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SEND children being let down by school behaviour policies

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In an open letter sent to the Secretary of State for Education, parents of children and young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are calling for government to review the behaviour policies and educational psychologist resources in schools, and look at how we can better support our children and young people with SEND.

The letter has been signed by 107 parents and caregivers from across the UK, many of whom have struggled for years to access resources and support for children and now find themselves in a constant fight for better acceptance and understanding in an educational setting.  

In mainstream schools, neurodiverse children are often punished, isolated, suspended and even expelled from education because their Autism, sensory difficulties, Anxiety, ADHD or other needs are not understood. The needs of children with SEND are so often left unmet, and the teachers and schools find themselves forced to impose sanctions due to rigid behaviour policies.

The letter states that children have ‘been let down time and time again by an education system that lacks resource, training and understanding, and by behaviour policies that sanction behaviours that are beyond our children’s control.’

Emma Mander is the Managing Director of Great Minds Together, who provide wrap-around support for children and young people with SEND. As a parent of a neurodivergent child herself, she is one of the lead parents who have signed the letter addressed to the Secretary of State.

She said, “in my work I see children and young people let down time and time again by the system, and as a parent myself I have faced struggles for my neurodivergent child to be better understood and have their needs met.”

“All behaviour is a form of communication and many behaviour policies in schools just initiate punishments and sanctions when certain behaviours are experienced, but we should be listening to children and young people and try to understand what they are trying to tell us. All behaviour doesn’t need to be sanctioned, we don’t want to scare our young people and create an environment based on fear.”

“There is evidence that a more therapeutic approach leads to better outcomes that are less likely to require crisis intervention later down the line, which is costly and traumatic.” 

The letter’s undersigned ask government to consider a more therapeutic approach to behaviour as a statutory expectation nationwide, as opposed to imposing sanctions such as isolation and suspension.

Emma added “there are proven benefits for a more therapeutic approach, not only for children and young people with SEND, but for everyone.  The therapeutic approach in our Tier 3.5 model has evidenced the benefits of this method time and time again.”

The parents/guardians of SEND children are also asking for more funding for educational psychologists in schools, who are vital in the diagnosis process. They outline that ‘allocating a full-time Educational and/or Clinical Psychologist to every mainstream school will significantly reduce costs in other areas for the system including social care and the NHS’, the amount of PHD courses available across England would need to be reviewed if this were to be a consideration the Government would be willing to listen to.

Over the past three and a half years, Great Minds Together have helped more than 2,500 children and young people, and at the root of most cases are misunderstood behaviours that are hiding an unmet need or trauma. 

Not only is this resulting in poor mental health in young people and their families, which is ultimately impacting on their physical health further down the line, causing more strain on our NHS, but it is costing millions in treatment and support. GMT want to prevent this escalation, and that starts with understanding behaviour.

Great Minds Together’s National Behaviour Awareness Week will run from 25th September – 1st October. Throughout the week, GMT will be hosting a series of Webinars discussing behaviour and how we can better support our children and young people. GMT are also urging schools to Transform their Isolation and Seclusion sanctions in line with a more therapeutic approach ‘#transformationofisolation’.

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