Just Great (Special Needs) Support

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School Funding SEND


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How will our government support vulnerable pupils post-COVID19?

In light of the COVID-19, our teaching profession faces its greatest challenge of all: How to reduce the disadvantage gap in our young people…

One of the greatest challenges all schools face is meeting the needs of every individual child, particularly supporting students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). It’s any school’s greatest responsibility and also one of the most difficult. Throughout my career, I have worked with many vulnerable children as I’m sure you have too, with many heartbreaking stories of triumph and tribulation. But, how will we provide more stories of success in the months and years ahead?

How can our school system support them all?

There are over 10 million children currently in our 32,000 UK schools. Of these schools, roughly 1,250 are special schools with an estimated 354,000 children and young people with education, health and care plans (in England) as of January 2019 (Department for Education, 2019d; see page 140). All of these young people require additional support and the number of difficulties, disabilities and conditions that come under the SEND banner are probably broader than most realise. Defined as having ‘a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age’ or have ‘a disability which prevents or hinders [them] from making use of facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools’ (DfE, 2014).

Statements of SEN and EHC Plans: England 2019

More important than ever!

Supporting students with SEND has always been a priority for teachers and schools, but it’s now more important than ever for all teachers and school leaders. With assessments for SEND at an all-time high and external agencies stretched to breaking point, teachers, schools and local councils are struggling to meet demand due to a lack of training, and reduced funding and resources – and this was the picture before COVID-19. According to the Department for Education (2019d), the number of children and young people with EHCPs (or their pre-2014 equivalents, known as ‘statements’) in England increased each year between 2010 and 2019. In 2019, this equated to roughly 354,000 EHCPs, compared with approximately 225,000 ‘statements’ in 2010. That’s a huge increase. Of course, it’s unlikely that the number of learning difficulties, conditions and physical disabilities has actually increased; rather, it is assessments that have become more common, due in part to greater understanding, awareness and openness about SEND.

What is the long-term solution?

As I highlighted in Just Great Teaching, ‘Quality-first teaching’ in the classroom is viewed as the answer, but there is sparse evidence to show how these strategies are designed to support the needs of students with SEND. Obviously, not all students with SEND will have an EHCP and schools still have a responsibility to provide SEN support for these students. All in all, whether a student has an EHCP or not, there is a huge amount of work to be done to ensure students are fully supported and able to achieve in school.

Additional teacher training is an obvious solution, but what might this look like in practice when schools fully re-open is another matter?

In the budget March 2020, literally days before the UK went into lockdown, the Department for Education in England announced that they would give schools £4.5bn in funding – after years of denying there was a funding shortage which is still £0.1bn lower than 2019. In 2018, a mere £350M was announced for SEND funding. I know many schools, unions and council leaders said that this funding wasn’t enough. I suspect post-virus, any injection of cash won’t solve the crisis that schools and local councils face in general, nevermind in relation to anything SEND funding or post-COVID19. The Local Government Association, argue that there is a £536 million high-needs funding gap in 2019 alone, plus councils are likely to have lost 60 per cent of their funding between 2010 and 2019 (Staufenberg, 2018). Sixty per cent!

So, unless something dramatic happens and the government pulls any cash out if its deep-burrowed pockets, it doesn’t look like the disadvantaged gap is a problem that’s going to go away any time soon.

Our schools cannot magically generate extra funding. However, once we do return to normality, every parent and teacher reading this should be shouting from the rooftops if we are to transform the landscape for our most vulnerable.

This is an updated extract from my new book, Just Great Teaching

7 thoughts on “Just Great (Special Needs) Support

  1. Cost will never stop being an issue. To hope for change is just that, hope. Obviously we as a society need to adopt a different set of values and priorities. In seeking ways around the problems, it might be a very good time to take a different perspective. Pursuing lost causes may be noble, but the word “lost” implies a sense of permanency.

    The reasons for the shortages is that we do not have the funds required to meet the current model and needs arising from that model. If funding will always be a battle (and it will), then what is left is to change the model. If we can be as effective, or perhaps even more so, then we have provided solutions from a different perspective.

    It always comes down to one of two options, increase funding or decrease spending, or a combination of the two, the path most often chosen. There are ways that I have been researching since I retired from teaching and coaching football ⚽️. (COYI)

    Funding overall is a challenge and specific subsets such as “special needs”, have it even tougher. If we just wait for increased funding, it will be a very long wait. It is also extremely frustrating to know that our fate and those of the children impacted, is outside of our control and always will be. We can change what we can control and that is what I have been digging into.

    I came into teaching (technology) from the private sector. In running my own business I was able to chart my own path and make on-the-fly decisions when, where and how they were needed. I found Education to be slightly different! I became locked into an inflexible system that had total control where some at the top felt they were the only ones capable of making informed decisions. Actually that should be expanded to uninformed decisions as well.

    I could see the waste, unnecessary duplication and the complete idiocy of many decisions and actions, but as a lowly teacher, my and others voices were not required, thank you.

    I have delved into many root causes of why we are and where we are and it has been quite a journey. Bottom line, a major overhaul of what we teach, why and how we teach and many other considerations is required and it is required yesterday. Small fixes and bandaid approaches simply will not work. They will be neither be effective or sustainable. We cannot deal with the symptoms, we must honestly deal with the root causes.

    Here is the sticking point. This would require ALL stakeholders at the table, with no limited agendas and a willingness to put it all on the table. Nothing is sacred or sacrosanct. A Socratic debate is required on our philosophy of Education and our rationale for decisions and methodologies. I believe that we have locked ourselves into a system that was structurally designed in the 1800’s. We have since added layers of red tape and “fixes” that have further muddied the waters. It has been said that it is easier to add than to remove. This applies to government and by extension, Education.

    In conclusion we have been the architects of our own situation. We need to own this and accept that we have to change it. While I would like to be an optimist, I am also a realist and pragmatism must rule the way forward. While waiting for the light bulb to go, we must make our own adaptations, just in case. If we take steps at the grassroots level, it would not only be more productive, it would also alleviate our sense of frustration by allowing ourselves a degree of control.

    There us always hope, but to be on the safe side, we need to deal with what we have, not what we want. We call that making judgement calls based on common sense, not passed down dogma.

    I hope this adds a little to the discussion.

    Bill Howe

    My website will be active in about a week.

  2. I have some thoughts. The next generation of learning spaces will take all the characteristics of an active learning environment—flexibility, collaboration, team-based, project-based—and add the capability of creating and making. To begin to understand the evolution of the learning space—the classroom—it is useful to revisit the seminal work of Jack Wilson, who developed the Studio Physics classroom at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the mid-1990s. His team-based concept paired two students with a computer to teach undergraduate physics. The very approach to learning will change. Namely, in the sense that there will be no obligatory performance of a task. More freedom – more results. For example, if you write an essay and you want to go to a professional quick essay writing service [removed link] you do it quietly and professionals do all the work for you. Employers and educators are increasingly placing importance on boundary-crossing competencies such as teamwork, communication, perspective, networks, and critical thinking across many disciplines. This model includes many systems and disciplines and requires thorough understanding and communication. Individuals with the abilities to bridge the traditional boundaries between disciplines have been referred to as “T-shaped professionals”

  3. If we drill it down to the most basic of needs for these children, I would start with quality book and reading experiences as well as vocabulary support (speech and language if needed). Reading and vocabulary ability age 5 is the biggest predictor of higher GCSE results (some research here to back up that statement: https://www.gl-assessment.co.uk/whyreading).

    Many vulnerable children will not have read or have been read to (or sadly been spoken to at length) for a long time and was a challenge to find time to hear daily readers in school with the curriculum being so full (although it’s a non negotiable so got done but not to the quality needed). Children should be picking up 8 new words a day until they are about 6/7 (from memory) . Many children don’t have a rich home vocabulary so it’s up to educators to bridge it because parents of these children literally don’t have the vocabulary or skills themselves. Therefore, I would advocate scaling back the curriculum and upscaling reading and quality text interaction as a starting point in order to make the gap smaller.

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