Children with special needs suffered ‘profound disruption’ during first lockdown


Young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) experienced “profound disruption” to their well-being and family life during the first lockdown, according to new research.

The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, paints a “concerning picture” of teachers and professionals struggling to support pupils and their families.

Almost all (98%) providers said they had pupils who would find it hard to keep to social distancing, while 75% had pupils who require personal care which involves close contact with others.

“This research shows a worrying situation that has not been well-managed by government,” said Amy Skipp, project leader at ASK Research, who carried out the work.

“The national policy has shown little understanding or regard for pupils with SEND and their families.

“Lessons desperately need to be learnt, and fast, or we are in danger of failing these potentially vulnerable families. Policy-makers need to pay urgent attention to our recommendations.”

The study also found that many families struggled to support their children at home full time.

They reported increased stress, anxiety and mental health issues, affecting their ability to manage their child with special needs and relationships within the family.

“Special schools and colleges are being asked to provide the impossible – to keep all their pupils in school or college while complying with safety guidance that does not recognise how their needs differ to those in mainstream schools,” said Eleanor Ireland, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation.

“This is detrimental not only to the education of pupils with SEND, but in many cases also to the development of more fundamental skills such as mobility and communication.

“The government needs to listen to the experience of school leaders and parents and to provide more tailored and comprehensive guidance and support.”

The report highlights 10 recommendations that need to be implemented to get more pupils back into their school or college safely and to better support those who are at home with their families.

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