The system of providing help and support for children with special educational needs is “more adversarial than ever”, an expert has warned.
Jules Daulby, who is an expert in mainstream special educational needs and disability (SEND) and inclusion, has said that the system needs to engage more with families and teaching staff to be able to improve.
She has commented in a new study, published today by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp, which examines the state of SEND provision across the country.
In her commentary, Ms Daulby highlights the findings of the recent Commons Education Committee enquiry into SEND, which warned that a generation of children with SEND were not getting the support they need because of “a nightmare of bureaucracy, buck-passing and confusion”.
Lack of SEND support
Ms Daulby, who was the director of education at the Driver Youth Trust, a charity set up to support children who struggle with literacy, writes: “From this report, it’s clear that the system has become more adversarial than ever.
“What’s more,” she adds, “often the mantra in children’s services for intervention is ‘just enough, soon enough’, so families and children with special educational needs often don’t get help until crisis point has hit.
"If we are to have any chance of providing a better experience for families and children with special educational needs, we need to engage more closely with the families and teaching staff closest to the issue.”
The Bolt Burdon Kemp study also notes that the proportion of pupils identified as having SEND has risen for the third consecutive year.
In January 2019, pupils with SEND represented 14.9 per cent of the overall student body, while the number was 14.6 per cent in 2018 and 14.4 per cent in 2017.
Ms Daulby, a teacher who specialises in English, literacy, communication and inclusive practice, says: “It’s hard to know if there are more children with special educational needs now or whether the system is simply identifying needs better.”
But she also warns that some pupils with SEND could still be being missed as a result of reforms.
Children with SEND can apply for an education, health and care plan (EHCP) . These replaced statements of special educational needs in 2014.
The EHCP is a legal document that defines what a child’s education and health needs are and how they should be met.
Pupils without an EHCP but who have SEND should receive what is called SEN support, which is provided by their school and is usually developed through a school’s Sendco (special educational needs coordinator).
Ms Daulby says: “There are likely to be many children who used to be identified with SEN who aren’t now. SEN identification has gone from a five-stage risk classification to three stages and now to two: students who need SEN support and students who need an education, health and care plan (EHCP).
“As classifications change, children who previously had SEN support may find themselves being left by the wayside.”