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Teaching SEND kids in cupboards and cabins isn’t acceptable in 2023 and online school could be the key

students with bags

Online schools could be the answer for oversubscribed state-funded schools in England struggling to accommodate children with special educational needs and disabilities, a leading UK education expert has said today following the BBC’s latest report which revealed some pupils were being taught in cupboards due to lack of space. 

Hugh Viney, founder and CEO of virtual independent school Minerva’s Virtual Academy says that online school could not only save money, but give children the support they need to thrive. 

Hugh Viney, CEO of virtual independent school Minerva’s Virtual Academy has spoken out after new research by the BBC revealed that half of state-funded schools in England for children with special educational needs and disabilities are oversubscribed. The report also detailed how some pupils are being taught in converted cabins and cupboards due to lack of appropriate teaching space.

“There is no doubt that state-funded schools are under enormous pressure but to hear that some of our most vulnerable children are being taught in cupboards and unsuitable facilities is simply not acceptable in 2023. And, a lack of space is just the tip of the iceberg.

“As we know from our own conversations with parents of children with additional needs, the lack of school spaces and spiralling waiting lists for these limited places are preventing children from accessing the education that they so desperately need and causing undue distress to families.”

But online schooling could be the solution to plug this gap, says Hugh, who launched Minerva’s Virtual Academy in 2021 as an antidote to the ‘one-size-fits all’ mainstream education system. 

“Online schooling not only requires no physical facilities, but smaller class sizes mean that teaching can be more tailored to each individual child which is so important for children with additional needs or those with disabilities. A more bespoke, flexible approach is often what these children need to be able to thrive and that’s what we feel virtual learning can offer.

“At Minerva we are already teaching pupils with a broad range of needs and we have seen first hand what a transformational effect that online schooling can have. We know that we have a formula that works, but to be able to help more children, we need the buy in of the Government, local councils and schools to ensure that we can work together to find a solution that works for everyone. 

“Every week we have enquiries from parents who are at the end of their tether having battled to find a school place for their child, or those who have seen their child struggle in a state-funded school system that is under too much pressure to properly support them. Every child should be given the opportunity to learn in an environment that is suited to them and the wider education community needs to get on board with alternative options, like online learning to stop more children being failed.”

Sector Response to BBC’s latest report

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

“It is appalling that any child is learning in a cupboard, let alone children with additional learning needs and disabilities.

“These learners often need calm, sensory safe environments, extra space for equipment and support staff, and consistency in their learning patterns, not to be crammed into inappropriate buildings and left to make do.

“This Conservative Government should hang its head in shame. How SEND provisions have been allowed to get to this critical point is outrageous.

“Ministers promised a SEND Improvement Plan, but it has been delayed again and again by Conservative chaos. They must publish it now and act urgently to put an end to the postcode lottery for SEND children.”

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