Covid: ‘Forgotten’ special school teachers ‘struggling’

Lessons ‘desperately need learning’ after SEND teachers were left to ‘plug gaps’ in support services, warns report
3rd February 2021, 12:01am


Covid: ‘Forgotten’ special school teachers ‘struggling’
Special School Teachers Were Left To 'plug The Gaps' In Support Services In The First Coronavirus Lockdown, Says Report

The problems faced by teachers in special schools during the first lockdown have been laid bare in a new study.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation and carried out by ASK Research, the study describes “a concerning picture of teachers and professionals struggling to support pupils and their families”, and says lessons “desperately need to be learned”  for the current lockdown.

From interviews with more than 200 special school and college leaders and 500 parents, researchers found that special school staff were left trying to “plug the gaps” for pupils after health and social care services were severely reduced or stopped altogether.

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And teachers were also having to individually produce home learning materials for many pupils in order to meet their specific needs, as well as providing guidance and equipment to parents to help their children learn at home - all of which was “incredibly resource intensive”.

Coronavirus: ‘Little understanding’ for SEND pupils and their families

Amy Skipp, director of ASK Research, who led the project, said: “This research shows a worrying situation that has not been well-managed by government. The national policy has shown little understanding or regard for pupils with SEND and their families. Lessons desperately need to be learned, and fast.

“The current policy for this lockdown is that all pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) should be in school. Firstly, it is not clear if this is safe for staff, pupils and their families.

“Secondly, it is impossible for most special schools and colleges to provide without extra trained staff, space and resources.

“Given that not all these pupils can be in school full-time - including those who are medically vulnerable - special schools and colleges need extra help to support these children at home as well as their families.”

The study, which took place between June and August last year, sets out 10 recommendations for the government during the current lockdown, including:

  • More school staff need to be available, including those with appropriate skills and training to support the particular needs of children with SEND to cope with higher than normal levels of staff absence.
  • Special schools and colleges, and families of pupils who usually attend them, need to be equipped to fully support some pupils with EHCPs at home.
  • Health, care and social support services for pupils attending special schools and colleges need to be maintained in any future lockdowns, including for pupils who cannot attend their school or college

One headteacher told the study: “With the changes to school, social distancing and shielding that have been in place, the days have been long and unimaginable at times.”

Another said “Within all of the outputs, special provision was not just an afterthought, they [the DfE] made it quite clear, yet again, that they have no understanding of how we operate and so we were completely forgotten about.”

The DfE has been contacted for comment.


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