08 Dec,18

Support for children with special needs is too

By: Shiv Pratap Singh

Thousands of vulnerable children have received no provision, watchdog's annual report finds

 

Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is too “disjointed and inconsistent” and diagnoses are taking too long and are often “inaccurate”, Ofsted has warned. 

The mental health needs of these vulnerable young people are not being supported, while children who have autism are waiting up to two years to be diagnosed, the schools watchdog warned in its annual report. 

In 2018, 2,060 children with an approved education, health and care (EHC) plan - which sets out their needs - received no provision, it said.

But many EHC plans have not been successfully implemented, the report warns, and consequently the gap in outcomes for children with SEND continues to widen.

And trend of rising exclusions among this vulnerable group continues, Ofsted has said, with figures showing that SEND are five times more likely to be permanently excluded than other pupils overall. 

Speaking at the launch of the report, Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, warned that the provision for pupils with SEND is "too disjointed and too inconsistent". 

She said: "Something is deeply wrong when parents repeatedly tell inspectors that they have to fight to get the help and support that their child needs.

"And I’m not talking about middle class parents wanting extra time in exams for their child. I mean adequate support for our most vulnerable children with SEND, which is a basic expectation of a decent, developed society. We need to do better."

 

Ofsted’s report also highlights the watchdog’s concerns about the number of children with SEND being moved off the school roll - a practice known as off-rolling.

Half of the 19,000 GCSE-aged pupils that dropped off school rolls between 2016 and 2017 did not reappear on another state-funded school roll.

Around 30 per cent of those have SEND, compared to 13 per cent of all pupils. Fifty-four per cent are eligible for free school meals, compared to 28 per cent of all pupils.

Inspectors said this was a “huge cause for concern” and suggested many schools were practising illegal off-rolling to boost performance data.

Launching Ofsted's annual report in London on Tuesday, Ms Spielman argued that children from poorer backgrounds, who face challenges at home or struggle with learning, faced a “steeper” path to educational progress than pupils from wealthier families.

She said: “There is a group of young people who seem to have the deck stacked against them. Perhaps the most important thing we can do to reduce that gradient is to get the basics right.“

 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This report shows that standards in our schools are rising with 86 per cent judged to be good or outstanding compared to only 66 per cent in 2010.

"It shows we have a robust education system – one where parents can feel assured that the vast majority of schools, early years providers, children’s homes and local authorities provide a high level of education and care for young people, regardless of their circumstances. 

“One of the key functions of a good regulator is that it highlights areas of concern and we will work with Ofsted, schools, local authorities and others to address the issues this report picks out.”