety or mental health issues, or who find it hard to remain in education and so forth.

But with regard to those who do have emotional, behavioural or social difficulties, it's about—. Back to the primary and secondary element, and there is some very good work, I should hastily add, that is going on in some of our primary schools, so I don't want to generalise in that sense, but that notion of—we talk about closing the attainment gap with these pupils, but it's also the understanding that we need to close the emotional gap of some of these young people, because the young people that typically have the social and behavioural difficulties have come from disrupted and traumatised backgrounds with multiple and complex needs, and I just don't think, at times, we actually stop and say, 'Look, let's begin to understand where they're coming from, and let's understand the emotional needs.'

What we have found is that if we look at the 14 per cent of pupils who are in EOTAS provision in independent special schools, and some of those are in independent residential—in fact, the majority of them—special schools, in those contexts what they are getting that their mainstream peers are not getting, or their other EOTAS peers are not getting, is therapeutic support. And where it is good, they thrive.

I've got a supplementary from Siân, then I'll come back to you, Janet.

Yes, I'm just thinking about this doubling of exclusions from the primary sector. Could it be, flipping this on its side, an unintended consequence of more awareness amongst the teachers so that they spot the problems earlier and, therefore, this child needs specialist support and, therefore, they need to be in a PRU rather than in a school?

The vast majority of pupils who are in pupil referral units haven't been excluded—it's been a planned intervention.

So, we're not talking about the same children, are we? No.

It's not quite the same thing. I think the scale of the unmet need is growing. What we hear from schools when we're out there is that pupils are arriving at school with less social and emotional skills and that schools are having to do quite a lot of early work to make up that deficit. 


I know. I think, for some, perhaps where that hasn't been something that they've had to deal with previously, then maybe they don't have the support routes. And I think the other thing is, because it's not been such an issue at that stage of education previously, some of the support structures aren't in place, maybe, to provide that early support there. So, maybe it's getting to that exclusion point earlier than it should do, maybe because the problem's coming earlier in the system and maybe some of the support mechanisms in that early targeted intervention haven't quite caught up.

We talked about reform earlier, I think there's potential through the ALN reform to strengthen that very early, preschool identification of needs, because we hear when we're on inspection in PRUs still that pupils are having special educational needs identified and picked up at that very late stage in their educational career. So, I think the earlier you can put in place some of that diagnosis and understanding of need, to be able to meet it, maybe we'll hopefully then prevent some of that and hopefully stem that increase in primary-age exclusions. 

Do you have any information on where, either through planned intervention with PRUs or indeed in the EOTAS settings, families and the pupils themselves want to get back into mainstream school? What I'm finding in my own constituency is there's a nervousness on behalf of the mainstream school taking that pupil back in. There can go a few weeks where the child is actually not in the PRU or the EOTAS or they're not in mainstream school because there's this argy-bargy going on. So, that child is actually at home not being educated, not being able to go back into mainstream school. Do you have any info on that?

That does happen, but in our experience not that often. Jassa spoke at the very beginning, when we spoke about collaboration, about the PRUs actually going out and working with mainstream schools. In our experience, certainly in the good and better practice that's taking place, that is exactly what's going on. Either the staff typically will go into the mainstream setting, or in fact there's now—instead of calling it outreach provision, some of our EOTAS providers are calling it inreach provision. So, for example, they may have a centre in each of their local secondary schools so that they're keeping the pupils there. They've got a nurture centre there and each pupil has an individual—

It's happening, you see, and that's back to sharing best practice, where they're actually going out to the mainstream lessons—not all of them—they're coming back at appropriate times, they've also got somewhere to go, particularly if it's an anxiety issue and so forth, during the day where they can self-refer themselves and so forth, even behavioural things where they can self-refer.

So, you've got, for want of a better expression, a mixed economy. I think, in our experience, it's really when things reach a crisis point that you get that stalemate and the pupil is left there in the middle of it. 

Well, it shouldn't happen.

It's not uniform, though, the picture that you're describing, is it? Because the committee visited The Bridge in Bridgend, which is considered to be a really high-performing PRU, and they even called the cohort of pupils 'the revolving door', because they knew that those pupils would come back.

Absolutely, yes. We have some where—Denbighshire PRU's got something like a reintegration rate of 90 per cent. 

Talking about in-house provision, specifically at Welsh-medium provision, there's a lot of that going on in Welsh-medium comprehensives, because the provision of EOTAS through the medium of Welsh is very, very scarce. It's a real challenge for the teachers in Welsh-medium schools to look at any other provision other than what they can offer themselves within that. So, the inclusive element in a Welsh-medium school is far higher. 

I think one of the things that we picked up that's maybe lacking in these aspects is, where a pupil's actually excluded and it gets to that stage, they've got rights in terms of things like advocacy. We'd promote that it doesn't get to that stage, but for pupils who may be subject to managed moves, or for those kinds of points where they have to reach decisions with their family and with the provider about do they go back into mainstream school or would it be better to reintegrate into a different school, they don't always have—. They haven't got any rights around that provision of advocacy support for them and their family at those points of decision, which means that sometimes—. I think you picked up from some of your visits and got this sense that people don't always have access to the range of information that they maybe need at those points, and they almost just felt like they were pushed into this route. So, we don't want it to get to the point of exclusion, but actually, if you are excluded, then in some ways you have more rights than if you've had some of these more preventative approaches taken.


Thank you. We've got some questions now from Dawn Bowden.

Thank you, Chair. Just a couple of questions on learners with special educational needs. I know your report in 2016 identified that there were a number of those pupils not receiving the level of support that you would expect. Can you tell us the extent of that, which you discovered? And who is responsible for that?

You're quite right, that level of specialist support is not always there. That is a huge challenge. Even when the pupils have a statement of special educational needs, that level of support provided in EOTAS isn't there. It's quite frightening when you consider that 90 per cent of EOTAS pupils have significant special educational needs; almost 40 per cent have statements and 50 per cent are on school action plus.

You asked the reason why, and I think it's a capacity issue. You have a small pool of staff with limited expertise, trying to deliver specialist education support. It's small scale, so there are comparatively few pupils. But of course, the extent of their needs is very specific, and they're wide-ranging needs. So, you put all that in the melting pot, and the children and the pupils aren't receiving the support that they need.

So, generally, staff don't have the skills to support the pupils that they have with them appropriately. For pupils with special educational needs and statements, and this happens, it's the local authority then that do not meet their statutory obligations.

That was just the point I was going to come on to. How are the local authorities—? You're saying they're not. My question was going to be: how are the local authorities ensuring that those needs are met? And you're saying that they're not.

I don't think we're saying in all cases.

What we're saying is—. Coming back to my earlier point that EOTAS is a very broad set of provisions, I think certainly there is sometimes a challenge in some of the smaller settings in terms of having the on-site specialist support that's needed. That's not to say that there isn't some specialist support; local authorities quite often will have dedicated educational psychologist support and stuff. But the challenge is the very specialist needs of some of these young people.

Yes. The individual active learning programmes that we see in EOTAS are effective. Well-being and the support for well-being is certainly is improving, but it's that specialist support.

There are two areas that jump to mind straight away. One, in particular, we think about the home tuition people as well, and we're back to professional knowledge and professional learning. There is in some local authorities a great deal of wealth with support teams such as the educational psychologists and so forth, but I don't think always—that expertise isn't necessarily shared with colleagues who have responsibility for home tuition.

If there was a stronger focus within local authorities on the professional learning of all EOTAS providers, and indeed even where they are independently registered providers, where there is a more collective voice—. Jassa said at the beginning that, in the best practice, this is where there is a shared vision, with the pupils at the centre of that. That is one area of it.

I think the other area is the whole area of what I would call the ladder for staff going into EOTAS provision in terms of the structure and entry into the profession. There's no route into special educational needs, no direct route in Wales at the moment. In our experience, in the stronger practice—pupil referral units, and indeed EOTAS provision—certainly there are some very highly qualified people in those contexts. Now, if they want to get further qualifications—for example, if they decide to go from a high-level teaching assistant on to becoming a qualified teacher—then they have to leave that setting to do that.

One of the things that we've certainly spoken about is, is there an opportunity where they can twin with a mainstream setting and, for example, have something like piloting a graduate teacher programme scheme that enables them to practise in the pupil referral unit? That might be appropriate in some contexts; it might not also, we accept, in other contexts as well. But that would certainly begin to have, possibly, a bigger impact nationally and locally if you focused on those professional learning areas at different times.


It's worth noting that, over the last year, we've actually—optimistically speaking here—seen more excellence in PRUs. I'm sure we'll be back here before long for our annual report, which will be published next month, and we will be noting that, in terms of PRUs and independent special schools who deal with that quite high-end need in terms of special educational needs as well, we've seen more excellence, comparatively, in the last year than we tend to do. So, there are examples of really good practice there, where young people are having their special educational needs met by highly qualified staff, and it's where they're combining that learning with therapeutic approaches and the things that we talked about earlier. So, there are examples.

Yes, so we need to focus on those good areas of practice to see if that could be rolled out and replicated elsewhere. I take that point. One of the things that we've heard in evidence is that there seems to be considerable delay in providing vulnerable learners with the support that they need. Can you identify the particular reasons why that might be?

Yes, I think we've probably touched upon a few of them as we've been talking already this morning. I think probably the first starting point is, because there isn't that forward-planning assessment, that planned continuum of support, sometimes this comes as a sudden thing. Therefore, there can be that gap in meeting need. Whereas, in the best practice, it doesn't get to the point of exclusion, so there's not necessarily that gap. There's earlier work to ensure a planned progression, perhaps, into other opportunities. So, that's probably the first area.

The second area is, generally, the lack of specialist placements, be it in a pupil referral unit or be it in a more independent special provider, et cetera. And again, to a certain extent, that comes down to some of the issues we've already talked about, about the lack of reintegration, and perhaps an increased demand in the system. But again, if there is a better planned continuum, then there's planned capacity to avoid those delays.

That's the local authority's responsibility, I think, overall. They need to work with schools and with other providers to actually deliver that responsibility, but I think they've got that responsibility for making sure there's a range of capacity that can avoid delays.

Sure. Yes. Sorry, I interrupted you there. We've heard that some of the delays are often down to referrals into CAMHS, for instance, while waiting for that. So, the kind of process that you're talking about wouldn't necessarily be helped, would it, if the pupil is then waiting for a CAMHS referral before a final decision is made? What's your experience of that?

We do see that. Our argument would be that there shouldn't be a delay in making provision of some kind. Unfortunately, what we do see is young people with no provision for periods of time. I think at the last PLASC survey there were quite a number of young people who were registered as having no education provision at that point. So, I think if it's done in a planned way, even where they're awaiting some kind of diagnosis that may help support into a more specialist provision, the argument would be that there should be appropriate provision to support during that transition period, rather than pupils just being excluded. And particularly with things like CAMHS, because, as you probably know from the work you've been doing, the longer you're out of education, the harder it is to then do that reintegration, and things like anxiety and things can be increased.

I think I've already touched upon some aspects of reducing budgets in terms of behaviour support and attendance, which I think, again, have impacted, perhaps, on some of those delays. I think I also mentioned that sometimes those care-led placements—I'm particularly thinking about independent special schools as part of that EOTAS provision now, where we are still, on a fairly regular basis—. Thankfully, we have better links with Care Inspectorate Wales than we maybe had going back 10, 15 years, and they'll be flagging to us that, 'Look, we're visiting the care home, there's a young person here; they haven't got the appropriate education provision from what we can see', and then we can follow that up with the local authority. But, unfortunately, sometimes there are those placements being made without actually making sure that appropriate education is in place, and then there is a delay. That can be due to a lack of capacity in the area where they're being placed—so, no capacity in that local PRU, et cetera. So, yes.


We're going to have to pick up the pace a bit, because we've only got 10 minutes left and important areas to cover. So, can I appeal for brief questions, brief answers?

Yes. Very, very briefly, unregistered providers—areas of concern for you around that.

I think we feel that it's got better. I think local authorities have been really helpful in some of their commissioning arrangements in ensuring that they're not commissioning from providers who aren't appropriately registered. But I think there's still a lack of understanding globally out there in terms of when something should, for example, be registered as an independent school and when pockets of provision provided by local authorities should be part of their PRUs. So, I think there are still—we do still become aware of home tuition groups being brought together, for example, that should really be under the management of a PRU. It wouldn't actually necessarily change the nature of that provision, and we're not necessarily saying that's a bad quality of provision; it's just that it's not clear who's got oversight of it and is ensuring the safeguarding of pupils.

And, very briefly, what's the extent of that across Wales? Do you know?

I think it's less than it was. We've registered probably five or six, half a dozen, providers over the last three or four years that would have previously probably been operating as unregistered provision. But, working with authorities and Welsh Government, I think we've got quite a good awareness of what provision is out there. 

Just two questions from me: accepting, of course, that not all young people need access to the entire curriculum, we've heard concerns from yourself and the children's commissioner that children who are EOTAS aren't getting access in the way that perhaps they should, disadvantaging them, particularly the more able and talented. Can you tell me who you think is responsible for that and who is responsible for fixing it?

Responsible for fixing—. It's vital that they get that full curriculum, and it's again to do with the capacity of the staff in order to deliver that curriculum. We welcome the changes and we welcome that shift in ensuring that these pupils are going to be given the same provision, and it's vital that they have the same access. Who is responsible for it? It's to do with the leadership within that PRU and it has to come from the local authority to ensure that those pupils are provided with a curriculum that meets their needs, so that they have the same access to an investigative and enterprising, creative, ambitious curriculum that enables them to develop appropriately.

And who can the young people turn to if they think they're not getting what they need? I want to ask you about the new curriculum as well, so perhaps you can put those together.

Well—. Jassa.

I think there are certainly ways that—. They can certainly talk to the staff in there. I think, if that's not happening, they should be raising it with the local authority. It's a tricky one, because we do see some really great practice in PRUs in terms of ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum—not necessarily looking exactly like it is in schools, but actually providing them with that good range of core skills, health and well-being-related skills, those kinds of things. I think expectations do need to be raised for more able pupils, and we do too often see that—. While we're saying there's some very good individual planning, it's kind of capped within a range that maybe is aimed at perhaps a lower ability. So, where you do have more able pupils in some of those settings, I think that's not always recognised, and those partnerships aren't always put in place to actually make sure that they can access some individual specialised routes that would suit them.


So, it's a failure of collaboration in some cases.

And a repetition of a fixed curriculum. The curriculum is designed in order to be short-term for them to return. Now, when they stay there for a longer period of time—

But also, we've got to remember that 60 per cent of them are going there at key stage 4, so—. And we go back to the—[Inaudible.] Okay, there are not floods of them coming in, but there are extra ones coming in and out, and—