By Sheila Mckenzie-
NEU members have condemned the current support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) with 92% of them insisting that the next Government must provide more funding in order to improve the situation.
In terms of their rating of the Government’s support to SEND pupils, 67% of respondents rated performance “Poor”, 31% “Requires Improvement, 2% “Good” and an absolute zero for “Outstanding”.
The survey also found that 88% of respondents believe the challenges to supporting SEND pupils have become worse since 2015, with 53% of all respondents saying it has got ‘a lot worse’. Just 7% had witnessed an improvement.
This survey of National Education Union members, released today, highlights the challenges facing schools in meeting the needs of children with SEND. 62% of respondents are head teachers and 61% serve as Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCO) in their school, lending weight to the significant concerns expressed.
In relation to the barriers to effective support for SEND pupils , 89% said funding levels were a barrier, and that this had worsened. 59% of all respondents believe it has got ‘a lot worse’.
LSA and TA staffing numbers had improved for just 4% of respondents. A far greater number – 79% – had seen a reduction at their school.
76% have witnessed longer waiting times for SEND assessment, and 91% stated that waiting times for access to support services (CAMHS/BSS/EPS) have worsened too. 42% stated that class sizes had gone up in their school. Just 2% had seen an improvement.
It can be inferred that an increase in class size and reduction in LSA/TA staff reduces contact time: 63% of respondents confirmed a reduction in small group or 1:1 intervention at their school. Inflexible curriculum and a toxic testing culture remain a negative factor, with respondents saying they are getting worse (46% and 58% respectively).
Respondents complained of increasing challenges that call for greater support of SEND pupils, and what those young people are missing out on.
“All external agencies seem to be increasingly under pressure and so the threshold for referral is higher and waiting lists longer.”
“Funding for EHCP and actually getting an EHCP is incredibly difficult. Mainstream schools are being asked to teach more complex needs pupils but without the staff, training or money.”
“School budgets are so tight that it is impossible to fund support staff, interventions and the purchasing of resources to fully support the pupils who are struggling to learn and cope emotionally. We are expected to support pupils who have severe learning and/or behavioural difficulties without the support network to do so. Staff are feeling increasingly under pressure as a result.”
“Funding, staff, skills for the increasing complex needs are lacking across the board and teachers/teaching assistants remain squeezed.”
“We have a lot more children with SEN and have had to reduce the number of teaching assistants we have due to budget restrictions.”
“Children are displaying a wider range of needs which require specific knowledge from the staff working with them. There is training out there but the cost to send someone for this is high.”
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said about the findings of the survey:
“It should be a point of shame for the Government that so few education staff believe it is up to the task of providing for SEND pupils. If this truly were an Ofsted adjudication, the Department for Education would be in special measures by now.
“Every child with SEND should have access to the provision they deserve, but it is all too often the case that parents and teachers are confronted with barriers.
“The campaign for more funding has made significant gains but it has not gone far enough. It is quite clear that the Government’s strategy is failing, and much more needs to be done to ensure that every child gets the support needed. We are still £1bn short of funding to properly support SEND children in schools
“It would be a grave error to underestimate the strength of feeling amongst parents of SEND pupils. Parents, heads, teachers and school staff are listening closely to the pledges of each party in this election. If you value education, you must vote for education.”
The online survey of 318 members was conducted from 7-11 November 2019. 66% of respondents are based in maintained primary schools, 15% in secondaries, 4% all-through, 6% early years, and 9% special schools.