Schools are struggling to help children with special needs, says teacher

A teacher and governor says schools are in a “really bad situation” as they don’t have the staff or funding to help children with special needs.

Thursday, 7th November 2019, 9:27 am
Updated Thursday, 7th November 2019, 11:25 am
Peter Naldrett

Peter Naldrett says there is a lack of specialist staff, teachers are overworked, there is no funding and parents are stressed.

And there is an “explosion” as children leave primary school because secondary schools don’t have the same SEND provision for them.

Mr Naldrett spoke out as the children’s scrutiny board discussed whether teachers needed more training to help SEND pupils.

“The situation in schools for children with specific needs is far worse than anything this report implies,” said Mr Naldrett.

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“It’s really bad and if you are a parent of a child with special needs, it’s a major source of stress.

“It’s very important about the transition from primary to secondary. Children go through primary school and won’t know what’s hit them at secondary. It’s an explosion because it’s so different.

“There’s been a focus on getting Education and Health Care reports better and done on time but there are loads of parents out there who have battled for the plan and when it comes it’s another battle to actually get the recommendations in schools.

“It may say things in there that’s completely impractical in schools because there is not enough money.”

Mr Naldrett said budget cuts had made a huge impact on schools as specialist staff were the first to be made redundant.

“I started teaching in 2002 and looking back it was like a different country. In some classes you had two experts who had been trained to cope with children with particular needs, they were specialists and had specialist training and stuck with that child the whole time.

“The situation now is that those people have disappeared. They were the people seen as disposable when redundancies were made.

“You have a very limited number of mentors and teaching assistants in secondary schools and those are given to English, Maths and science.

“As a geography teacher, I look at the special needs register at the beginning of the year, I see pupils who desperately need help in the lesson but you’re not a priority so they don’t get it.

“Children get help in one lesson then there’s no help in another lesson. There’s a discrepancy there.”

Mr Naldrett also spoke out against the idea that teachers should be upskilled to deal with SEND children.

“We have mentioned providing skills to teachers so they are equipped to deal with special needs kids but teachers aren’t robots, they can’t do it. It’s impossible.

“You have 30 children for an hour, then you don’t see them until the next week. The bell rings and another 30 come in.

“You can equip teachers as much as you want but if there’s not that extra support with funding you will have kids who don’t have EHC plans who are massively impacted too because the teachers are doing the job of teaching assistants and mentors as well.

“The situation in schools is poor, it’s really bad. I share a lot of empathy with parents who are trying to get the recommendations of EHCs met but if there are not resources it’s really impossible.”

Following the meeting, Mr Naldrett said teachers were in a very difficult situation. “There is chronic underfunding in Sheffield. There are children who need a teaching assistant all the time and some don’t get one at all, or maybe just get one for the key subjects.

“If you have a child in Y9 who has the reading and writing ability of Y3 but you have no help, then either you have to spend a lot of one to one time with them or let them down. And if you do focus on them there are another 31 pupils in the class.

“Imagine then that there’s not just one child with educational needs, but two or three. And you only have them for 50 minutes once a week in secondary school. It is impossible and teachers are in desperate need of more experts to help in class.”