We have taken a quick look at the party manifestos to analyse what they say about SEND, education and disability more widely:
We have sifted through the parties’ proposals and compared them to our five pledges for SEND for the next government to address.
Driver Youth Trust welcome the Conservative’s opening passage to the education section in their manifesto, that they will be “a government unafraid to confront the burning injustices” including, “the stigma of mental health and disability discrimination” is encouraging.
It is concerning however that there is no mention of special educational needs and disabilities anywhere in the manifesto.
In the wider context, the party has set a target to get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years (p.57) and a green paper will be published on young people’s mental health before the end of 2017 (p72).
The Conservatives have various proposals on school types, admissions and places:
In our response to ‘Schools that work for everyone’ we noted how universities should look into how they support and teach SEND students. The experience of SEND undergraduates can vary dramatically depending on the level of specialist provision each institution has to offer. We especially encourage universities to investigate, through robust research methods, ways in which the attainment of SEND learners, such as those with literacy difficulties and dyslexia, can be raised.
Driver Youth Trust believe the plan to boost the number of faith school places by reforming the rules around prohibitive admissions new and existing faith schools can set is unlikely to boost social mobility. Furthermore, at both primary and secondary level, faith schools tend to admit fewer pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and fewer learners with SEND. On average, faith schools tend to be less representative of their local area at both primary and secondary level for pupils eligible for FSM.
The EPI has found faith schools educate a lower proportion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN)(16.8% at KS2 versus 19.7%; 14.4% at KS4 versus 16.6%)
Driver Youth Trust recognise the benefit, in terms of school improvement, of schools working together. There are independent schools with significant knowledge and expertise in teaching SEND learners, those with dyslexia for example, and we would encourage these schools to share their expertise more widely. It should not be forgotten however that state schools, mainstream and specialist, also have valuable expertise which can be disseminated.
We would recommend that the sharing of expertise, time and facilities between maintained and independent schools is explored within the context of building a sustainable, two-way relationships focused on the improvement of teaching SEND learners.
Driver Youth Trust is actively campaigning against this policy. As our fact sheet shows, grammar schools will not benefit SEND learners and evidence consistently shows how selection benefits affluent pupils.
In practice, we believe children with special educational needs will be less likely to pass the 11+ and therefore attend grammar schools (only 3.6% of SEND learners attend them presently). The focus on timed assessment will be a significant barrier, particularly for those with dyslexia and those who struggle with literacy. This will fuel the stigma attached to SEND learners as failures.
One of the biggest concessions in the manifesto which has been widely reported is the stance on school funding. Rightly so, this has been the focal point of the education debate in the campaign so far. Many schools are facing the greatest financial pressures since 1990 and with increasing reports on how this is undermining the ability of schools to provide for SEND pupils.
The IFS’ analysis of spending commitments in education found that under current plans for per pupil funding is set to fall approximately 6.5 per cent by 2020, and to around 8 per cent thereafter. Based on these figures, the think tank found the Tories’ commitment equates to a 2.8 per cent cut in spending between 2017 and 2021-22.
Increased funding will be a welcome sign to many schools, however, Driver Youth Trust would like to see a commitment to ring-fencing the SEND notional budget, something that none of the major parties have pledged.
A central theme in the training debate is the extent to which initial teacher training (ITT) prepares teachers to embed a graduated approach for learners with SEND, in classroom practice. SEND campaigners, including parents, highlight the lack of consistent opportunities available to trainee teachers to develop their practice in this area.
The Driver Youth Trust has been at the forefront of this debate since publishing The Fish in the Tree report in 2014. The report found that just 52% of trainees surveyed received any training on dyslexia and yet 84% thought it was important to do so.
The Conservative manifesto contains little mention of teacher training but the following commitments are given to support teachers:
Assessment has been at the forefront of Driver Youth Trust policy work this year. We believe assessment is important to establish an indication of how our children are developing the skills needed for later life. Measuring how assessment specifically affects SEND learners is vital however and ensuring appropriate test design and arrangements are in place to make the exams process as inclusive as possible.
The Forward,Together manifesto contains a number of proposals to further reform the assessment system:
The Labour manifesto contains one mention of SEND: “we will deliver a strategy for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff, so that staff, children and their parents are properly supported.”
The party is committed to “education, not segregation” on the issue of grammar schools.
The principle of “lifelong education” is extremely ambitious and is welcome, at present it is unclear where SEND would fit into a “NES” if a Labour government were elected on the 9th June.
The EPI found that Labour’s school funding pledge, to commit an extra £6.3 billion by 2021-22, represented a real-terms funding increase of 6% per pupil. However, the Think Tank has also warned that the funding proposed is significant and may not be affordable.
The amount of funding proposed is significant, which has been welcomed by school leaders and teachers alike. However, no specific proposals have been made by Labour on SEND funding.
Driver Youth Trust welcome the call to “embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff,” which is in line with our own position.
The Lib Dems would “ensure that identification and support for special educational needs and disabilities takes place as early as possible.”
They also state that “all new policies should have an assessment of how they affect pupils who have special educational needs, and ensure they adhere to duties under the Equality Act.”
“Ensuring that every child with Special Educational Needs or Disability has access to a mainstream education, in accordance with the UN Convention for Persons with Disabilities.”
“UKIP believes all disabled learners must have the legal right to attend either mainstream courses in mainstream education settings, or schools exclusively tailored to their needs. It should be their choice. To this end, we will reverse the policy of closing special schools, and ensure all other schools are accessible to disabled learners and that individual support is in place for each child.”
Read DYT’s election campaign and ensure your future MP will keep SEND at the centre of the policy debate.
Blog: Let’s make sure SEND is at the heart of the next government. Read here.