Delays hit SEN support

27th April 2007 at 01:00
1 in 3 primary staff reports special needs pupils having to wait a year for statements

THOUSANDS OF children with special educational needs are waiting more than one, sometimes even two, years for extra support, leaving teachers to struggle on alone, a TES survey has revealed.

A third of primary staff said their pupils were waiting more than 12 months for a statement of special educational needs, which guarantees help and funding. And nearly 20 per cent said children were waiting longer than two years. The process is not supposed to take longer than six months.

There are more than 1 million special needs pupils without a statement in England, 15 per cent of the school population. More than half the teachers in the survey said that, overall, special needs provision was working well.

Nearly 80 per cent of primary and 70 per cent of secondary staff were helped by classroom assistants.

The findings are likely to increase pressure on the Government to review the statementing process, which MPs say is in urgent need of an overhaul.

A report last summer by the Commons' education select committee claimed local authorities had an "inbuilt conflict of interests" because they are responsible both for assessing children and funding their support.

The TES online survey of nearly 2,500 staff found only 13 per cent of primary teachers reported that their council kept to the six-month time limit. In secondary schools, the situation was not much better: a quarter said it took more than a year. The survey found that almost 20 per cent taught 11 or more special needs pupils in some classes.

Katie Gallop, a Year 2 teacher at Burdett-Coutts CofE primary in Westminster, said that although teaching special needs pupils was fulfilling and creative, the extra support provided by a statement was invaluable. "In one case it allowed us to move up from six hours of one-on-one support for a pupil to 20," she said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union said that the delays left teachers to address intense behavioural and learning problems at the expense of the rest of their class. "It gets to a stage where they are not teaching, but coping," she said.

Thousands of teachers will attend seminars in Manchester on how to succeed with every child at the Special Needs North exhibition today and tomorrow, organised by TSL Education.

Money in the bank, page 8

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