Teachers demand action on specialist SEN provision

Mainstream schools need more specialist provision to deal with the increasing number of pupils with special educational needs, members of a leading teachers’ union have warned.

Union members are alarmed about the “continual closure of special needs schools” and the increasing pressure this places teachers in mainstream classrooms. Three motions on SEN provision were due to be put to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference this week.

Ann Nash, an ATL representative from Bradford, said it was essential for the government to provide the necessary resources and staff training to allow pupils with SEN to “play an active role in school life”.

The conference is also calling for the government to address the shortage of educational specialists for younger children, such as speech therapists and educational psychologists.

“You want to do your best for every child, but when facing a class of 30 it isn’t practical to also deal with a very wide range of special educational needs,” Nash said. “Most employers would provide for continuing professional development, but many teachers are told to find their own.”

According to the union, availability of training and resources is not consistent across the country. Nash blames the increasing autonomy given to schools to decide their own priorities.  “It seems like the more autonomy there is, the less provision for special needs there is. Some local education authorities may provide more. But as specialist schools close we are generally losing much-needed expertise which is not being picked up by mainstream schools.”

Members will also vote on whether the union should oppose plans to charge for extended services provided by schools, and on a motion to lobby MPs over the Education Bill “in an attempt to persuade the government to see the folly of its proposals”.

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