Special Report: Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Amid increasing funding pressures and demand, councils are working to deliver comprehensive health, care and education support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) for children and young people has demanded an increasing amount of policymakers' time and attention in recent years.

A key driver has been the transfer of more than a quarter of a million children from the old statementing process to a new system of needs assessment and support. Councils rose to the challenge, with around 99 per cent of children being transferred by the April 2018 deadline, but concerns remain about how well the reforms have been implemented.

Amid rising numbers of pupils with SEND, government has committed to delivering more school places. Where children with special needs are taught - whether it be in mainstream settings or a special school - is still a topic of much debate, with some councils investing in specialist support in mainstream schools.

With school budgets under increased pressure and more children being taught in special schools many areas are struggling to meet the needs of all pupils with SEND, with some schools having to cut back on classroom support staff.

These challenges are set within an increasingly high-stakes education culture with SEND pupils most affected by the recent large rise in exclusions, a key issue the government's ongoing exclusions review is set to address.

CYP Now's special report on special educational needs and disabilities looks at recent research on the issue, profiles examples of innovative practice and summarises key recent developments in SEND policy.

Click on each link to read more:

Policy context

Practice examples:

SEND support for care leavers, Cornwall

WIncKS, Warwickshire

Pontville School, Lancashire

Autism support centres, Essex

Research evidence:

There is much debate around the best ways of educating pupils with diverse abilities and ensuring they receive a high-quality education in a mixed setting. Three of the articles this month explore the education of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) within mainstream schools.

The first article by Blatchford investigates the experiences of pupils with SEND, in comparison with typically developing pupils. The paper reports that pupils with SEND experience a form of segregation as they are often taught separately from their average- and higher-attaining peers. The experiences of children with SEND in social activities/ participation in mainstream schools is the focus of the second article by Garrote et al. The authors suggest some interventions that may help facilitate social participation for pupils with SEND.

The third paper explores the experiences of Special Education Needs Co-ordinators (Sencos) six months after the introduction in 2014 of the SEND reforms and the SEND Code of Practice. It discusses the need for greater clarity in defining and interpreting the meaning of special educational needs, and what that means for children and young people.

The final article draws on research asking social workers to identify the barriers and enablers to undertaking direct work with children and young people who have learning disabilities and communicate non-verbally. It identifies the skills and knowledge they use to enable good communication and direct work, as well as operational and organisational barriers.

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