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‘Improve educational support for children with SEND’

Over 100 leaders from across the sector call on the Government for long-term support to be pledged

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Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are at increased risk of poorer educational outcomes without urgent action, according to a coalition of representatives from across the sector. 

Over 100 signatories have given their support to an open letter to the Government to say long-term is needed now to plug gaps in the specialist workforce supporting children in schools. 

The letter – led by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the National Deaf Children’s Society, Speech and Language UK and Voice 21 – highlights a series of inadequacies in the specialist support children and young people can access. 

While the need for specialists is increasing, insufficient numbers are being trained to meet demand, and many are failing to be retained, with high numbers leaving the public sector altogether.

This is having a knock-on effect on children, young people and families, with parents reporting that services are at “crisis point”, leading to “catastrophic” impacts on children’s education, mental health and wellbeing, home and social life, employment prospects and life chances.

The coalition – which includes charities, professional bodies and associations, trade unions and parent and carer organisations – is calling on the Government to clearly set out how its much anticipated response to the SEND Green Paper – a broad consultation on reforming special educational needs and disability (SEND) services that took place earlier in the year – will address this widening access crisis.

A wide range of professionals, including Teachers of the Deaf, speech and language therapists and educational psychologists, play a vital role in supporting children and young people to reach their full potential. 

In addition to helping teachers to develop their knowledge and skills, they also help identify needs early, giving children the best possible start and reducing the demand for more expensive support later in life, as well as helping more children to get support in mainstream schools.

Kamini Gadhok, chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, said: “Across the country, speech and language therapists transform children and young people’s lives every day by supporting them with their communication needs. 

“However, there are simply not enough speech and language therapists to meet the demand for their services and this has been made worse by the pandemic. 

“We urge the Government to use its forthcoming response to the SEND Green Paper and address this crisis by investing in and planning for a specialist workforce that supports the communication needs of children and young people to give them the best start in life.”

Jane Harris, Speech and Language UK chief executive, said: “At Speech and Language UK, our research shows that 1.7 million children are struggling with talking and understanding words. 

“Many of these children will need the support of specialists such as speech and language therapists and advisory teachers. Without this help, they are at risk of falling behind at school, developing mental health problems and getting into trouble in the criminal justice system. 

“The new Government needs to take urgent action to train teachers better and train more specialist therapists so that children with short and long-term speech and language challenges can get the help they need.”

Mike Hobday, executive director of policy and campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society, added: “Specialist support, such as through Teachers of the Deaf, is vital in helping deaf children to develop in their early years and have a positive experience throughout their school life, both academically and socially. But with Teachers of the Deaf numbers slashed by 17 per cent in a decade, the situation is getting worse not better.

“We urge the Government to commit to investing in the specialist workforce as part of its response to the SEND Green Paper. Without it, deaf children and young people will be left to play a perpetual game of catch-up with their classmates, with devastating long-term consequences.”

HIWIN

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