An article published on 2 June 2016 by the BBC states that England’s mainstream schools are struggling to support the 1.1 million pupils with SEND, with primary schools taking the most strain.
A survey undertaken by The Key suggests that a high percentage of schools are struggling due to: insufficient funding, less support for SEND from shrinking LA services and delays in the assessment process for EHC plans.
EHC Plan Delay
We know the DfE has already invested £35.8 million in 2016 (with more to follow) on transition funding to help implement the SEND reforms, including conversion of statements to EHC plans. This is certainly a complex undertaking requiring specialist resources and time if it is to be completed effectively. Due to its complex nature, however, schools can understandably become frustrated by delays in the process, particularly when SENDCos are waiting for much needed additional resources to be released after a new EHC plan is agreed. Schools also feel significant frustration when a plan is not agreed for those pupils who pose a challenge in school due to their complex needs.
Reduction in Local Authority Services
The reduction in LA services has meant that more funds have been allocated directly to schools so they can meet the needs of groups and individuals more efficiently and effectively. However, whilst the budget allocation is where it is needed most, at the chalk face, there is only a finite amount of funds, and schools often seek advice on how to maximise its impact. I would agree with Fergal Roche, Chief Executive of The Key, when he says that schools need an “holistic, well-co-ordinated and resourced system of support behind them to provide effectively for children with SEND”. Many schools commission support from external agencies, replacing the once allocated LA advice with bespoke support from a provider of their choice; which can enable schools to create their own system of support in-house.
Teacher Training and CPD
Ensuring that all teachers are teachers of SEND is a challenge that all schools face and a good starting point is developing and implementing a well-planned system of CPD. Schools have been charged with implementing a new curriculum and assessment system and much of the allocated CPD time in schools is taken up with this. However, a regular slot of whole-school training each half term will support maintenance of expertise in SEND across the school.
Through my work with NQTs attending One Education’s “New to Teaching” networks, it is clear that there is great need for SEND training for those new to the profession and it is welcome news from the DfE that this will now be a part of the core content for initial teacher training. NASEN have released online training tools as a starting point for training teachers in SEND and there are many providers, including One Education, offering quality INSET to build on this initial training.
SEND Budget Planning
We often hear from prominent professionals, including Barry Carpenter CBE (who will be speaking at our SENDCo conference next spring), about the challenges schools face due to the complex needs of children in the 21st Century.
Whilst it is always important for schools to look at using budgets creatively, the survey does raise the question of budgets allocated for SEND and whether they will need to be considered more creatively to ensure that schools can use their “best endeavours” to support children in the future.
Authored by Anita Coleman.