The Key, an organization that provides leadership and management support to schools, has revealed that Britain’s schools are struggling to support children with special education needs of disabilities (SEND). A survey of more than 1,1000 school leaders showed that insufficient budgets, delays in assessments, and cuts to local authorities all have impeded schools’ efforts in servicing the country’s 1.1 million students with special needs.
The Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) provisions in the Children and Families Act 2014 were introduced on September 1, 2014. Under the law, children with special needs were granted greater support in their learning, and those with even more complex needs have the option of being transitioned to education, health, and care plans (EHCPs) that will be in effect until they are 25 years old. According to the BBC, the deadline to complete the transition to EHCPs is March 31, 2018.
The reforms attempted to simplify the existing system of education for special needs students and give children and their parents greater say in the support they receive. The survey released by The Key, however, shows that schools are struggling to offer the adequate support needed to meet the conditions laid out by the Children and Families Act.
Specifically, the survey found that 88% of school leaders believe initial teacher training does not adequately prepare teachers to work with special needs students. Moreover, 82% of those surveyed said that their schools do not have sufficient funding to adequately provide for such students.
One teacher surveyed said:
“The direction the curriculum is taking is also becoming less and less inclusive for these children, meaning schools need to look at alternative interventions which cost money and teacher time.”
Parents of special needs children report widespread dissatisfaction with how schools service such students. Over three-quarters of schools have pupils have waited longer than they expected to wait for an assessment or care plan promised by the Children and Families Act.
Another major point of concern among school leaders is cuts to local authorities’ services for special needs students. 89% of those surveyed said that these cuts have had a deleterious impact on the support their schools receive for students with special needs. Fergal Roche, chief executive of The Key, said:
“These findings represent an important wake-up call from school leaders. Schools need adequate funding and a holistic, well-co-ordinated and resourced system of support behind them to provide effectively for children with SEND.”
The survey also highlighted the discriminatory outcomes of the SEND provisions. Support remains more prevalent for boys across all age groups. Specifically, 16% of boys with special needs receive services, while only 9% of girls with similar needs get what they need. Older students, such as those between 14 and 15, are more likely to receive services than younger students, and the likelihood of receiving SEND support peaks around age 9 and 10. Additionally, black students, those of Irish heritage, and Roma have seen the largest drop in rates of SEND support.
The report calls for an increase in funding and greater oversight. For its part, the Department of Education said that more money will be provided for students with “high needs.” For interested readers, the full report is available online.
The Key touts itself as providing “impartial, trusted leadership and management support to schools in England and Wales,” affirming a commitment to supporting schools and improving a range of outcomes for students.