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Tuesday 24 May 2022

Young people have their say on the SEND Review

The Government’s long-awaited SEND Review proposals are out and it’s time young people and families have their say. Members of the Ambitious Youth Network recently met with officials from the Department for Education who are leading the review. In this blog Alice, Jessica, Saffron, and Susannah reflect on the meeting, sharing their views about the government’s proposals and their own experiences in education.

During the meeting, youth network members highlighted the struggle to access the right support at school.

Alice said:

“We all have a range of different experiences and learning needs, however, we all clearly expressed how it had been a constant battle to receive the right SEND support from primary school, secondary school and college.”

Jessica added:

“Support is often hidden, being up to the young person or parents to navigate a complex system to find out what support is out there. 
 I felt that unless you had an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, the learning support would be unhelpful. This carried on into sixth form, where I had no   contact with my school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo).”


Autism knowledge in schools

They also raised concerns about levels of autism understanding within the school system.

Saffron, said:

“Many youth network members brought up how teachers just don't seem to know enough about autism to be able to incorporate reasonable adjustments. Small changes to teaching style, for example using visuals, making more careful language choices, and being aware of possibly sensory difficulties would be invaluable in a classroom setting. If teachers had training about neurodiversity, it could make the world of difference.”

Alice, said:

“It is crucial that teachers have a good understanding, don’t ignore parents when they have a genuine concern and put structure, routine and consistency in place, which will have a positive impact on all children, not just the autistic children.”


Patchy support

The youth network members also raised their concerns about the patchy levels of support and specialist provision for autistic pupils across the country.

Jessica, said:

“There aren’t the right schools in the right places. When I was in reception and Year 1, I was fortunate to have attended a SEN Unit provision due to my speech and language difficulties where the support was incredible, and I excelled both academically and socially. But a few years after I left the SEN Unit, it closed and never reopened. Which is a shame for those children who could have benefitted from such a fantastic early start to their education.”

Alice added:

“All the time I hear of children and young people only going to the right school after many years of being in the wrong environment, unable to access the support they need and then finally breaking.”


Influencing the review

There was some positive feedback on the government’s proposals to introduce new national standards for SEND support in schools.

Saffron said:

“The government's aim to improve teachers and staffs’ understanding of SEND will directly tackle in-classroom support.”

She added:

“Overall the meeting felt both productive and exciting, and I really hope that the government is able to meet its goals, because the impact on autistic young people and their futures would be truly lifechanging.”

Jessica said:

“I feel fantastic about influencing the government’s SEND review and I hope they take back the serious issues which were raised and put more funding into the SEND system to ensure every young person with SEND gets the right support.”

Susannah added:

“I was very moved by hearing the stories and for the first time in my life, I saw that autism not only presented challenges but ability, strength and determination.”

About the authors:

Saffron, Alice, Jessica and Susannah are all members of Ambitious about Autism’s Youth Network.