Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Special needs provisions 'weak'

Widespread weaknesses exist in the quality of provision for children with special educational needs in England, Ofsted says

Widespread weaknesses exist in the quality of provision for children with special educational needs in England, with many pupils put into this category as a result of poor teaching, according to a new report.

Good quality provision coupled with effective identification of children with special educational needs is "not common", according to a review carried out by education watchdog Ofsted.

The review added that many pupils would not be identified as having special educational needs (SEN) if schools focused on improving teaching and learning for all.

As many as half of all pupils identified for School Action, the lowest SEN category, would not be identified as having these needs if schools focused on improving teaching and learning for all with individual goals for improvement, the report said.

Ofsted inspectors examined provision to the age of 19 years old, carrying out 345 case studies and visiting 22 local authorities, 228 nurseries, schools and colleges. Their report found "poor evaluation" by a wide range of public agencies of the quality of the additional support provided for children and young people.

Currently 1.7 million school-age children, or just over one in five pupils in England are identified as having special educational needs. The proportion of pupils with a statement of special educational needs has slightly decreased from 3% to 2.7% since 2003.

Brian Lamb, who last year carried out a review for the Government of parents' views of the SEN system, challenged Ofsted's claim that large numbers of children were being wrongly classed as needing special help.

Mr Lamb told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "As Ofsted shows itself, there is both over-identification in some areas and under-identification, so there's swings and roundabouts on that. I am not sure how they can be so precise that there is that many children being over-identified. I am sure some are, but it can't be that figure."

Alison Ryan, education policy adviser at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "Ofsted's report makes for interesting reading, but there are some notable omissions, in particular the need for a greater emphasis on SEN in teachers' initial training and continuing professional development, and the impact of the current high-stakes accountability system on school decisions.

"Ofsted needs to do more than say what schools should do and identify 'poor practice'.

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