The vast majority of school leaders are worried about a lack of the funding and teacher training needed to help pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, new research has found.
The survey of more than 1,100 school leaders also reveals that schools are struggling to support children with SEND amidst cuts to local authorities’ services, delays to assessment and insufficient budgets.
It found that 88 per cent thought that initial teacher training does not adequately prepare teachers to support pupils with SEND.
One headteacher said: “Teachers cannot possibly have or expect to gain knowledge, experience and skills to cope with the many differing needs of children now coming into school”.
The survey found 82 per cent of leaders said their schools also did not have sufficient funding to adequately provide for pupils with SEND.
Cathy Earley, headteacher of a nursery school in the North West of England, said: “School funding is so stretched that schools are unable to absorb any additional staffing and funding demands for children with SEND.
“The direction the curriculum is taking is also becoming less and less inclusive for these children, meaning schools need to look at alternative interventions which cost money and teacher time.”
According to the survey by The Key – an organisation providing leadership and management support to schools – 89 per cent of school leaders believe cuts to local authorities’ services have had a detrimental impact on the support their school receives for pupils with SEND.
In addition, three-quarters of schools have pupils who have been waiting longer than the expected maximum time frame of six weeks for an assessment of special educational needs (SEN) or education, health and care plan.
The Key found that primary schools are under more strain than secondary schools when it comes to providing for pupils with SEND.
The results come more than a year after wide-ranging reforms to SEND provision, intended to ensure children’s needs are properly met, came into effect in autumn 2014.
Fergal Roche, chief executive of The Key, said: “These findings represent an important wake-up call from school leaders. Schools need adequate funding and a holistic, well-co-ordinated and resourced system of support behind them to provide effectively for children with SEND.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Just 20 months ago we made fundamental changes to the way the SEND support system works for families – the biggest in a generation.
“These put children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) at the heart of the process, ensuring that they are supported all the way through to adulthood. Since then 74,000 young people have been given personalised education, health and care (EHC) plans.
“Schools have a vital role to play in this work, which is why we’ve protected the overall school budget and increased the funding for children and young people with high needs by over £90 million this year.
“Ensuring teachers are trained to have an understanding of the needs of pupils with SEND is a key part of our drive to give all children access to the education they deserve.
“The education secretary has confirmed that SEND training will form part of the new core content for ITT. Further detail will be published in due course.”