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New Research Identifies 10 Key Problems With SEND Support For Low Income Families

Research carried out by the think tank LKMco and published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that pupils from low-income families are more than twice as likely to require special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support compared to their better-off peers – while at the same time being less likely to receive the support […]

Callum Fauser
by Callum Fauser

Research carried out by the think tank LKMco and published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that pupils from low-income families are more than twice as likely to require special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support compared to their better-off peers – while at the same time being less likely to receive the support they need.

Based on a review of existing literature relating to SEND and poverty in the UK, the latest special needs statistics produced by the DfE and interviews conducted with 10 experts in the field, the full report [PDF] identifies 10 specific problems with SEND provision in relation to low income, minority and marginalised groups:

1. Identification 15.4% of pupils in English schools (1,301,445) have identified special needs, yet the process of identification remains inconsistent, resulting in instances of over-identification and under-identification in schools across the country.

2. Navigating the system Despite recent reforms aimed at making SEND support easier to access, the system as a whole is still hard for parents to navigate, with provision and services varying geographically.

3. Funding Recent changes to the targeting of funding at children with SEND, especially at local authority level, have practitioners and parents confused as to what support is available to them.

4. Early years High quality early years provision has shown to be especially beneficial for children with SEND and from disadvantaged backgrounds – yet the early years system remains fragmented and under-resourced, with high quality provision often remaining out of reach of families living in poverty.

5. Access to quality schools The report suggests that school admission processes throughout the UK work to favour parents with the resources to move to favourable catchment areas, making it harder for less affluent parents to access the SEND support they need. It also observes that converter academies have, on average, a 6.7% proportion of pupils with SEND compared to 9.4% in sponsored academies.

6. Overall quality of schools’ SEND provision needs to be improved While noting the high quality SEND support offered by some schools, the report’s authors point out that these examples are isolated, and that more needs to be done to ensure that SEND best practice is shared throughout the UK school system.

7. Parental engagement Parents of children with SEND – notably those on low incomes and with SEND themselves – are not always able to engage positively with their child’s learning. Schools and other settings must therefore try to improve how they communicate with parents of children with SEND, so that they are better placed to help support their children’s learning at home.

8. ‘Pushed-out’ learners The report cites the finding that 74% of all permanently excluded pupils have some form of identified SEN, and goes on to suggest that more support is needed in schools around transitions from primary to secondary, and from secondary to further education to ensure children with SEND are less likely to become marginalised.

9. Special schools The report cites the Carter review’s finding that SEN as particularly underserved when it comes to initial teacher training in England, and suggests better CPD and the national rollout of programmes such as the London Leadership Strategy’s SEN Leaders Programme and Achievement for All.

10. Ethnicity As well as some cases of children being over-identification with SEND due to characteristics linked with poverty, the report also points to concerns regarding black Caribbean boys being disproportionately categorised as having behavoural and emotional forms of SEND, even after adjusting for economic disadvantage. The report concludes that more understanding is needed of the links between ethnicity, SEND and poverty, particularly for children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

For more information, contact LKMco (www.lkmco.org / @LKMco) and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (www.jrf.org.uk / @jrf_uk)

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