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Navigating the Challenges of SEN Provision: A Call to Action in 2024

Date posted : 11 January 2024

Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision in schools is a critical aspect of education that demands attention in 2024. According to the Department for Education, over 1.5 million pupils in England have special educational needs (SEN).  The prevalence of SEN in schools has been rising, with 17.3% of all pupils identified as having additional needs. This represents an increase of 87,000 from 2022.  

These statistics underscore the importance of SEN provision within schools. It's not just a matter of numbers; it's about understanding pupil challenges and providing tailored support to ensure their success. The struggles faced by pupils with SEN are many, and addressing them requires a holistic approach. 

SEN challenges for schools  

SEN is a broad term that covers any child with difficulty learning in school. Each presents its own set of challenges for learners and educators. These include: 

  • Dyslexia 
  • Dyscalculia 
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Autism  
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 

The SEND Code of Practice  groups needs into four areas to support schools in planning the provision that they offer: 

  • cognition and learning 
  • communication and interaction 
  • social, emotional, and mental health 
  • sensory and physical needs 

The Code states: ‘The quality of teaching for pupils with SEN, and the progress made by pupils, should be a core part of the school’s performance management arrangements and its approach to professional development for all teaching and support staff.’ 

The 2023 Pearson School Report showed that 69% of teachers said the current education system is ineffectively supporting SEND pupils in their aspirations and achievements. According to the report, 63% of teachers say their school’s insufficient support for children with SEND is a barrier to pupil learning. 

While SEN provision is a crucial aspect of the education system, it is not without its challenges. These include: 

Limited resources for SEN learners 

In many schools, there is a shortage of specialised SEN staff, assistive technologies, and dedicated spaces for bespoke learning. The impact of this shortage is felt by pupils and staff tasked with providing additional support. 

High classroom numbers 

Teachers are often stretched, juggling the needs of a classroom with diverse learning styles alongside an evolving curriculum. This can lead to teacher burnout and compromise the quality of education for SEN learners.  

The curriculum 

The Pearson School Report also reports that six in 10 teachers say the national curriculum supports pupils defined as ‘normal’ and not those on the margins. This was most reported by teachers in primary schools (62% as opposed to 49% in secondary schools). Teachers spend hours looking for resources or creating them from scratch, and despite curriculum design being complex, they receive little support in this area. This means there is not much time to tailor teaching to SEN learners.  

Specialist staff 

According to a 2022 survey by Sendco Solutions, almost every state school in England struggles to support pupils with special educational needs because of insufficient support staff. Support workers play a vital role in supporting children with complex needs. Over half of state schools are finding it difficult to recruit vital teaching assistants. The lack of support staff affects the quality of education that SEN learners receive.  

Inexperienced staff 

Some teachers have not been exposed to learners with complex needs. New and recently qualified teachers may find their first years especially difficult. Providing the right attention and adaptation can be challenging for teachers, especially with large class sizes.  

According to the School Budget, Challenges & Objectives Report COMPASS Autumn Term 2023 report, 83% of respondents reported serious issues recruiting classroom support for SEND.  

Beyond learning 

SEN learners have varying difficulties outside of the classroom, which can sometimes be worse than the learning challenges they face. This can be in the areas of mental health and behaviour. In addition to academics, SEN learners need support with other aspects of their lives, including confidence building and social skills. 

A legal obligation

All pupils have a right to effective teaching and full participation in a school's community. It is set out in international agreements (the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989) and education law in England (the Equality Act, 2010 and the Children and Families Act, 2014). 

Despite legal obligations to ensure that SEN students participate in education, varying levels of support from local authorities and the long wait times for assessments put strain on schools, educators, pupils, and parents. 

How Teaching Personnel Can Help

Teaching Personnel provides teachers, tutors, and support staff to primary, secondary, and special schools, academies, and alternative provisions (APs) throughout England and Wales. Daily, Teaching Personnel provides teachers and support assistants for special schools and SEN in the mainstream.  

Teaching Personnel delivers a specialist SEN recruitment service that places teaching and support staff in schools across the SEN sector. We work with mainstream schools, special schools, pupil referral units (PRUs), local authorities and alternative providers to improve outcomes. The staff we place have an up-to-date understanding of the latest practices in SEN education. 

We offer SEN support including: 

  • Short-term supply cover  
  • Longer-term temporary positions 
  • Pupil interventions 
  • Support for looked after children
  • Permanent teaching assistants, tutors, and teachers 

SEN Teaching Assistants 

Classroom assistants are a vital part of SEN provision in schools. Few roles in education are more integral than SEN teaching assistants. They don’t only support the teacher; they: 

  1. Help pupils with classroom tasks 
  2. Communicate with parents  
  3. Provide behavioural and emotional support 
  4. Establish a learning environment to address SEN pupil challenges.  

Tutoring for SEN 

While there are many different types of SEN, learners will have areas they struggle with, and there might not be enough one-to-one support in the classroom for learners to overcome these problems. For this reason, some SEN learners get left behind. Tutoring can help learners keep up with their contemporaries and enjoy being in the classroom more. 

Tutors differ from teachers because they support one learner or a small group of learners to achieve specific learning goals. They can tailor the experience to suit a learner’s unique learning style.  

SEN Teachers  

SEN Teachers are worth their weight in gold. They don't only teach learners with special needs; they provide the pupils with a sense of connection that can be difficult to find elsewhere. They create individualised lesson plans for each learner based on their abilities. 

Final Word

SEN provision is a crucial aspect of the education system that needs to be focused on in 2024. Pupils with SEND have the greatest need for excellent teaching and are entitled to a provision that supports achievement and enjoyment of school.  

In 2024, schools can play a role in creating an educational environment where every pupil, regardless of their learning needs, can thrive. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those with special educational needs. 

At Teaching Personnel, we understand the importance of SEN provision and the challenges that come with it. We’re committed to providing the best support to schools and teachers. Our team of education consultants work with schools to understand their needs and provide tailored solutions. Contact us today to learn more.  


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