Children with SEND not supported at mainstream schools, Ofsted finds

Fiona Simpson
Friday, May 14, 2021

Some pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) at mainstream schools do not get enough support with learning and development, Ofsted has found.

Some children with SEND experience social isolation due to time spent out of lessons, Ofsted has warned. Picture Adobe Stock
Some children with SEND experience social isolation due to time spent out of lessons, Ofsted has warned. Picture Adobe Stock

A new study by the inspectorate, carried out before the Covid-19 pandemic, reveals 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,” the research, published today (14 May) states.

Many families of children with SEND who took part in the study said that they experienced long waiting times and high levels of bureaucracy in the education, health and care plan (EHCP) 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,” the research adds.

It also finds that gaps in the knowledge of teachers and school staff in understanding pupils’ needs impacted learning and development and “in a small number of cases, pupils had become over-reliant on their teaching assistants”.

Some pupils also experienced social isolation due to spending a lot of time out of the classroom for specialist support, Ofsted said. 

Latest government figures show that there are currently 430,697 pupils on EHCPs in England - an increase of 10 per cent since 2020.

However, in 2020, just 58 per cent of new EHCPs were issued within 20 weeks, down from 60.4 per cent in 2019.

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.”

Teresa Heritage, vice chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, added: “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 EHC plans remains a pressing issue for councils as they strive to provide every child with the best possible support to meet their needs.”

She also called on the government to publish the results of its SEND review which has been delayed due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, a new report by the Education Policy Institute, finds that a three-year funding package totalling £13.5bn will be required by the government to reverse the damage to pupils’ learning as a result of the pandemic.

The independent analysis, which is the first study to model the impact of lost learning and set out a series of fully costed, evidence-based, proposals for government, shows that significant investment will be required to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to the nation that “no child is left behind”.

The EPI has also issued a series of recommendations to help pupils catch-up including the option to repeat a school year and longer school days.

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