@Ofstednews' research report ‘Supporting SEND’, published today (13 May), shows that some pupils with #SEND in mainstream schools are not getting enough help to support their learning and development.

Some pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) in mainstream schools are not getting enough help to support their learning and development, even when external services are involved, according to a new research report by Ofsted.

The study finds that specialist support from multi-agency services often complements the support offered by schools. Although families and school staff value this external support, it is not always timely or implemented appropriately.

Many of the schools and families participating in the research had experienced long wait times and high levels of bureaucracy in the education, health and care (EHC) plan process. In some instances, families were commissioning or paying for additional services themselves. This suggests that the playing field is not level for pupils from poorer backgrounds.

Through different case studies, the research identifies important issues that influence how in-school support, therapies and other multi-agency services are provided for pupils with SEND.

The findings include the following:

  • Gaps in teachers’ or staff’s understanding of pupils’ needs has a negative impact on children’s experiences at school and their learning and development. This is especially the case when pupils did not have an EHC plan or were less well known to their special educational needs coordinators (SENCos).
  • Almost all pupils who took part in the research, including those on SEND support, had teaching assistants (TAs) allocated to them. In a small number of cases, pupils had become over-reliant on their TAs, which could potentially impact on their ability to develop independence. Some parents and carers also raised concerns around social exclusion because of the amount of time their child spent out of class in small-group or individual interventions.
  • Occasionally, schools were teaching a curriculum that was not properly sequenced or well matched to pupils’ needs. A few pupils did not have the background knowledge and skills required, due to missed learning or unmet needs. In some cases, pupils were not always given the chance to master basics before moving forwards with their learning.
  • Some parents and carers took part in decision-making around special education provision. However, others felt that they were not given enough information about their child’s learning and development, or the opportunity to input into support plans.
  • Some SENCos were also full-time class teachers. This suggests that they may not have enough time to fully support pupils with SEND at their school.

Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director for Education, said:

"Many children and young people with SEND have found it harder to engage with remote education during the pandemic, so getting the support right for these pupils is more important than ever.

"This research shows that high-quality education for these children is underpinned by a good understanding of their individual needs, and strong relationships between families and schools. Effective joint work between schools and other services, especially including health, is also critical to children’s learning and development.

"The findings from this research will be really valuable as we continue to build on our inspection practice and develop the new area SEND inspection framework."

Ian Noon, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:

“This important report is yet more compelling evidence to support what parents of deaf children have been saying for years. The SEND system isn’t fit for purpose and doesn’t deliver for everyone who relies on it.

“Thousands of deaf children need specialist support, like expert Teachers of the Deaf, to thrive in school. However, there are clearly serious gaps between the specialist support they need and what’s being provided.

“The Government has the necessary evidence, so it must address these issues when it reviews the country’s SEND provision later this year. This is the perfect opportunity to fix a broken system once and for all.”

Paul Whiteman 100x100Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“A decade of underfunding schools and an ongoing failure by the government to properly get to grips with systemic failings within the SEND system has been even more exposed by the pandemic.

“Even before Covid, children and young people with SEND have too often been an after-thought for government, and in many cases schools have been left to pick up the pieces with little support and little, if any, additional resource. Delays in external agencies providing the right support, overly bureaucratic planning processes and the need for better training and support for staff all point to a woefully underfunded system.

"Children and young people with SEND and their families deserve to be prioritised. Without such a clear focus, the government risks allowing the disadvantage gap to widen still further.

“There is an opportunity to put pupils with SEND at the heart of the educational recovery agenda. This starts with greater investment. The government has said that no child should be left behind – now is the time to put its money where its mouth is and make sure the most vulnerable children in society are at the very heart of that promise.”

Cllr Teresa Heritage, Vice Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“It is good that this research recognises that multi-agency support for pupils with SEND often complements the support offered by schools. However, the continued rise in demand for overall and new education, health and care (EHC) plans remains a pressing issue for councils as they strive to provide every child with the best possible support to meet their needs.

“All children, including those with SEND, will undoubtedly need additional support in the coming weeks and months due to the impact of the pandemic.

“The Government needs to urgently complete its ongoing review of the SEND system. It needs to set out reforms that increase mainstream inclusion, provides councils with long-term certainty of funding to meet the needs of all children with SEND, and gives councils the power to hold education partners to account if their provision for identifying and supporting children with SEND is not adequate.”

Responding to annual government figures published today which show that the number of children and young people in England with an education, health and care (EHC) plan has increased by 10 per cent as at January 2021, Cllr Teresa Heritage, Vice Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“The continued rise in demand for overall and new EHC plans remains a pressing issue for councils as they strive to provide every child with the best possible support to meet their needs.

“All children, including those with SEND, will undoubtedly need additional support in the coming weeks and months due to the impact of the pandemic.

“The Government needs to urgently complete its ongoing review of the SEND system. It needs to set out reforms that increase mainstream inclusion, provides councils with long-term certainty of funding to meet the needs of all children with SEND, and gives councils the power to hold education partners to account if their provision for identifying and supporting children with SEND is not adequate.”

Methodology: Ofsted carried out the research in the spring term of 2019 to 2020, before the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. It draws on interviews with pupils, parents, teachers, support staff and leaders from a sample of schools across 2 local authorities.

Representatives from the local authorities and clinical commissioning group were also interviewed. The findings are based on a small number of case studies. Therefore, they are not necessarily reflective of the wider population of pupils with SEND.

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