Pupils with special needs ‘forgotten’ as English schools reopen

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Pupils at special schools in England have been “forgotten about” in the rush to restart full-time education, with 20,000 children with special needs unlikely to return to school because of safety concerns, according to a study.

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) said they were concerned about sending their children back to school in September because their children were medically vulnerable or because their child’s needs mean they cannot adhere to social distancing and safe practice.

Headteachers at more than 200 schools and colleges in England told researchers the government’s guidance had been unclear and showed a lack of understanding of how special schools work, the types of pupils they support, and how much they rely on other key services including healthcare and local charities.

Amy Skipp, the director of ASK Research, who led the project, said: “Heads and parents told us repeatedly how they felt forgotten about. Messages from government and the issued guidance have been so confused for children with special needs who faced an impossible situation over the last few months.”

Skipp said those children would often not be able to access the support they needed despite schools reopening.

“Parents should not be being asked to choose between their child’s health and their education,” Skipp said.

“Many special schools have shown amazing innovation and commitment during lockdown with staff going above and beyond to help these families. Government should learn from what has worked, and reflect this level of commitment by acting now, making specific guidance for these settings and providing the additional resources they will need.”

Tulip Siddiq, the shadow children’s minister, said: “There are serious concerns that this lack of Send support could lead to some children having to miss out on vital education and a rise in school exclusions. This would be a devastating outcome for children with Send, many of whom have seen their physical and mental health deteriorate in recent months.

“Ministers must work harder to ensure that all children can get back to school safely. That means providing better support and guidance so that the needs of vulnerable children and those with Send can be met in all schools.”

Source: The Gaurdian

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