Family & Education

Special needs deserves to be more than an afterthought

Head of Jewish special needs school gives her verdict on recently published Green Paper


The Green Paper on special educational needs and disability (SEND), published last week sets out the government’s proposals to ensure that every child and young person has their needs identified quickly and met more

These include:

establishing a single national SEND and alternative provision (AP) system, that sets clear standards for the provision that children and young people should expect to receive:

strengthening accountabilities and investment that will help to deliver real change for children, young people and their families:

and creating a single national system that has high aspirations and ambitions for children and young people with SEND and those in AP, which is financially sustainable.

One of the key challenges which was identified was that outcomes for children and young people with SEND or in alternative provision (AP) are consistently worse than their peers across every measure. This is unsurprising and hugely disappointing for those people who work within this sector as, for so long, it has felt that SEND and AP have been overlooked and disregarded by the English government.

This was clear in 2017 when the government launched its new GCSE grading system in England, which runs on a scale from nine to one, replacing the old GCSE grading system that awarded students letter grades from A* to G.

This changed so that the highest grade you could get is a 9, with 1 being the lowest; this allows the scale to be expanded beyond a 9 for the most able to achieve A** or even A***.

But students who are unable to achieve a one or a G were excluded from being able to achieve a grade, ultimately meaning that SEND students are ostracised from England’s formal, mainstream system.

While it is encouraging that they are planning on building expertise and leadership through a new national professional qualification for schools SENCOs, increasing staff with a SENCO qualification, increasing investment and improving mainstream provision, through excellent teacher training and development; it is the same story for SEND as always — an afterthought with updates which has been obvious to all within the sector for years.

The government’s strategy is that “most children should be able to access the support they need through mainstream provision, without an EHC (education, health and care) plan or specialist provision”. In order to achieve this they need to include SEND students within their whole-school initiatives, not as an afterthought or side note through devising strategies or grading systems which exclude the most vulnerable in our society.

Dr Emily Haddock is headteacher of Kisharon Noé School in London

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