Down’s syndrome will now be included in the school census as a separate category with the aim of understanding how and where children with Down’s syndrome are being educated.
The Department of Education said that this will help meet its commitment to improve the life outcomes and opportunities for people with Down’s syndrome, to identify good practice and shape long-term services.
This follows on from the Down Syndrome Act 2022 which was introduced to raise the understanding and awareness of the specific needs of people with Down’s syndrome. It was first introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Sir Liam Fox, Conservative MP and former NHS doctor.
There are currently 13 categories for SEND on the census, such as “moderate” or “severe” learning difficulties, but there isn’t one for Down’s syndrome at the moment. Schools will be able to select the condition from the list from January 2025.
The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) said that this was “no bad thing” as it means over a period of time it will allow tracking of trends in movement between types of settings (mainstream and special schools for example) and across geographical areas.
But it added that the collection of new data in itself does not necessarily bring about meaningful change as inclusion in a school census will not automatically lead to a better understanding of needs, greater inclusion or improved outcomes for any students with Down’s syndrome.
It said: “As it stands, the single defining opportunity to improve the educational outcomes of this generation of children with Down’s syndrome is through the current SEND Review and its Improvement Plan.
“Like many organisations representing children with SEND, the DSA were extremely disappointed when, after much anticipation, the Improvement Plan was announced in March 2023 – this was a genuine opportunity to learn from significant failures in the past and present transformational change to a system on its knees.
“What we got instead were a set of plans which had some good ideas (and some bad…), but which overwhelmingly failed to acknowledge or address they key systematic problems at the heart of the matter – the need for greater accountability in the system, the lack of vital provision and support to meet the identified needs of children and young people, and the development of a genuinely inclusive educational system.”
Further information on whether this is likely to improve SEND provision and also the unintended consequences can also be found on the Special Needs Jungle website.