SEND review: Nadhim Zahawi says children with special educational needs have ‘lost confidence’ in system.
Click here to watch Ella-Rose, Nate and Jess on BBC Newsround meeting Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, or read the full interview below.
The Education Secretary has said too many children and parents “have lost confidence” in the support system for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
Last year, 1.4 million pupils in England were identified as having special educational needs (SEN) – the proportion has been growing since 2017.
A child has special educational needs if they have difficulties with communication, learning or a disability that makes it more difficult for them to learn than most children their age.
The government published its plan for the support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, called the SEND review, at the end of March.
The delayed paper is now open for consultation which means children with extra needs or disabilities, their parents, carers and the people who work with them will be able to give their views on what needs to change.
Newsround took three children, Nate, Ella-Rose and Jess to meet the Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and ask him some questions.
I like having a teaching assistant who helps me with my work.” Nate
Teaching assistants are hugely important to lots of children with special educational needs.
This is something that eight-year-old Nate – who has autism – is particularly concerned with.
He has a teaching assistant and he thinks it’s something all children with autism should be able to have.
There are 270,00 teaching assistants in England but not all children who need extra support are able to get one.
The Education, Health and Social Care Plan (EHCP) is a document which sets out the support a child is given.
It is up to the local authority to assess children for an EHCP, but some families struggle to get one.
Some families who are unhappy with an assessment or an EHC plan can appeal against it at a SEND tribunal.
This is what happened with Nate’s parents and like 96% of cases that go to court, the local authority lost which meant Nate was able to get a teaching assistant.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told Nate that parents having to go to court is “not right at all”.
He says at the moment there are different levels of support in different areas.
“In some areas they seem to get the support which is the right support for their son or daughter but in other areas it’s just not there,” he said.
Nadhim Zahawi says a national system would mean everybody gets the same support.
I use a voice recognition device but it took a really long time to get it, why is this?”, Ella-Rose
Ella-Rose is 11. She has cerebral palsy which in her case means she has some difficulties with co-ordination.
At school Ella says she used to only be able to write a few lines because she found writing so tiring.
Ella’s teachers and family knew that her thought processes were much quicker, and that with the right technology her writing could be much better.
With the help of the school Ella’s mum managed to apply to get the special software and equipment that was needed but although she started the steps in Year Two, but she was only able to get it recently.
She says the software and equipment has had a huge difference.
“I’m able to get my thoughts and my ideas on the page as I see them,” she told Nadhim Zahawi.
Ella’s mum says her teacher has noticed the difference.
“He said ‘her writing is amazing and could easily explore a role in writing in the future which made me feel very emotional,'” she told Newsround.
How can deaf awareness be improved in schools?” Jess
Jess is profoundly deaf and has had a cochlear implant since she was a baby.
Like Nate and Ella-Rose she goes to a mainstream school.
Background noise and people not facing her when she speaks are two things that make it difficult to learn.
Jess says her school have been brilliant in giving her support but with substitute teachers and new teachers she often has to explain her needs.
Nadhim Zahawi says the best way to improve deaf awareness in schools is to make sure learn from the “confident well trained teachers” and “share that with the rest of the school system”.
He says the government has invested in teacher training and he believes “every school should have the training and confidence to be a really great special educational needs schools”.
For Jess having a teacher who is deaf aware makes a big difference.
“It’s good that they understand how to teach me and if I have a problem how to help,” she said.
Nadhim Zahawi said: “Far too many parents and children have lost confidence in the system”.
There are lots of different views on how the system should change for children with special educational needs.
The SEND review which was published at the end of March had some ideas of what should change, but not everybody agreed with the plans.
Stephen Kingdom from The Disabled Children’s Partnership, which is a coalition of lots of charities and organisations, said: “We can see a lot of work has been put into the government’s proposals but we are worried that some of the suggestions will make it harder for disabled children to receive the support they need and deserve.”
Some of the issues he says charities have raised with the organisation include concerns that money will be allocated in broad bands and not based on each child’s needs, and that families might not have anyone to complain to if councils don’t give children the right support.
Children, parents, carers and people that work with children with educational needs are now being asked to respond to a consultation and give their view of what should change.
“I want to hear the voice of children and their parents in this consultation,” Nadhim Zahawi told Newsround.