Skip to main content

Lack of SEND support in classrooms 'dangerous'

Union warns over 'excessive waiting times' to access mental health services, leading to a 'terrible effect on pupils'

The majority of teachers say classroom behaviour has got worse

Union warns over 'excessive waiting times' to access mental health services, leading to a 'terrible effect on pupils'

Four in five teachers say there are not enough staff in their school who are appropriately trained to support pupils with SEND effectively.

A snapshot survey of 1,026 primary and secondary schoolteachers in England has also revealed the decline in numbers of teaching assistants – with 73 per cent of teachers saying there are now fewer TAs to support them, and 94 per cent saying this is having a negative effect on pupils with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities).

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, which carried out the survey, said: “The infrastructure to support SEND pupils is wearing away. Schools do everything they can, but the barriers and waiting lists created by this government’s actions, are having terrible effects on pupils who need help now.

“It is alarming that excessive waiting times are more pronounced in primary schools, where early intervention is so vital, and that so many children are on part-time timetables.”


Related articles


As highlighted in Tes, the latest annual figures show that the number of TAs has fallen for the first time – when experts say they are part of the solution to excessive to teacher workload and the teacher retention crisis.

And writing for Tes today, Emma Hollis of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers says too many teachers feel unprepared to teach pupils with SEND.

One teacher told the survey that “half of the teaching assistants were made redundant. Only seven TAs for nearly 800 kids”, while another said the “number of SEND support staff is a quarter of what it was 10 years ago”.

Another respondent said: “28 students on SEND register and no support. I teach a practical subject where it is dangerous.”

A total of 81 per cent of respondents said that there was “less than enough” staff to support SEND pupils effectively.

Other findings included:

  • Excessive waiting times for access to CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) or speech/language/behaviour support in 95 per cent of primary schools and 75 per cent of secondary schools.
  • Parents personally funding pupil assessments as local authorities could not afford to do so in 38 per cent of primary schools and 25 per cent of secondary schools.
  • 82 per cent of teachers said that Sendcos did not have enough time to support classroom teachers.

Last year the DfE put in an extra £350 million to support SEND but unions said it wasn’t enough

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our ambition for children with special educational needs is that they succeed in education, find employment and lead a happy life.

“To support this, the national high needs budget is £6bn this year and in December 2018, we announced an additional £250m in funding for high needs over this and next year which will go some way to helping local authorities manage their cost pressures.

“Headteachers are expected to use their professional judgement to decide the structure of the school’s workforce including recruiting, training and deploying support staff in a way that best meets the needs of their school and pupils. The Education Endowment Foundation offers the latest evidence and makes a number of recommendations to identify ways schools can deploy teaching assistants in different contexts to deliver high quality support to pupils.”

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you