The Government’s SEND and AP green paper has been published, allowing opportunity for a 13-week consultation on what it outlines – an ambitious plan to level up opportunities for all children and young people. There are ambitions detailed in the paper which could make a real difference in classrooms and all settings across England.
The paper sets out plans to ensure there is a system that offers children and young people the opportunity to thrive and be provided with the right support, in the right place and at the right time, so they can fulfil their potential and lead happier, healthier lives.
A need to resolve the ‘postcode lottery’
It details the government’s vision for a stronger, national system to support children with SEND and their families. Real change should lead to improved attainment, improved mental, physical and social wellbeing, fewer exclusions, enhanced and positive family experiences regarding provision, better preparation for adulthood and leading to more successes in later life; such as employment and independent living.
There is reference to urgently resolving the postcode lottery around securing an education, health, and care plan (EHCP) and proposals to simplify and digitalize the process, improving oversight and transparency.
In England, there are 1.4 million school-aged children and young people with SEND or learning differences, representing 15.9% of all pupils – and there are growing gaps between access and quality of provision in education.
Research highlights that 84% qualified PE teachers felt Initial Teacher Training (ITT) didn’t prepare them sufficiently to work with children with SEND and less than six hours of ITT for primary teachers relates to Physical Education.
Recommendations from a recent report also highlighted the need for training and guidance for educators, to support them with advice on how to better engage young people with SEND in PE lessons.
Ensuring every educator feels confident to create culture of inclusion
At the Youth Sport Trust we would like to see the proposals in this green paper go further to ensure that every educator is able to create a culture of inclusion and foster a sense of belonging for every child at school. We passionately believe that play and sport are vital to do this.
Physical activity and Physical Education are so important for every young person’s health and wellbeing, particularly those with SEND. We would like to see in the white paper which follows this more of an explicit reference to the benefits of play and sport.
There is a wealth of evidence of why this is so important through our work on Inclusion 2024 which is providing inclusive training, advice and guidance to around 5,000 practitioners on how to improve quality of provision for around 150,000 pupils. Through this work, an additional 4,000 teachers will be upskilled in inclusive PE training with the creation of a new national knowledge platform.
New AP schools must have space for physical activity
The green paper also proposes Alternative Provision (AP) and SEND systems should not exist in separate silos, which is very much welcomed; we have long seen the high numbers of SEND pupils being excluded and attending AP. The paper also looks at creating new special and AP schools (40 to add to the 60 currently in the pipeline).
However, we have been concerned that there are currently no requirements for new AP schools to have space for young people to be physically active. The need for all AP settings to have space for indoor and outdoor physical activity should be included in the statutory requirements for new settings, alongside a review of the existing quality of facility provision.
Our work with Alternative Provision and our latest insight from Leeds Beckett University (Carnegie School of Sport and Carnegie School of Education) shows an appetite from the sector for the value of PE and sport, but also a need for more specialist support and training. We would like to see greater collaboration across the sector to share what works and what doesn’t, to ensure young people who need this the most can benefit. Our research has intentionally sought the perspectives of senior leaders, teachers, and students themselves and we are keen to ensure this consultation is inclusive of these viewpoints.
The paper also includes proposals around:
- Changing the culture and practice in mainstream education to be more inclusive, and better at identifying and supporting needs. I feel this will require high-quality joined up universal provision with strong emphasis on inclusion and designed with young people.
- Improving workforce training - Increasing the knowledge and confidence of the workforce; nasen our Consortium partners have shared in their response that ‘Embracing the ethos of “every teacher a teacher of SEND” creates a culture of inclusion, and whole-school approaches can build on this to foster a sense of belonging for everyone in a school/setting’. Through Inclusion 2024 we will have a National Knowledge Platform created by experts across the sport/education sector, accessible for all schools in England, engaging at least 4,000 teachers from now until 2024. We recognise that overall training must be improved, to ensure that all teachers are equipped to be teachers of children with SEND and learning differences.
- We also see a key role for championing training in inclusive practice for early years practitioners; to ensure they have the confidence and competence to support all children and can adapt their practice to meet their needs.
The paper highlights the consultation to date with children, young people, their parents, carers, and wider family members. We must learn from lived experience. It also proposes a stronger system, working together. This provides opportunity for us to unite as a workforce and respond to the consultation in partnership with our schools by setting out solutions and sharing our collective experience on what works to ultimately ensure more children and young people are happier, healthier and lead fulfilled lives.
The Youth Sport Trust said it will work with its network of lead inclusion schools to develop a response to this consultation:
Alistair Crawford, teaching school lead for St Martin’s in Derbyshire, Deputy SEND Lead for whole school SEND in the north region and specialist lead for Oak National Academy, said:
“The SEND Review quite rightly identifies the power of early intervention and how a student's learning journey can be defined by getting the right support at the right time. One hopes the transformational impact that sport, play & PE can have on engagement, learning, health & wellbeing is promoted, recognised and championed in all settings.
“Any opportunities for cross phase / sector collaboration are to be welcomed, something the green paper references throughout. My hope is that mainstream and specialist settings come together to innovate and explore inclusive, mixed ability sports opportunities (curricular & extracurricular) in which young people regardless of their needs can participate and compete as equals, enjoying the wide-ranging benefits of PE, exercise and the power of sport.”