Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Special schools coalition urge next government to reform SEND system

The National Association of Special Schools (NASS) is calling on the next government to remove the barriers which are stopping young people with SEND from accessing a good education.

The membership organisation, which represents more than 400 special schools, says the next government must bring about the changes within their first 100 days in office in order to improve outcomes for children with SEND.

Special schools coalition calls for six key actions

In order to build a better SEND system, NASS is calling on the government to implement six key actions. This includes:

  1. Establishing a Cabinet Level Minister for Children, Young People and SEND, to ensure the voices of children and their families are heard.
  2. Upholding the Children and Families Act 2014 which states that the choice of placement should enable the achievement of the ‘best possible’ outcomes for children and young people with SEND.
  3. Commissioning a strategic review of special schools.
  4. Pausing financial interventions with local authorities that risk them breaking SEND law.

Research shows nearly one in 10 (9%) teachers left the profession in 2021/22, with over one third leaving within six years of qualifying. NASS are therefore also calling on the government to develop an ambitious and sustainable education workforce strategy.

In developing this strategy, NASS says the government should work with the sector to identify the skills, training, qualifications and support needed to improve the capability and capacity of leaders, teachers, care and support staff.

The special schools coalition also wants to see more research into the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people with SEND. One study showed that nearly 40% of children with SEND had an overall wellbeing rating indicating possible depression, twice as many as those without SEND.

NASS says schools often bridge the gap by providing mental health support while young people wait to receive NHS care, and more research into this area would help to identify and create best practice interventions which have the greatest impact.

The right support can transform the lives of children and young people with SEND

Claire Dorer OBE, CEO at NASS says it is high time children and young people with SEND have their needs placed at the centre of policy, and ‘urgent action’ is required in order to improve outcomes for this group.

She said: “We know that the right education, health and social care support can be absolutely transformative for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. That’s something we see real evidence of every day from our diverse membership of non-maintained special schools, independent special schools and special academies. However, those successes are too often in spite of the SEND system and not as a result of it.

“Far too many children and young people are still being failed by the SEND system. It’s time for us now to work together for real change.

“We must remove the barriers that are stopping children and young people with SEND from achieving the best possible outcomes. Importantly, we also need to support the special schools who play such a vital role in supporting them in meeting those outcomes.”

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