A PGCE top-up training course for SEND – similar to a Pass Plus driving course, but for teaching – will help to fill vacancy rates in special schools, the forum heard.
Adam Boddison, chief executive of the National Association for Special Educational Needs (Nasen), told the Westminster forum that a specialist training pathway would improve the quality of SEND teaching and encourage more graduates into the historically undersupplied sector.
He also suggested a “supercharged pupil premium” ring-fenced for SEND spending to buffer funding and recruitment issues.
“There is an opportunity now for us to do something where graduates top up their masters credits with a ‘PGCE Plus’ where there is a specialism that could be SEND.
“I use the analogy of the Pass Plus driving licence, where you pass the test and then you actually learn to drive [better].
I use the analogy of the Pass Plus driving licence, where you pass the test and then you actually learn to drive
“We are moving away from qualified teacher status to a more graduated entry to the profession, and the idea of the ‘PGCE Plus’ goes with the grain of that.”
Funds for SEND pupils also ought to be ring-fenced and monitored, as with the pupil premium for children on free school meals, he said.
“If you think about the impact that the pupil premium has had, not just by ring-fencing the budget, but making it statutory to monitor how it is spent, then imagine if schools also had to say ‘this is how much we have chosen to invest in SEND, this is what we spent it on’.
“Governors and others would have a duty to monitor it. That would really focus hearts and minds.”
Recruitment figures for the special school sector reveal slightly more vacant teaching posts compared with mainstream schools.
John Howson, an education data analyst who runs jobs website Teach Vac, said that one of the reasons for historically poor recruitment in SEND schools was “nowhere near good enough professional development to allow an easy transition over from mainstream into SEN. There’s always been that difficulty.”
Boddison also said national funding was needed for pupils who fell “just below the threshold” required for an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), a form of needs statement under the 2014 Children and Families Act.
A Department for Education spokesperson said the vacancy rate for the sector was low “at under 0.5 per cent” but added, “we are not complacent”.
A new framework of core content for teacher training was published in July this year, the spokesperson said, which included detailed content on SEND provision.