NASUWT the teachers’ union
The largest union representing teachers and headteachers throughout the UK
Special Educational Needs
House of Commons Education And Skills Committee Inquiry
NASUWT’s vision for Special Educational Needs (SEN) is that:
schools are enabled to create an inclusive environment to meet the needs of all
pupils, including pupils with SEN;
every child has access to high-quality appropriate education, including specialist
specialist teachers play a key role in supporting pupils with SEN and the range of
provision available includes special schools;
SEN provision is adequately funded so that pupils with SEN receive the support that
best meets their needs;
there is a consistent and coherent approach to SEN across all national education
local flexibility, which operates within the context of local democratic accountability
and within a nationally agreed framework, results in high-quality SEN provision that
takes account of local context;
workforce remodelling is used as an opportunity to raise standards for all pupils by
creating a workforce that meets the needs of pupils with SEN;
new staffing structures give high value to SEN and include a senior member of staff
with up-to-date pedagogical knowledge relating to SEN; and
new staffing structures recognise the role played by support staff in supporting
SEN, and include support staff who will undertake the specialist, administrative and
clerical functions of SEN work.
Social partnership and the National Agreement
The National Agreement ‘Raising Standards and Tackling Workload’ provides
opportunities to remodel provision for SEN, which could lead to the delivery of more
appropriate and effective SEN provision in schools.
Competition versus co-operation
National education policies that encourage competition between schools militate against
co-operation and partnership and the delivery of effective SEN provision. In particular,
performance tables create a climate of competition. They also fail to recognise the
effectiveness of a school’s support for pupils with SEN.
Variation in quality of provision
There is wide variation between local authorities in terms of their approach to inclusion and
the quality of support that they provide. Local authorities may claim to provide a good
range of high-quality provision. However, there is significant difference between theory
Behaviour and SEN
The relationship between behaviour and SEN is extremely important. There is a growing
tendency to merge provision for behaviour with provision for pupils with SEN.
SEN training and continuing professional development (CPD)
SEN-related CPD is generally inadequate and often focuses on training, which is only
available as twilight sessions. School leaders often fail to prioritise SEN-related training.
the largest UK-wide teachers’ union
Initial teacher training and NQT induction fail to prepare trainees and teachers for work
with pupils with SEN.
Local authorities and equal opportunities
The shift in the role of local authorities from deliverers of education to commissioners of
education is extremely significant for the provision of SEN. Local authorities have an
important role to play in co-ordinating equal opportunities work, including equality of
access in admissions.
The role of the SENCO
The role of the SENCO needs to be clarified. All administrative tasks relating to SEN
provision should be undertaken by support staff. The role of the SENCO should be
undertaken by a senior teacher, who may also have other management responsibilities.
The SENCO should lead pedagogical practice in relation to pupils with SEN.
Integrated children’s services
Integrated children’s services, and the increase in multi-agency working, are placing
substantial burdens on schools and on SENCOs in particular.
Funding of SEN provision
There are significant problems relating to the funding of provision for SEN. These
problems concern the inadequate level of funding, the lack of transparency in the funding
process and the failure to monitor how the funding is spent.
The National Curriculum and SEN
The National Curriculum, variable resources, the emphasis on performance tables, and the
size of classes in some mainstream schools make it very difficult to meet the needs of
some pupils with SEN. This increases the risk of those pupils becoming disaffected.
Transition between schools
Transition between schools presents particular problems for many pupils with SEN.
1. NASUWT welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Education and Skills Select
Committee Inquiry into Special Educational Needs (SEN).
2. NASUWT is the largest union representing teachers and headteachers throughout
3. NASUWT has an active SEN Advisory Committee, which is made up of serving
teachers working in the field of SEN. Members of the Advisory Committee are
active in identifying issues and concerns affecting SEN specialists and mainstream
teachers providing support to pupils with SEN. Issues, concerns and good practice
raised by members of the SEN Advisory Committee and the Union’s wider
membership have informed this evidence.
Background And NASUWT’s Key Concerns
4. NASUWT believes that schools are most likely to provide appropriate support to
pupils with SEN if they are enabled to create an inclusive environment to meet the
needs of pupils, and where action is taken to remove the barriers that could prevent
pupils from participating. However, this does not mean that every school is
expected to cater for every child or that there should be an expectation that all
children should be, or can be, educated in mainstream schools. NASUWT believes
that every child should have access to high-quality, appropriate education. For
some pupils, specialist provision will be the most appropriate way of ensuring that
they receive this. The level of knowledge and expertise available within the school,
or through support that can be directly accessed by the school, will ultimately
determine the extent to which a school is able to meet the needs of a particular
the largest UK-wide teachers’ union
5. NASUWT’s vision for SEN is that:
schools are enabled to create an inclusive environment to meet the needs of
all pupils, including pupils with SEN;
every child has access to high-quality appropriate education, including
specialist teachers play a key role in supporting pupils with SEN and the
range of provision available includes special schools;
SEN provision is adequately funded so that pupils with SEN receive the
support that best meets their needs;
there is a consistent and coherent approach to SEN across all national
local flexibility, which operates within the context of local democratic
accountability and within a nationally agreed framework, results in high-
quality SEN provision that takes account of local context;
workforce remodelling is used as an opportunity to raise standards for all
pupils by creating a workforce that is tailored to implement teaching and
learning strategies that meet the needs of pupils with SEN;
new staffing structures in schools give high value to SEN and include a
senior member of staff with up-to-date pedagogical knowledge relating to
SEN who advises and supports teachers in ensuring that they meet the
needs of pupils with SEN; and
new staffing structures in schools recognise the role played by support staff
in supporting SEN, and include support staff who will undertake the
specialist, administrative and clerical functions of SEN work.
6. An education system that is effective and appropriate for all pupils requires a
consistent and coherent approach to SEN across all areas of national education
policy. However, NASUWT believes that a number of national education policies,
especially those that encourage competition between schools, undermine the
delivery of effective SEN provision. Further, variation between local authorities, in
terms of their interpretation of inclusion, and the quality of SEN support and
provision, is particularly problematic.
Social Partnership And The National Agreement
7. Social partnership underpins NASUWT’s relationship with Government. NASUWT is
committed to establishing a co-operative relationship, identifying issues and seeking
joint pragmatic solutions to concerns about national education policy and practice.
This relationship is exemplified through the partnership arrangements for
implementing the National Agreement ‘Raising Standards and Tackling Workload’.
The Workforce Agreement Monitoring Group (WAMG), comprising the DfES, school
workforce unions and the national employers, plays a pivotal role in monitoring
implementation of the National Agreement. This includes monitoring its
implementation in schools and monitoring the extent to which new education
policies and strategies are consistent with the requirements of the National
Agreement and workforce remodelling.
8. All policies and strategies that impact on schools should comply both with the spirit
and letter of the National Agreement, and be consistent with the remodelling
agenda that is linked to the Agreement. It is critical, therefore, that the review of
SEN is conducted in the context of the National Agreement and the wider
remodelling agenda, and that the principles that underpin workforce reform are
embedded in future SEN policy.
9. The National Agreement is intended to raise standards for all pupils by freeing
teachers and headteachers to focus on their core roles of teaching, and leading and
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managing teaching and learning. It provides opportunities for schools to develop
and use more highly trained support staff in enhanced roles to meet the needs of
every child, including those with SEN. It also provides schools with opportunities to
develop the roles of specialist staff in supporting teaching colleagues. In the context
of SEN, NASUWT believes that a qualified teacher should lead teaching and
learning on SEN within the school. Specifically, the lead teacher should be
responsible for the development of teaching and learning strategies for pupils with
SEN. In addition, appropriately trained, supported and remunerated support staff
should undertake the specialist roles, for example physiotherapy, and the
administrative aspects of SEN work.
Competition Versus Co-Operation
10. NASUWT is concerned that whilst, on the one hand, many national education
policies encourage schools to adopt a co-operative and partnership approach to
working, other policies seem to foster competition between individual schools. Most
notably, the publication of performance tables creates a climate of comparison and
competition. NASUWT believes that this issue is particularly significant in relation to
provision for SEN. Performance tables fail to acknowledge the quality of provision
and support that schools provide to pupils with SEN.
11. The high stakes environment created by performance tables means that schools
are under considerable pressure to be seen to do well. A school’s position in the
performance tables may be affected by the proportion of pupils that have SEN.
Combined with inadequate funding and resources, performance tables affect the
way in which schools are able to respond to and support pupils with SEN. NASUWT
believes that the publication of performance tables militates against the
development and delivery of effective provision for pupils with SEN and that the
practice should, therefore, be abolished.
Variation In Quality Of Provision
12. Local authorities1 are able to determine their approach to inclusion and the type of
provision and support for pupils with SEN in schools. NASUWT recognises the
value of flexibility, within the context of local democratic accountability, since this
means that services can be tailored to take account of the local context. However,
in the absence of a robust and nationally agreed framework, this flexibility has led to
unacceptable variations in provision between local authorities. There is no basic
generic offer of provision for SEN.
13. Local authorities vary widely in their interpretation of, and strategies for, inclusion, in
the quality of the support that they provide to schools, in the range of provision that
is available, and in their effectiveness in co-ordinating provision. Feedback from
NASUWT members indicates that the support provided by the local authority often
does not match the approach to inclusion that the local authority has adopted. This
might arise where a local authority has closed or is phasing out special
school/specialist provision, or where there is poor communication across different
types of provision.
14. NASUWT believes that a distinction must be made between theory and provision.
Specifically, NASUWT members report that some local authorities claim to provide
a range of good-quality SEN provision, but that, in practice, pupils with SEN
encounter considerable difficulties in accessing it. For example, access to particular
types of specialist provision may only be available to pupils attending specific
mainstream schools. This creates considerable frustration for teachers, and adds to
1 ‘Local authorities’ is used to cover local authority education services and local authority
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workload burdens and bureaucracy. It also gives parents a false expectation of the
support available for their child.
Behaviour And Sen
15. Whilst the focus of the Inquiry is on provision for SEN, NASUWT believes that it is
crucial to look at the relationship between behaviour and SEN. Teachers express
serious concerns about the conflation of provision for behaviour with provision for
SEN. For example, some local authorities do not have specialist provision for pupils
with Emotional, Social and Behavioural Difficulties (ESBD). Members report that, as
a result, pupils with ESBD who have been excluded from school are sometimes
referred to SEN specialist units. The presence of such pupils has a significant and
negative impact on the specialist provision, in terms of the ethos of the provision,
the relationships between the pupils with ESBD and the pupils with SEN, and the
pressures on staff who have to cater for two very different groups of pupils. This
practice is totally unacceptable for the pupils and the staff concerned.
16. Teachers stress the need to make a clear distinction between behaviour and SEN,
and to understand the complexities within these terms. SEN and ESBD cover a
wide range of behaviours and difficulties, and pupils with ESBD and/or SEN must
not be seen as belonging to one or two homogenous groups.
17. NASUWT members report that, increasingly, they are encountering pupils with SEN
who are disruptive. Some pupils with SEN have become disruptive because the
education system does not provide them with appropriate or adequate support.
Teachers are concerned that national education policy that relates to behaviour or
to SEN is usually developed without giving proper consideration to the relationship
between behaviour and SEN.
Continuing Professional Development
18. NASUWT members report specific concerns about the provision for teachers in
mainstream schools of continuing professional development (CPD) to support SEN.
Training is generally inadequate and is often only available as twilight sessions, out
of school hours. Teachers are, therefore, expected to attend the training in their
own time. Further, many schools do not prioritise SEN-related training and the
devolution of training budgets to schools compounds this problem.
19. Worryingly, teachers report that local authorities are actually losing the specialist
expertise. The problem arises because many specialists are retiring and because
special school provision is being reduced. NASUWT believes that steps must be
taken to ensure that relevant expertise exists at a local level and that mainstream
schools access and make use of that expertise.
20. Performance management provides a key means of identifying and managing the
skills and expertise of staff within a school, as well as enabling the school to identify
staff development needs. NASUWT is concerned that most school performance
management systems do not give sufficient consideration to the need for
development in SEN. Further, where support needs are identified, training is often
seen as the solution. NASUWT believes that far greater use should be made of the
resources that are available within a school; for example, peer support can be an
extremely effective way of enabling teachers to develop and share skills, knowledge
and expertise in relation to SEN. The Union also stresses the need to ensure that
SEN training and support for teachers focuses on teaching and learning and not on
issues that fall outside the role of the teacher.
21. The whole school staffing structure review, currently being undertaken by schools,
provides an opportunity to identify SEN as a key issue, to allocate a high value to
the work and to recognise the role of the SENCO as the leader of teaching and
learning. The staffing structure should also recognise the role of support staff in
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supporting provision for SEN, including responsibility for particular specialist support
and administrative and clerical tasks.
The Role Of The Local Authority
22. Local authorities have a critical role to play in overseeing and co-ordinating SEN
provision. Whilst OFSTED inspections of schools and local authorities include
judgements about provision for SEN, NASUWT is concerned that there is wide
variation between inspectors in terms of their level of understanding of SEN.
Critically, OFSTED inspectors often focus on very specific issues, such as the steps
taken to reduce the number of statements, rather than looking at the overall quality
of provision and the ease with which that provision can be accessed. The narrow
focus of inspections often undermines the development and delivery of high-quality,
accessible SEN provision.
23. NASUWT has serious concerns that the shift in the role of local authorities from
providers of education provision to commissioners of provision could have adverse
implications for the co-ordination and delivery of SEN provision locally. NASUWT
believes that Government needs to clarify how local authorities will fulfil their
responsibilities in relation to ensuring high-quality provision for SEN.
24. The development of federations and clusters provides an opportunity for groups of
schools to share skills, expertise and resources in relation to pupils with SEN.
However, the existence of clusters and federations should not obviate the vital role
of local authorities in the planning of SEN provision and in filling the gaps in
Equal Opportunities And Equality Of Access
25. Whilst this submission is concerned with provision for SEN, NASUWT believes that
the local authority also has a key role to play in ensuring equal opportunities and
equality of access. For example, pupils with SEN, along with other groups of
children, such as children from refugee and asylum-seeker families and Traveller
backgrounds, often encounter particular difficulties in gaining admission to schools.
Further, there is a close relationship between SEN and other areas of equality. For
example, pupils from some ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be identified as
having SEN. NASUWT believes that local authorities should have responsibility for
ensuring equality of access in relation to admissions, and should have responsibility
for co-ordinating aspects of equal opportunities work across schools, including work
to comply with equalities legislation such as the duty to promote race equality and
the forthcoming duty to promote disability equality. This would help schools to
comply with the legislation and should help to minimise burdens and bureaucracy in
Initial Teacher Training (ITT) And Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) Induction
26. NASUWT believes that initial teacher training fails to prepare trainees for working
with pupils with SEN. The Training and Development Agency for Schools’ (TDA)
surveys of NQTs confirm that in 2004 14% of NQTs said that they thought initial
teacher training was poor in preparing them for work with pupils with SEN and 41%
of NQTs described the training as only adequate. NASUWT’s NQT induction
sessions confirm this experience.
27. Many new teachers express concerns about the adequacy of NQT induction in
preparing them for work with pupils with SEN. Too many NQTs have limited
opportunities to develop their skills to effectively teach and support pupils with SEN.
28. The TDA standards for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and induction for NQTs
include specific standards that relate to SEN. However, NASUWT believes that the
problem is about engaging ITT providers, schools and others involved in induction
to comply with the expectations set out in the standards and provide effective and
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good-quality training and support for SEN. Whilst there are examples of effective
practice, there is considerable variation between ITT providers in terms of the
extent and quality of coverage of SEN issues. In the worst instances, NQTs are not
provided with opportunities to meet the SEN-related induction standards, although
the school may actually state that the NQT has successfully completed them.
Clearly, this undermines the purpose of induction and means the NQT does not
receive the support to which they are entitled. It also has serious implications for
pupils with SEN. The Union believes that this issue should be examined as part of a
national review of SEN provision.
The Role Of The Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO)
29. SENCOs have a critical role to play in ensuring that schools meet the needs of
pupils with SEN. NASUWT believes that the SENCO should be a senior member of
staff who has specific responsibility for leading teaching and learning in respect of
pupils with SEN.
30. The SENCO must be able to provide teachers with advice and support on the use
of appropriate pedagogies for teaching pupils with SEN. The Union is concerned
that many schools, particularly primary schools, do not recognise this role.
31. NASUWT is concerned that a focus on the administrative rather than pedagogical
aspects of SEN work has led some schools to deploy teaching assistants in the role
of SENCO. The separation of pedagogy and administration is critical to the effective
co-ordination of SEN work in schools and in ensuring that the learning needs of
pupils with SEN are properly met.
32. NASUWT is concerned that SENCOs are often expected to undertake
administrative tasks related to the co-ordination of provision for SEN. Such tasks
are outside the provisions of the teacher’s contract and the remodelling agenda.
They should, therefore, be undertaken by support staff and not by teachers. It is
vital, therefore, that the school staffing structure identifies support staff who will
undertake all the administrative and clerical aspects of provision for SEN.
33. Developments in integrated children’s services mean that, increasingly, schools are
expected to engage with a wide range of other services, including services for
pupils with SEN. Integrated children’s services are likely to have a significant impact
on the role of the SENCO and SEN support staff. For example, NASUWT members
report that SENCOs are being asked to attend increasing numbers of multi-agency
meetings including meetings held out of school hours, and that the bureaucracy of
multi-agency working is already spiralling out of control. The cost of multi-agency
working, including the potential implications for school resources, should be
34. NASUWT has serious concerns about the amount of funding that is provided for
SEN, how funding is allocated at a local level, the monitoring of the use of funds for
SEN provision, and the lack of transparency within the funding process. NASUWT
is concerned that in many instances the driver for inclusion appears to have been
about reducing costs by reducing special school provision, to the detriment of
35. Issues about the cost of SEN provision are particularly significant in rural areas.
Distances mean that access to specialist provision, including specialist units, may
be very limited. Local mainstream schools may need to cater for a wide range of
pupils with SEN and this obviously has cost implications. NASUWT believes that
funding for SEN provision needs to take account of barriers to accessibility.
36. NASUWT believes there needs to be transparency at local authority level about the
funding of SEN.
the largest UK-wide teachers’ union
The National Curriculum
37. The National Curriculum, variable resource provision, the emphasis on performance
tables, and the size of classes in mainstream schools make it very difficult to meet
the needs of some pupils with SEN. NASUWT has particular concerns about the
appropriateness of placing some pupils with SEN in large mainstream schools.
Teachers report that some pupils, especially pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders
(ASD) and moderate learning difficulties, encounter particular difficulties in large
38. The Union has serious concerns about the use of work-based learning for pupils
with SEN. Whilst this may be appropriate for some pupils, placements are not
suitable for all pupils. NASUWT is also concerned that an emphasis on vocational
training pathways for pupils with SEN could serve to limit their access to core
curriculum subjects such as English and maths.
39. Transition between schools presents particular problems for many pupils with SEN.
Mainstream schools often do not have the resources or expertise to support pupils
with SEN through transition.
Provision For Sen Pupils In Special Schools
40. NASUWT believes that specialist provision is the most appropriate form of provision
for some pupils with SEN. The Union believes that a range of provision should be
available, including special schools, specialist units and co-located provision. This is
essential if parents are to be given a real choice about the provision that they want
for their child; it is also crucial in ensuring that pupils get support that is tailored to
41. NASUWT believes that a major benefit of special schools is that it means there are
specialists on site who can offer help and advice to teachers, parents and pupils on
specific issues. Co-location and specialist units within mainstream schools also
mean that mainstream staff can benefit from help and advice from specialists.
NASUWT believes that the policy of closing special schools should cease. Special
schools, along with other forms of specialist provision, should be amongst the
options available to pupils with SEN.
42. Teachers working in specialist provision report that they are seeing increasing
numbers of pupils with behavioural difficulties and that this is having a significant
impact on the way in which the units are managed. The presence of pupils with
ESBD can have a negative impact on other pupils, who are often very vulnerable.
Steps need to be taken to ensure that pupils with behaviour problems, rather than
SEN, are not placed in provision that is designed for pupils with SEN.
Raising Standards Of Achievement For Pupils With SEN
43. NASUWT has considerable concerns about the way in which the achievements of
pupils with SEN are recognised. Specifically, the Union believes that league tables,
which drive teachers to teach to tests, mean that the achievements of some pupils
with SEN, for example achievements in literacy and numeracy ‘life skills’ and in
practical or vocational subjects, are not recognised. This serves to undermine their
motivation and increases the risk of disaffection.
The System Of Statements Of Need For Pupils With SEN
44. NASUWT believes that whilst statements provide a means of assuring provision,
the process of securing a statement is often very time-consuming for all concerned,
including parents. There are significant workload implications for schools, and
unnecessary bureaucratic mechanisms associated with the process
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The Legislative Framework For SEN Provision And The Effects Of The
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
45. NASUWT is concerned that the national policy to reduce reliance on statements
has been interpreted by local authorities as an opportunity to cut costs, rather than
about ensuring that pupils with SEN are provided with the most appropriate support.
For example, in one authority the removal of statements for pupils identified as
‘Band 5 statements’ has been accompanied by a funding package, which combines
SEN funding with funding from a social deprivation budget, and leads to a
progressive reduction in funding support to schools over a three-year period, so that
after four years, schools will be expected to meet the full costs of provision for those
46. NASUWT is concerned that Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunals
(SENDISTs) do not always take account of how their judgements impact on schools
and on teacher workload in particular. For example, one SENDIST judgement
required the school to provide all of its staff with training on a specific disability. The
judgement required this training to be delivered within a specific timeframe which
meant that teachers were required to undertake the training in their own time,
during the school holiday period. This clearly creates resentment and frustration
amongst staff, which has the potential to undermine the benefits of any training.
NASUWT strongly advises that SENDISTs are required to take account of
practicalities such as the timing of training, and the impact on teacher workload.
3 October 2005
For further information on the Union’s response contact:
NASUWT, Hillscourt Education Centre, Rose Hill, Rednal, Birmingham B45 8RS
Tel: 0121 453 6150
HOUSE of COMMONS EDUCATION AND SKILLS COMMITTEE INQUIRY
the largest UK-wide teachers’ union