Children with SEND disproportionately affected by pandemic

A new report from Ofsted has revealed that children and young people with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Children with SEND disproportionately affected during covidThe report contains the findings of joint visits made to local areas by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) during the autumn term of 2020 and the spring term of 2021.

It states that long-standing issues and weaknesses in the system of care for children and young people with SEND have been exacerbated by the disruption of the pandemic.

Children and families ‘out of sight’

It says that children and families have suffered as a result of missed or narrowed education, the withdrawal of essential services such as physiotherapy or speech and language support, and long waiting times for assessment and treatment.

Ofsted inspectors reported that, by Spring 2021, families were often exhausted and despairing when they were still unable to access essential services for their children.

The pandemic and resulting national lockdowns have placed children with SEND ‘out of sight’ of services and led to a worsening situation within the SEND system.

The report cites:

  • Weaknesses in universal education, health and care services which have resulted in children and young people not learning essential skills and knowledge and then mistakenly being identified as having SEND
  • Significant inconsistencies in how SEND are identified
  • A lack of joined-up commissioning and joint working across education, health and care services
  • A lack of clarity between organisations about who is responsible and accountable within local area SEND systems

Experiences for children with SEND vary

Children with SEND out of sight of services during pandemicOfsted found that the experiences of children and families were partly determined by the quality of their relationships with practitioners, as well as the strength of partnership working in their local area.

They were also impacted by the extent to which the local area had implemented the government’s 2014 SEND reforms.

The report states that it is vital that all education settings are ambitious for every child and young person with SEND and that all individuals receive a good quality curriculum and teaching. This was particularly highlighted in relation to the teaching of language and early reading skills.

Improvements for the SEND system

The report contains several recommendations for improvement within the SEND system. These include:

  • More accessible universal services for children and their families, delivered by practitioners with a strong understanding of how to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND
  • More accurate identification when children need targeted or specialist support and higher aspirations for children and young people with SEND
  • A greater sense of joint responsibility between partners in a local area, clearer accountability for different organisations within local systems, and greater coordination of universal, target and specialist local services so children get the right support at the right time

Ofsted have been working with the CQC to develop a new inspection framework which is aimed at driving further improvements in the SEND system and better supporting children and young people at what is described as a “critical moment.”

HM Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, commented on the report’s findings:

“Many local area leaders and practitioners have gone above and beyond to support children and young people with SEND and their families during this challenging time.

“However, our report shows that children and young people were not always getting the education and care they needed, even before the pandemic.

“As the damaging effects of the pandemic on children and young people with SEND become clear, so too does the need to ensure that we are all playing our role in supporting them. We will work closely with CQC to develop a new framework to support improvement in the way education, health and care services work together to get the best possible outcomes for children.”

Improve awareness and support

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care, safeguarding and more.

They work with a large number of early years and childcare providers, as well as schools, colleges, and children’s services.

They can provide training in SEND Awareness, Dyslexia Awareness, ADHD Awareness, Introduction to the Autistic Spectrum and Learning Disability Awareness among other special focus subjects.

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to