A new report from a cross-party committee of MPs has criticised Britain's current education policy, saying the system is “damaging” and has failed children with special educational needs and disabilities.
The education committee was analysing reforms first introduced in 2014 that they said were brought in with “good intentions” but were hampered by poor implementation and a lack of funding.
Rather than making it easier to get a tailored educational plan put in place for their child, many families have been caught up in “bureaucratic nightmares, buck-passing, a lack of accountability ,and strained resources,” the report, published on Wednesday, said.
During the 18-month inquiry, the committee heard from 70 witnesses and received 700 written submissions. Shockingly, among those testimonies were accounts of children as young as 9 attempting suicide, while others cited experiences of anxiety, depression, and self-harm, the Guardian reported.
The chair of the committee, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, said: “Despite the good intentions of the reforms, many children with SEND [special educational needs and disabilities] are being let down day after day. Many parents face a Titanic struggle just to try and ensure their child gets access to the right support.”
He added that the Department for Education cannot continue with a piecemeal approach.
“Rather than making do with sticking plasters, what is needed is a transformation, a more strategic oversight, and fundamental change to ensure a generation of children is no longer let down," he said.
The findings of the report tally with what campaigners have been saying in recent years.
It was reported in the summer that children with disabilities were increasingly not studying alongside their peers at mainstream school, even though the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities advocates a policy of inclusion in education.
An increasing number of families have reportedly taken their child out of school altogether and decided to home-school them due to a lack of support.
"The government has a duty to take active steps to protect people with protected characteristics. But this [trend in education] is not promoting that. There are increasing acts of ignorance, intolerance, and devaluing people who are disabled," Simone Aspis, campaigns and policy coordinator for the Alliance for Inclusive Education, told Global Citizen back in August.
Hopefully with the input from MPs and this report, however, improvements will start to be seen.
The committee recommends that a better way for the health and education sectors to work together should be established, so that they can work to find the best way of supporting children with SEND.
It also says that there are gaps in therapy provision, and recommends that educational professionals receive support and training so that they can support all pupils.
Additionally, the report suggests that a support system be put in place to field inquiries from parents and carers of children with SEND because “the distance between young people’s lived experience, their families’ struggles, and ministers’ desk is too far,” it said.
Another recommendation was for more training and employment opportunities to be made available for young people over the age of 16.
In response, the Department for Education pointed out that an additional £780 million for special needs education had been announced recently.
It added: "The report recognises that the improvements made to the system five years ago were the right ones… But through our review of these reforms, we are focused on making sure they work for every child in every part of the country.”