NAO report into support for pupils with special educational needs

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report into the support offered to pupoils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).  The  report finds that children with special needs and disabilities are being marginalised by mainstream schools in England.

The NAO accuses the government of misjudging the financial impact of its changes to education, with rising numbers of pupils with special needs unable to be accommodated in mainstream schools following a combination of funding strains, off-rolling and exclusions.

This has resulted in local authorities having to break their budgets to fund additional places in special schools, including in more expensive independent schools, its report says.

The investigation found that mainstream schools had incentives to avoid enrolling pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (Send), because of the additional costs imposed on school budgets and from the impact on the school’s league tables.

The government has made clear the importance of mainstream schools providing good support for pupils with SEND. The NAO heard concerns from stakeholders and directly from parents and carers about whether children with SEND are being supported effectively and about the impact of shortcomings in support.

The report assessed how well pupils with SEND are being supported. It examined:

  • the system for supporting pupils with SEND and the outcomes it is achieving (Part One);
  • funding, spending and financial sustainability (Part Two);
  • and the quality of support and experiences of pupils and parents (Part Three).

 

Report conclusions

How well pupils with SEND are supported affects their well-being, educational attainment and long-term life prospects. Some pupils with SEND are receiving high‑quality support that meets their needs, whether they attend mainstream schools or special schools. However, the significant concerns that we have identified indicate that many other pupils are not being supported effectively, and that pupils with SEND who do not have EHC plans are particularly exposed.

The system for supporting pupils with SEND is not, on current trends, financially sustainable. Many local authorities are failing to live within their high-needs budgets and meet the demand for support. Pressures – such as incentives for mainstream schools to be less inclusive, increased demand for special school places, growing use of independent schools and reductions in per-pupil funding – are making the system less, rather than more, sustainable. The Department needs to act urgently to secure the improvements in quality and sustainability that are needed to achieve value for money.

https://www.nao.org.uk/report/support-for-pupils-with-special-educational-needs-and-disabilities

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