Head slams 'scandalous' treatment of children with SEN

By Laura McCardle

| 12 May 2014

Children with special educational needs (SEN) are being neglected by schools because of government exam policy, a head teacher has said.

Schools are segregating children with SEN in a bid to improve results, according to Nigel Utton.

Nigel Utton, head teacher of Bromstone Primary School in Kent, said children with SEN are being “destroyed” by a lack of support and unfair treatment.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Westminster Education Forum, he expressed his anger at the way many schools are segregating children with SEN in a bid to improve their performance in local league tables.

Utton said: “Schools, particularly academies, are setting up annexes where you put children you don’t know what to do with. They’re able to put them in segregated provision without a statement [of SEN].

“It’s all about statistics and league tables because by putting them in annexed provision they don’t count towards league tables.”

Utton, who recently resigned from his post during a live radio interview because he was so upset at the treatment of children with SEN and the pressure on schools to achieve target grades, also suggested SEN reforms set to take effect in September will have little impact.

During the seminar, he said: “You hear ‘you are letting in too many children with SEN because they are ruining our statistics and they will never be good enough’. It’s a scandal.

“You can have whatever legislation you like but what’s happening on the ground is important, and what’s happening is children with SEN are getting a raw deal.”

Key SEN policy changes to be introduced under the Children and Families Act include the creation of education, health and care (ECH) plans to co-ordinate support for all children and young people under 25 and the use of personal budgets to help children and young people carry out their ECH plans.

Utton is to leave his post next month to pursue a career as an education consultant.

A Department for Education spokesperson described Utton's criticism of schools as "untrue".

"Pupils with SEN have always counted in a school’s performance tables and will continue to do so, whether or not they are taught separately.

“Our reforms to the SEN system have been drawn up following extensive consultation with schools and families and will give children and their parents more say in where they study and the support they receive.

“We are also changing the accountability system so that schools are fairly judged and given real credit for improving every pupil’s performance, regardless of their starting point.”

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