What are we really doing for SEND learners?

Becoming the English Lead in a SEND school truly was the pinnacle of my teaching career. During my three years in this position, I saw how much can and is done for learners who are fortunate enough to be given a place at specialist provisions like these. 

Due to the very specialist care these learners received, we had to maintain a certain adult to pupil ratio to ensure care, medication and teaching requirements were all met to the best of everyone’s ability.

Schools like these are always oversubscribed with an expanding waiting list.

These families are some of the most vulnerable in our society. They’ve lost all faith in the schooling system and are looking for support from just about anyone that will listen. Schools like ours are often their last hope. A guiding light in a sea of disappointment. 

SEND provisions like ours enable teachers to have the capacity and time to play the role of not just teacher but also coordinator, social worker and family liaison.

However, as of 2019, only 10% of pupils with SEN were in state-funded special schools whereas 82% were in state-funded mainstream schools (7% in independent schools and 1% in state place-funded alternative provision).

As a result, extra expectations and responsibilities are now falling on every classroom teacher regardless of their specialism. These classroom teachers and subject leads simply do not have the time, training or capacity to fully support these learners, their needs and their families. 

Yet, the number of requests for EHCPs continues to rise and the numbers of children and young people with more complex needs are continuing to put immense pressure on schools and their staff.

The SEND Review: Right support Right place Right time promises to put an end to all this with lofty goals like putting an end to the vicious cycle of late intervention, low confidence across the system, and inefficient resource allocation.

The pressure from Ofsted

With a huge proportion of SEND students attending mainstream schools, this review must offer clear and tangible solutions to the many problems facing the SENDCOs in these schools.

According to the Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) (2019), to be judged outstanding, settings must show that children and young people with SEND achieve ‘exceptionally well’.

Inspectors expect schools to provide all children and young people with access to the same broad and ambitious curriculum as their peers. 

In my experience, the solution to this issue is multifaceted. It boils down to funding, training and communication. Schools need funding to provide the right resources, space for the growing numbers and tools to meet the individual needs of every SEND learner. Teachers need adequate, bespoke training to support the needs in and out of the classroom as well as ensure the social care needs of the families are met too. Communication needs to be much clearer and more efficient between schools, parents and social care to ensure all voices are heard.

Publishing this paper is a step by the government. In my view, they’ve got a long way to go before parents, teachers and schools will feel confident in the support that’s available for SEND learners.

What’re your experiences and opinions? Do you believe this paper is enough or is it too little too late? Let me know in the comments!

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