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The slow disintegration of inclusion for children with SEND

The slow disintegration of inclusion for children with SEND

A new survey of NASUWT members shows deeply worrying signs that mainstream schools are finding it harder and harder to support children with SEND.

How much support do teachers feel their schools offer children with SEND? How well do teachers feel supported themselves to meet the needs of children with SEND? Is SEND a school priority?

This week NASUWT released the results of a survey of 1,185 teachers in mainstream and special schools, providing an insight into teachers’ perceptions of SEND provision in schools. The results are incredibly concerning. Here’s a quick summary of a selection of teacher responses. The full analysis of the survey can be found here .

Teachers need more support on SEND

  • Teachers aren’t always made aware of their pupils’ needs. One in ten teachers reported that they were not aware at all of the educational support that children in their classes are entitled to. I find this mind-boggling. Surely, as professionals, teachers can be trusted with such information?

  • Nearly a third of teachers feel that they are “rarely or never” supported to teach children with SEND. The survey found that some teachers reported schools being unable to fund CPD. This chimes with research by the Teacher Development Trust which found that over 21,000 teachers are employed in schools reporting zero or near-zero expenditure on CPD, and the median spend on CPD across the sector is 0.7% of schools’ overall budgets. Questions were also raised about the quality of CPD. Most training is focussed on specific conditions (which may have limited use for teachers given the wide variety of learning needs between children with the same conditions, let alone conditions that are more rare and so don’t feature in this kind of training), and the lack of longer term follow up on “one-off” CPD events.

 

  • According to teachers, schools’ ability to support children with SEND is on the decline.

With growing numbers of pupils identified as having SEND, tightening school budgets and a fragmentation of external support from specialists such as educational psychologists, this will not come as a surprise to most in the sector. Accountability also plays a role here. Many teachers believe that schools are informally showing the door to children with SEND who are unlikely to make progress, or quietly suggesting that such children look elsewhere when they apply to the school. Quotes such as the following should be an alarm call for the sector:

‘Schools are much less willing to accept children who will affect their results/league table position and in particular this means that Year 6 pupils are very hard to place. Parents often end up home educat[ing].’

 ‘Some academies have funding excuses for not providing appropriate equipment as reasonable adjustment.’

 ‘I have seen a trend of schools permanently excluding the week before an EHC plan is agreed so that they cannot be named in the EHC plan.’

SENCOs are overburdened and under-valued

  • SENCOs are increasingly expected to deliver lessons. This is getting in the way of their ability to manage the concerns of children with SEND and their parents.

  • Only around half of surveyed SENCOs were on schools’ senior leadership teams. Around half of those who were not, particularly in primary schools, reported that no members of SLT had responsibility for SEND.

Three changes that would help reverse the trend away from exclusion:

  1. School leaders should give SEND the same priority as they do for Pupil Premium. Supporting children with SEND must be at the top of the list of school priorities, indeed given the overlap between poverty and SEND, paying more attention to SEND is likely to produce benefits for children eligible for the Pupil Premium in any case. Every Child Should’s “Five Questions” is a great place for school leaders to start thinking more about SEND
  2. This survey by NASUWT is a cry for help from teachers for more, and better, training. The Department for Education must fund schools so that they are able to pay for teachers’ CPD.
  3. Collectively, we have to find ways to reduce the number of exclusions of children with SEND. One idea we have pushed for in the past is for schools, local authorities and middle-tier organisations such as multi academy trusts or teaching school alliances to identify children with SEND at risk of exclusion. The Department for Eduation should make additional funding available for interventions designed to reduce the risk of these children being excluded, up to the £10,000 per pupil available in alternative provision and special schools.