According to statistics published by the Department for Education in 2015, more than 1.3 million children in England have been identified as having special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). The vast majority, 1.1 million children, attend mainstream schools, following the model of inclusion.
However, as reported by the BBC recently, a study by The Key, which is an organisation providing leadership and management support to schools, indicates that most mainstream schools do not have enough funding to adequately cope and care for pupils with SEND, as a result of insufficient budgets and cuts to local authority grants. This is despite the fact that the Department of Education says that it has increased funding for children and young adults with ‘high needs’.
Many children and young adults are awaiting assessments for Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) which were introduced by the Children and Families Act 2014 to replace Statements of Special Educational Needs. They are supposed to identify the needs of children and young adults up to the age of 25 years in a holistic way. It is clear that the timetable set out in the SEND Code of Practice is not being adhered to by many local authorities. Where children already have Statements of Special Educational needs and they are being transitioned to EHCPs, careful consideration of both educational and health issues is required and a ‘cut and paste’ job will not do.
It is reported by The Key that primary schools, in particular, are struggling to meet the needs of children with SEND, with long waiting times for EHCPs being widely encountered.
Alison Appelboam Meadows, a partner in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, notes: “As a firm, we act for a significant number of children with SEND. Assessing the educational provision required by a child with SEND is a key issue. It is vital to ensure that a child receives the support required to optimise their potential before it is too late. This may include one to one support or creative solutions to enable the child to access the curriculum in an appropriate way, while integrating with their peers.”