Call for greater flexibility to continue for children with SEND

With some parents of children with SEND detailing less anxiety for their children during the pandemic, education experts are calling for a more flexible approach to education to continue

Children with SEND should be given the opportunity to continue with a more flexible approach to education after the pandemic, say education experts from the University of Sussex.

Dr Jacqui Shepherd and Dr Christina Hancock surveyed hundreds of parents and carers of children with SEND. Half of respondents said their children had less anxiety and less stress in lockdown education conditions compared to their pre-pandemic routine.

One in five said their child was learning more at home than when they had previously been at school.

Some parents felt their children had increased motivation, made better academic progress, experienced reduced fear and sensory overload, and learnt in a more personalised way in lessons away from the school environment.

Some parents expressed concern about whether their children could cope with a return to pre-lockdown schooling.

Parents detailed how lockdown had helped remove some of the more stressful aspects of schooling from the daily routine of children with SEND such as large classes, social interactions, excessive noise and bullies.

They also said the option for children to work from home at times of high anxiety or to leave school early if they became emotionally overwhelmed were beneficial.

The survey found anxiety about the return to school was greater for pupils in mainstream education rather than specialist provision.

A simple return to the status quo would do an incredible disservice for the generation of pupils who have had to adapt to the difficult circumstances created by the Covid pandemic – Dr Jacqui Shepherd, University of Sussex

Dr Shepherd, who is a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex, said: “There is an opportunity, post-Covid, to create a more flexible and individually responsive school system – for all children and not just for those with SEND.

“This could move away from fixed notions of the parameters of a school day or learning only taking place in the classroom and could draw on the positives of online learning and the newly enhanced technology skills of teachers.

“Flexibility is the key. A simple return to the status quo would do an incredible disservice for the generation of pupils who have had to adapt to the difficult circumstances created by the Covid pandemic.”

Dr Shepherd and Dr Hancock are recommending that the increased focus on social, emotional and mental health within schools in response to the pandemic is maintained in the long-term.

They also recommend steps are taken to improve the understanding of children with SEND’s anxiety in school and how the school environment can adapt. Furthermore, they are calling for more explicit teaching around social communication and interaction, and building peer relationships in school.

Read the full report.

1 Comment
  • Clare Sender

    Dr Shepherd’s report mirrors our findings. We have pupils who were struggling and anxious in a traditional school environment who are now making huge progress with our online school. They use our learning platform alongside live lessons and support from a one to one mentor. This allows them to work at their own pace, on their own schedule, and fosters the development of self-study skills, self sufficiency and accountability. Learning from the comfort and safety of their own home makes a huge difference to some children.

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