The National Union of Teachers has called for an end to the closure of special schools and “inclusion on the cheap” which, it claims, is failing children and putting intolerable pressure on teachers.
The calls came in the light of a Cambridge University report, published today by the NUT, which said mainstream schools are not properly equipped to deal with pupils with special educational needs.
The report claims teachers are regularly having to deliver specialist care services such as administering tracheotomies, changing nappies and dealing with challenging behaviour without adequate training.
It accuses the government of promoting market-driven policies on inclusion that adversely affected society’s most vulnerable children.
Primary schools were fared better in dealing with SEN pupils, but at secondary school pupils with complex needs, particularly mental health problems, were often not being catered for adequately. Schools had to cope with pupils with such severe mental problems as attempted suicides, schizophrenia and self-harming.
Staff often had to take on counselling and welfare roles without the proper training or even the knowledge of where the right kind of professional help could be found for these young people.
The report concluded that the government’s market driven policies on inclusion impacted on the most vulnerable children and young people.
Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, called for a halt of the closure of special schools and for greater protection of existing SEN services. He said: “The commitment of staff and parents to youngsters with special needs shines out. But many are being let down by inclusion on the cheap.
“It is vital that the government conducts a root and branch independent review of inclusion policies and practice. It must put an end to the stress and strain experienced by teachers, support staff, parents and youngsters alike. All children are entitled to high quality teaching and learning and high standards in every classroom.”
The parliamentary Education and Skills Committee is expected to complete its inquiry into special educational by the end of June.