Concern over fall in special needs pupils at mainstream schools in Doncaster

Education bosses have pledged to get more special needs children into Doncaster’s mainstream schools after concerns were raised over the numbers being sent to special schools.

Monday, 16th September 2019, 5:27 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 1:37 am
Stock picture of disabled pupils. Picture: Shutterstock
Stock picture of disabled pupils. Picture: Shutterstock

In Doncaster, the number of children with special educational needs – SEN – in mainstream education has fallen from 4,530 – 17.1 per cent – in 2012 to 4,010 – 13.8 per cent – in 2019 in primary schools.

And in secondary education the figure has fallen from 3,845 – 19.5 per cent – to 2,071 – 11.8 per cent .

This is despite the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014, which states that children with SEN should usually be given a place in mainstream classes.

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Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator at ALLFIE, said: “Parental choice is a myth – parents we know do not choose special school provision, they are forced into it because mainstream schools no longer have the money and support to implement inclusive education practice.”

She said the Government was dealing with a shortfall in SEN places by planning new special schools rather than funding better provision in mainstream education.She added: “This is no longer about austerity, but rather this Government’s on-going attack on disabled people’s rights to be included rather than segregated from society.”

Riana Nelson, director of children and young people at Doncaster Council said she was aware of the issue and committed to reversing the move away from mainstream schooling.

She said: “In Doncaster, we fully support the notion that children with Special Educational Needs and disability (SEND) should be given the opportunity to be educated in a mainstream school environment as stated in the Children and Families Act 2014. However, we are aware that over recent years, both locally and nationally, there has been an increase in the numbers of children with SEN receiving their education away from a mainstream environment. We believe this is a consequence of both national funding issues and decisions being made by school groups.

“We are committed in Doncaster to bridge this gap and reduce these numbers, and have recently developed a new SEND strategy which places the rights of young people to be educated at their local mainstream schools at the very heart of our priorities.

“The strategy will ensure that funding is used at an earlier stage to enable children to be able to thrive in a mainstream environment. In addition, the strategy also looks at how we can build the skills and knowledge base within our schools around SEN, one of the ways we are planning on doing this is enabling greater sharing of good practice between schools and a more informed approach to meeting individual children’s needs across the borough.

“During our recent Ofsted inspection of SEND services, inspectors were unanimous in their support for this strategy and very complimentary about the work that we have already done to ensure that provision and outcomes for children and young people with SEND is not only appropriate but of a high quality. The Ofsted report specifically spoke about how the voice of children and young people with SEND in Doncaster is given high priority and how they are listened to and able to influence the services they receive.”

The Department for Education said: “All schools must be inclusive of children with disabilities and 82 per cent of all pupils identified as having special educational needs are in state-funded mainstream schools.

“Additionally, we have created new special schools in response to the increasing number of pupils with complex special educational needs and are committed to delivering even more provision to ensure every child is able to access the education that they need.”