Friday, 14 December 2007

SEN pupils 'given poor education'

Laura Clark in the Daily Mail writes about a report that states that sending children with severe special needs to ordinary schools condemns many to a poor education and disrupts lessons. Schools too often lack expertise and resources to cater for pupils with behavioural or learning problems, it claims.

The report reveals how growing numbers of pupils are being classed as having special educational needs, with schools seeking extra cash to help cope with them. One in five primary children is classed as having a behavioural problem, disability or learning difficulty requiring extra staff support. "Teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to support children with special educational needs in mainstream primary schools," says the report. The warning comes in a submission to a major independent review of primary education based at Cambridge University.
It questions the effectiveness of a Government drive to integrate pupils with special needs in mainstream schools in the name of 'inclusion'. Guidelines in 2004 stated 'the proportion of children educated in special schools should fall over time'. Ministers have since insisted there is no agenda to close special schools. The report claims the 'uncertain progress towards fully inclusive primary schools' is clear from the rising number of schools requesting help to cater for children with problems.

Government figures show in 2007, 19.2 per cent of primary pupils were classed as having a special educational need - up from 17.5 per cent in 2003. These range from needs requiring a formal statement to milder conditions. Problems with speech and language are among the fastest growing, although diagnoses have risen across the board, including behavioural difficulties. Some experts have criticised a "growth industry" of special needs as the definition of the term has widened to include conditions such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Critics have said assessment criteria are too vague and disruption in the class and poor teaching is increasingly attributed to special needs.

Today's report by Bath University academics suggests a Government emphasis on "whole class" teaching may be fuelling the increase in special needs by inflaming behavioural problems.
It also says exam league tables could be hampering efforts to integrate those with learning difficulties.

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