Inclusive education – UK Government assessment
In England, despite the implementation of wide-ranging reforms since 2014, children with special educational needs (SEN) and disability (SEND) still face disparities of outcome in relation to the right to education. The number of children with SEN being educated outside of mainstream schools is growing and is likely to increase further with over 3, 000 new places being created in special schools. The coronavirus pandemic has created significant additional challenges, and the reduction of support provision during the pandemic has had a significant impact on children and families.
- In England, the number and proportion of pupils with SEN has increased nationally. Both the number and proportion of children with SEN educated in special schools has increased between 2016-17 and 2019-20.
- The UK Government’s plans to increase the number of special school places, is in contradiction of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).
- SEND is more prevalent in certain groups including boys, those eligible for free school meals, and ethnic minorities including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children and Black children.
- Evidence shows that children with SEND are disproportionately likely to be excluded from school, with concerns that some schools have used unofficial exclusions by asking parents to take children home.
- The number of children being educated at home is growing and children with SEND account for a disproportionate proportion of them.
- Commitments for increased SEND funding from 2020-21 are welcome, but research suggests there will still be a local authority high-needs funding shortfall of £889 million by 2020-21 in England.
- Following concerns about the use of restraint on children with SEND in schools and the absence of official data, we will hold an inquiry into the recording practices of schools in England and Wales.
- An inquiry by the Education Select Committee found that significant challenges remained in ensuring appropriate support provision for children with SEND in mainstream schools in England, while research suggests that schools are failing to meet their duties to produce accessibility plans for disabled children.
- The Education Select Committee highlighted barriers to providing appropriate redress and remedy to families that challenge the extent of SEND provision.
- The pandemic has had a significant impact on disabled children’s right to education in England – despite £1 billion additional funding to support children to catch-up on missed education, the modifications of legal obligations to provide support to children with SEND has had a negative impact.
- There are reports that many children with SEND and their families had support withdrawn during the lockdown, with concerns that reductions in support may widen attainment gaps between disabled and non-disabled pupils. Furthermore, concerns have been raised that the response to the pandemic will result in disabled pupils being moved on a long-term basis to special schools.
- There have been reports that some schools in England failed to carry out risk assessments to ensure a safe environment for children with Education, Health and Care Plans before their return to school in the summer term 2020.
- The UK Government maintains a reservation to Article 24(2)(a) and (b) of the UN CRPD which calls into serious question their commitment to the right to an inclusive education – it is one of only two signatories in the world to do so.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on inclusive education.