Review 'fragmented' support for SEND and low-achieving pupils, says think-tank

The government must urgently review the “fragmented” support for low-achieving pupils and those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), according to a new report.

The ‘Educating for our economic future’ report also calls for better teaching in English, maths, technical skills and ICT, and better careers advice to help prepare pupils for the challenges they will face in a post-Brexit world.

Published by the Education Policy Institute and Pearson, it is the second report by an independent advisory body of business and education leaders, chaired by Professor Sir Roy Anderson, into the readiness of 18-year-olds for the world of work or further study.

It is imperative the government rises to the challenge of equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they need for the future

According to the report, SEND children are more likely to experience poverty and less likely to experience “a fulfilling education” or leave school with outcomes that will reduce their chances of living in poverty as adults.

Just 24.2 per cent of pupils with identified SEND achieved an A* to C grade in their maths and English GCSEs in 2016, compared with 69.7 per cent of mainstream students.

Although it commends the introduction of education, health and care plans for helping to foster high-quality provision for SEND students, the report warns that provision is becoming “more fragmented” and is affected by the changing role of local authorities and wider budget cuts.

Increasing school autonomy, which in some cases has “fostered innovation and beneficial arrangements for SEND students”, has often left support up to the school’s discretion, relying heavily on the leadership of teachers and heads, the report says.

The report presses the government to review its current approach to “supporting low-achieving, disengaged students and those with special educational needs”, and in particular, to take into account the impact of changes in local and national policy and the “increasingly limited resources” of local authorities.

It also highlights the need for young people to achieve necessary basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills, as well as developing financial skills. Just 40 per cent of 7- to 17-year-olds say that they learned about managing money at school or college.

The authors call on the government to create an independent panel to ensure curriculum and assessment policy decisions for schools “reflect the full range of society’s interests”, and to focus on improving the working conditions, development, recruitment and retention of teachers.

Anderson said the combination of Brexit, economic pressures and technological advancement means young people are facing “unprecedented challenges navigating the complex path from education into the workplace”.

“It is imperative the government rises to the challenge of equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they need for the future,” he wrote.