School system failing pupils with additional needs, say leaders

'Rigid' assessments and a narrow curriculum have been criticised by survey respondents

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More than two-thirds of school leaders say they lack the support they need to ensure that pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are achieving their potential, according to a survey.

The survey also found that almost four-fifths of the 1,200 respondents cited concerns about the curriculum, including that it was too difficult for SEND pupils.

More than half – 56 per cent – of leaders believed the same applied to students with English as an additional language.

The findings, by The Key, which provides management and leadership support to schools, also revealed that 43 per cent of teachers believed students who focused on vocational subjects were being held back.

One deputy headteacher from the South West said: “The new curriculum is too difficult for some of them to make sufficient progress that is measurable.”

Another criticised the lack of adaptability for pupils with different needs: “Both gifted and talented and pupils with SEND are restricted by the ‘one size fits all’ mentality of the new curriculum and assessment without levels.”

Monitor SEND needs

Sonia Blandford, CEO at Achievement For All has said that the focus of the school curriculum must be relevant and attainable rather than divisive.

“To be socially mobile, every child needs to be included. A considered, realistic approach to improving outcomes for all pupils is needed, using evidence-based programmes to provide support for leaders and teachers at this critical time.”

This follows a report released in August revealing that many local authorities were failing to monitor the outcomes of students with SEND needs. The report also found out that many councils were often reducing pressures on their school budgets by hitting the needs of SEND pupils the hardest.

This latest report, however, also reveals that there are some initiatives to give additional needs pupils further support. This includes activities and whole-school assemblies for languages for pupils with English as an additional language.

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