UCL Institute of Education’s (IOE) Centre for Inclusive Education and the National Association for Special Educational Needs (nasen) have formed a consortium with the aim of creating and developing a network of 10,000 schools with special educational needs and disability (SEND) at the heart of their practice over the next two years.
The consortium will work with SEND organisations in order to spread best practice for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities across England.
IOE academics will work with nasen and to review current SEND training and continuing professional development provision for practitioners. As part of this, the IOE team will support a review of current mandatory qualifications and use research to inform the work of special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) through the creation of an induction pack.
The team will seek to identify gaps in training, resources, equipment and continuing professional development to ensure all SEND-related practitioners - including teachers - can progress across the network.
It is hoped that more than 7,000 schools will join the network by March next year, rising to 10,000 by March 2020, Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawi told specialists at the nasen annual conference last week.
An important part of this work is the development of regional SEND focused training hubs across the country, which will be used to share knowledge and resources about supporting pupils with SEND. Regional SEND leaders will also make sure specialist provision is embedded within any school improvement plans, through direct work in regions and network building.
The mandatory national award for special educational needs co-ordination (SENCo), which is held by teachers in schools with particular expertise and responsibility for pupils with SEND, is also under review. Mandatory qualifications supporting children with sensory needs are also being reviewed: research evidence gathered by the IOE team will inform both sets of reviews.
The government wishes to "ensure the qualification provides the right training", said Zahawi, who also pledged to address the "drift" of special educational needs pupils away from mainstream schools into special schools.
Zahawi said the government must "understand the causes of this and ensure our mainstream schools are supported to deliver "high-quality support" for pupils with education, health and care plans.