Special-needs policy is failing pupils, conference hears
Government policies for pupils with special needs have led to a failing system of "education on the cheap" and should be scrapped, teachers at the NASUWT conference in Bournemouth said this week.
The union's delegates voted to campaign against the "postcode lottery" of special educational needs provision and have called for an end to the closure of special schools.
They heard that unqualified staff, such as higher-level teaching assistants, were increasingly being employed to work with challenging children, and that a lack of resources and cash had led to mainstream schools not being able to meet children's specialist needs. The union plans to raise these concerns with the Government.
Delegates said there was increasing political pressure on local authorities to reduce the number of special-needs statements issued.
Celia Foote, a delegate from Leeds, criticised the "parsimonious, piecemeal approach" to inclusion and other educational developments, such as the national curriculum, that had exacerbated the problem and "destabilised" teachers. She condemned the culture of providing "cheap" teaching for children with special needs.
"The Government is also increasingly taking control of teacher training, and this means SEN training becomes an afterthought," she said.
Jennifer Derbyshire, a delegate from Sheffield, said the programme of inclusion was failing. "Every one of us has a strong belief that children should be educated with their peers, but this isn't for everyone and you can't get rid of other provision," she said. "We should be aiming for good education, whatever the need. When SEN provision is good, it's very good and loved by everyone. But when it's bad, it's a nightmare."
"If we want to give these children their rightful place in society, we must have the right resources, money and training."
The conference also heard that there has been a "sustained reduction" in education provision for vulnerable pupils in Northern Ireland and that teachers there are discouraged from getting statements for pupils because of the cost.