More opportunities for SEN Teachers? 

Posted By: The Teach Now Team

Or is the government’s announcement of 60,000 new SEN places simply too little, too late?

The national shortage of SEN provision in England’s schools is a subject we keep coming back to – and, despite the latest government announcement, it remains a highly controversial topic. One thing, at least, is undisputed: Special Educational Needs provision in England is in crisis, with two out of three special schools at or above capacity in the 2022 – 2023 academic year. Even Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said so at the end of March 2024. Even as she announced the government’s plan to create 60,000 more SEN places, she accepted that parents were being forced to fight for the right support for their children. 

A bad situation that’s getting worse

In February it was reported in The Guardian that “hundreds of children with special educational needs have been waiting for a year or longer to access support” as the relentlessly escalating pressure on local authorities’ finances takes its toll – hardly surprising in the light of a recent report revealing that special schools are already accommodating around 4000 more pupils than their official capacity. As we’ve explained in previous articles around the issue, to be fair to the government, it’s not entirely to blame. As Gillian Keegan was eager to point out, the shortfall in provision isn’t just down to spending reductions or even due to the well-known challenges of retaining SEN teachers once they’re recruited. In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the number of SEN and SEND pupils. In January 2020 it rose for the third consecutive year to 1.37 million and the percentage of pupils with an EHC plan went up to 3.3% of the total pupil population. 

The Education Secretary commented:

There’s been a massive increase in special educational needs, we know how to diagnose more, we care more, we know more about how to overcome special educational needs, so that’s definitely something that has changed over the last 10 years. But we have been really trying to make sure that we do the right thing.”

For a detailed breakdown of these changes and exactly how the number of SEN pupils has grown, see this informative account from UCL

A ’record £850 million cash boost’

So – there’s no doubt that the government’s new measure is desperately needed since the aim is a “record £850 million cash boost” for SEND and AP (alternative provision) funding to councils: enough to create 60,000 more SEND places. 

Opportunities for new teachers in the offing?

This could well mean good news for teachers at all levels of experience as well as for teaching assistants – because those extra SEND places can’t be created without employing people to teach them. There’s no doubt that some career opportunities will come out of these latest developments – but the government’s announcement has been greeted with scepticism from some quarters. In The Guardian the General Secretary of the ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders commented that, “the blizzard of figures looks very much like previously announced spending commitments… While investment in education is always welcome, the latest figures are a very long way short of the level of funding that is needed.”

It’s pretty clear that the crisis is too big for any kind of “quick fix” – and it remains to be seen whether or not the new SEND places will make a significant difference. Watch this space for more news!