With number of children with SEND in London growing in recent years, London Councils is calling on councils, schools, national government, Ofsted, school governors and Regional Schools Commissioners to make a firm commitment to ensuring all schools in London are inclusive ‘by default’.
Legally schools need to be inclusive - the Children and Families Act 2014 give children and young people with Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND) the right to mainstream education. The school leaders have a duty to establish a culture of high expectations that expects those working with children and young people with SEND to include them in all the opportunities available to other children and young people so they can achieve well. But this isn’t always happening.
London Councils conducted qualitative research into inclusive practice in mainstream schools to explore concerns about the disparity in levels of inclusion across schools in London.
The research highlights some of the excellent work in London’s schools and local authorities delivering on their legal duty to ensure education is inclusive and enabling a significant number of children with SEND to benefit from a mainstream education. However, we cannot yet guarantee that all schools in London are inclusive by default. The research also found examples of unfair admissions practice, off-rolling and inappropriate exclusions.
Boroughs told us that some mainstream schools are supporting a much larger number of children with SEND than others. Some schools said that more children could be supported in mainstream settings if schools were better supported – and if other schools, according to their perception, “took their fair share”.
London Councils’ report found that schools can be held back from promoting inclusion due to funding pressures, lack of SEND expertise and concern about impact on performance, with some children with SEND being excluded or off-rolled rather than being offered the support they need.
We welcome recent announcements from the government to boost funding for schools and see this as an opportunity to build a more inclusive offer for young Londoners with SEND.
As the number of children with SEND in London has grown in recent years, now is the time for all education partners to strengthen our collective commitment to ensuring education is truly inclusive. London Councils is calling on all education partners to make a firm commitment to ensuring all schools in London are inclusive ‘by default’, that includes councils, national government, Ofsted, school governors and Regional Schools Commissioners as well as school leaders and staff.
London Councils’ report makes nine recommendations for boosting inclusion in schools. These include recommendations to the national government to update the SEND Code of Practice to stress and clarify schools’ duties in relation to supporting children with SEND, and to introduce a specific inclusion fund to facilitate more inclusion in schools.
Read the full report here.