Making Education Truly Inclusive

By Dhruv Patel, CEO, Nisai Virtual Academy

The education of our young people has never been so important.


Due to the Covid pandemic many students have lost knowledge and skills impacting core competencies with many now facing increased anxiety and issues with their mental health. 


Those more likely to be left behind due to special educational needs, mental health issues or disability have been even worse effected. 


The outgoing Leadership team rightly committed to helping young people with SEND, producing a Consultation on the SEND Green Paper, that promised every child will get the education they deserve and that “there is vision, ethos and strategic direction in our education system”.


The new Prime Minister and their team need to take hold of the baton and run with it. They need to ensure that there isn’t just tinkering around the edges but a wholesale reform of thinking and planning regarding the education of the 1.4m children with SEND in the UK education system.


There is a massive discrepancy between the funding promised a child, and the funding they get.  In an oral question by Lord Kennedy of Southwark, taken on behalf of Baroness Ritchie, he stated that whilst the notional spend per pupil for SEN was supposed to be £6,000 per student, the current budget provided by the Department of Education meant per pupil spending was only £4,136.  This is no surprise, currently, each council spends a discretionary amount of their money on SEND which averages out at just over 11% of their education spend, as opposed to being provided with the actual £6,000 that the Government says should be spent on each child with SEN.  If the Government provided each council with money through a separate budget line this shortfall would simply be eliminated.


It must also be recognised that early intervention and diagnosis is vital.  The average age of diagnosis of autism for example is 9 years old in the UK.  This means that a child has been in the education system for at least 4 years and through the first set of their SAT exams unable to do themselves justice.  This is unfair and means that by the time a child receives crisis care, they may be too far behind their peers to bring it back and end up on a path which was totally unnecessary had they had earlier help. Therefore, educational settings need to really understand that every child with SEN is an individual and has the right to the best educational journey they can and there needs to be commitment through the whole system that children have the diagnosis they need as quickly as possible.


Of course, it needs to be remembered that schools are only following the lead of OFSTED.  At the moment, is a very closed parameter of what measures success.  Focus on grades above everything else means that deviation from this, even if it is to support the education of children with SEN, is often side-lined in comparison to the schools “main job” of achieving certain grades.  This is massively unfair and just consigns these children to an education that will not provide them with the cornerstones they need to lead a full life.  The Government needs to therefore give further direction to OFSTED that how a school teaches its more challenging students, and the “journey” those children make are as important in inspections, and as they function as a school.


This new leadership team can make the difference to these children. They are coming into Government with a wealth of feedback and information from sector specialists who want to help them help our most vulnerable children.  They need to use it.  They need to act now.


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