We surveyed ATL members to find out just how the SEND Code of Practice 2014 was being implemented on the ground. The results were stark.
Many educational professionals do not believe that the current arrangements for identifying and supporting learners with SEND in England work well enough: only 9% of respondents agreed with the statement 'I believe that the current system in England enables all children with special educational needs to be supported appropriately'.
Identification of SEND works far better for children and young people with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) than it does for learners classified at SEN support level.
Completing EHCP applications and related paperwork is very time consuming, and at times SENCos do not have the capacity to apply on behalf of all children that they believe to be eligible.
There is a lot of inconsistent practice in supporting and identifying learners with SEND at SEN support level. ATL believes that education professionals should be able to access high quality training on SEND throughout their career and be given the time to do so.
There is a significant cohort of learners who appear to have SEND but are not recognised as such by the system - these learners are being let down.
Identification and support of learners with social, emotional and mental health needs is not yet good enough; child and adolescent mental health services are not able to meet demand. Leadership of SEND is undermined by accumulating pressures of funding restraint, staff shortages, accountability measures and rapid policy change.
ATL members and SEND
Many of the survey respondents wrote detailed and thoughtful comments as part of their response to the survey, and made very clear that in spite of the challenges they face, ATL members are doing the very best that they can.
Often staff are spending their own money on training and specialist resources, enduring unsustainable workload to ensure that all learners get the support that they need, and, working hard to make the national curriculum, statutory assessments and qualifications as accessible as they can to ensure that every child and young person is able to enjoy and achieve in their learning. ATL members told us that the three biggest challenges faced by professionals working with SEND learners are:
- Lack of time to ensure that the needs of SEND learners are being fully met, for example a SENCo may not have enough hours in the day to complete EHCP applications for every learner that would benefit from one.
- Lack of funding to identify the needs of learners and put support in place. We have seen significant cuts to support staff, local authority services as well as nurture groups all of which play a key part in securing genuine inclusion.
- Lack of training on SEND for all educational professionals, especially leaders and classroom teachers. A lack of expertise in identifying SEND and supporting learners with SEND leaves many professionals lacking confidence in this area of their practice, and ultimately undermines the notion that “every teacher is a teacher of SEN”.
Until these areas are addressed then sadly there is every likelihood that the answer to the questions “Are SEND students being let down?” will remain a resounding “yes”.
ATL will continue to highlight these challenges to government and fight for every educational professional to be equipped to support the learners with SEND in their care.