Are the recent Ofsted findings a true representation of SEND provision in mainstream schools?

Special needs pupils without care plans 'vulnerable' - BBC News

A report published on the 13th of May by Ofsted claims that some SEND pupils in mainstream schools are ‘missing out on specialist support’ in their learning and development.

Around 1.4 million pupils in English schools have an identified special educational need. There are four areas identified in the SEND code of practice:

• Communication and interaction
• Cognition and learning
• Social, emotional, and mental health difficulties
• sensory and/or physical needs.

Oftsed carried out a study of 21 pupils with SEND in mainstream schools, the study was on these schools and pupils families, many of whom experienced and continue to experience long wait times for support and high levels of bureaucracy in the education, health and care plan process. This study was carried out before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Several important issues were identified around how these SEND pupils receive this in-school support. 

Ofsted subsequently found weaknesses to be within:

• Gaps in teachers’ or staff’s understanding of pupils’ needs has a negative impact on children’s experiences at school and their learning and development.
• Almost all pupils who took part in the research, including those on SEND support, had teaching assistants (TAs) allocated to them. In a small number of cases, pupils had become over-reliant on their TAs, which could potentially impact on their ability to develop independence.
• Occasionally, schools were teaching a curriculum that was not properly sequenced or well matched to pupils’ needs. A few pupils did not have the background knowledge and skills required, due to missed learning or unmet needs.
• Some parents and carers took part in decision-making around special education provision. However, others felt that they were not given enough information about their child’s learning and development, or the opportunity to input into support plans.
• Some SENCos were also full-time class teachers. This suggests that they may not have enough time to fully support pupils with SEND at their school.

Staff in schools tried to understand the pupils and their needs, however gaps were identified in the understanding of these pupils’ needs. Schools often made sure that they put the pupil first when they were identifying the pupil’s needs and planning, but staff did not always know the pupils enough to do this well.

As a result of these findings, Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director for Education, stated

“Effective joint work between schools and other services, especially including health, is also critical to children’s learning and development”. He continued to say that these findings “will be really valuable as we continue to build on our inspection practice and develop the new area SEND inspection framework”.  

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