Children with SEND “not getting enough help” to support development, study reveals

Children with Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) are “not getting enough help” to support their development, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by children’s social care regulator Ofsted, was carried out between the spring term of 2019 and 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what they found.

External support “not always timely or implemented properly”

SEND pupils usually receive a combination of specialist support from schools and multi-agency services to support their learning and development.

But the study found that, although external support is valued, it is “not always timely or implemented properly”.

In a large, nationwide survey, parents reported difficulties overcoming “high levels of bureaucracy in the education, health and care (EHC) plan process”, as well as encountering lengthy wait times.

Ultimately, this led to some families paying for additional services themselves – further widening the gap between wealthy and poor households.

“Gaps” in teachers’ or staff’s understanding of pupils’ needs

The research discovered significant “gaps” in teachers’ or staff’s understanding of pupils’ needs, particularly when pupils did not have an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan or were less well known to their special educational needs coordinators (SENCos).

It was also found that:

  • SEND children spend large amounts of time out of class in small groups or individually – potentially harming social development.
  • Schools were occasionally teaching a curriculum that was not properly sequenced or well matched to pupils’ needs.
  • In some cases, pupils were not always given the chance to master basics before moving forwards with their learning.
  • Parents felt that they were not given enough information about their child’s learning and development, or the opportunity to input into support plans.

Conclusion: Getting support right for these pupils is “more important than ever”

Commenting on the findings, 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.

“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.”

According to the latest statistics, around 1.4 million pupils in English schools have an identified special educational need (SEN).


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