Ofsted slams schools over special needs teaching

A DAMNING report into Special Educational Needs (SEN) in schools has called for better teaching, instead of wrongly identifying students as having learning disabilities.

The Special Needs and Disability Review, published last week by Ofsted, raises several concerns over the current system used to identify pupils with SEN, saying many mainstream schools were erroneously diagnosing children with learning difficulties, while at the same time failing to properly support those genuinely affected.

Ofsted inspectors found a number of students with a statement of SEN were simply underachieving, because school’s mainstream provision was not good enough, and expectations for them were too low.

Chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: “With over one in five children of school age in England identified as having special educational needs, it is vitally important that both the way they are identified, and the support they receive, work in the best interests of the children involved.

“Higher expectations of all children, and better teaching and learning, would lead to fewer children being identified as having special educational needs.”

Inspectors visited 22 local authorities as part of the review, including Hertfordshire County Council, as well as 228 nursery schools and colleges, including 14 in Hertfordshire.

A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire County Council said: “Hertfordshire welcomes the constructive comments made by Ofsted in their recent report.

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“In partnership with schools we will use the guidance and advice offered by the report to continue to build on our good practice to improve outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs in Hertfordshire.

“Hertfordshire offers comprehensive support to schools in identifying, meeting and evaluating the needs of pupils with special educational needs, and schools are challenged and supported to provide high quality learning and teaching in this area.”

In Times Territory, the apparently high number of children with special needs attending mainstream schools was highlighted on Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps’ web forum, which pointed to the 2009 education league tables published on the BBC website.

According to the tables, 52.6 per cent of students sitting GCSEs at Onslow St Audrey’s School in Hatfield had SEN.

Nobody from Onslow St Audrey’s was available for comment when the Welwyn Hatfield Times contacted the school earlier.