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SEND Green Paper: how can we update the system to improve children and young people’s experiences and outcomes?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 23 September 2022

Photo: olly via Adobe Stock

 Jo Van Herwegen and Miriam McBreen.

Children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) too often report negative experiences of the UK educational system, and have poorer outcomes compared to their peers.

Responding to the Department for Education’s Green Paper on the future of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and alternative provision (AP), we consider how provision can be improved to ensure that more children and young people have positive educational experiences, as well as better outcomes.

In the first of three blogs, we propose ways to improve standards for supporting children with SEND, both during their time in school and beyond.

First of all, standards should be established to support pupils with SEND during transitions, such as the move from primary to secondary school. These can often be difficult for them to navigate.

Parents in our research study report increased behavioural difficulties during times of transition and highlight the need for better communication and advice from schools and local authorities about the process. We also found there is considerable variability in the information parents and students receive during school transitions.

Clear standards about the transition process should be drawn up and communicated in accessible ways. For parents, this could include infographics that describe who is involved and what information they should request or be receiving, while for children this could involve access to school visits, contact details of their main go-to person at their new school, and a transition booklet with detailed information about the school, including their timetable, school menu, photos of teachers, a map showing the toilets, canteen or lunch area.

Standards for continuing professional development (CPD) should enable teachers to adapt the support they provide to individual children’s needs. To close the educational gap between children with SEND and their typically developing peers, teachers need further training to understand SEND and how to support children in the classroom. Indeed, our research suggests that many teachers endorse incorrect beliefs of how children with SEND develop, which may lead to inadequate support being offered.

Accessing regular information about the brain and SEND has been shown to reduce such misunderstandings, as well as increase teachers’ confidence in implementing inclusive practices. That being said, there are still considerable gaps in knowledge concerning what works for those with SEND in terms of interventions and educational support for the different types of need. To inform effective and tailored recommendations, further research into what interventions and educational support works best for children with different types of SEND is needed. An in-progress meta-analysis by Dr Jo Van Herwegen and colleagues aims to address this.

Finally, standards are also needed to support young people with SEND after they leave school, to help them access apprenticeships. Programmes with individualised support that emphasise training for managers as well as interns have been shown to be successful and have led to permanent employment for some young people.

However, spots are usually limited and few established supported work internship programmes exist for young adults with SEND. One major obstacle to expansion for transition-to-work programmes in the UK is the lack of participation from businesses and enterprises in transition planning for young people with SEND. To address this, funding bodies for supported work internship programmes could provide incentives for businesses to partner with these schemes to hire more young people with SEND, and testimonials from interns and managers having gone through the programmes would help to demystify the process and encourage potential employers to participate.

There should also be rigorous evaluations of these programmes to see what works and what needs to be improved to lead to better employment outcomes. Employment outcome measures, such as percentage of interns employed after completing the programme and average salary of graduates, would provide helpful data on the effectiveness of these programmes; however, outcome measures focusing on graduates’ quality of life and job satisfaction are equally important in determining which programmes work best for young people with SEND.

Additional co-authors: Gill Brackenbury, Susana Castro-Kemp, Rosanne Esposito, Vivian Hill, Leda Kamenopoulou and Mel Romualdez



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