October 6, 2008
Independent schools ‘failing special needs pupils’
Hundreds of mainstream independent schools are failing to cater for pupils with special needs, even though almost a fifth of children fall into this category, research suggests.
A study by the Good Schools Guide found only three-fifths of such schools were prepared to cope with common conditions such as mild dyslexia.
And fewer than 16 per cent of independent schools are able to take children with mild forms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Its authors said fee-charging schools were unwilling to risk upsetting the parents of other children, by putting a pupil who needs extra attention in the same class.
Increasing numbers of pupils are being diagnosed with some form of special educational need (SEN), with a fifth now estimated to suffer from conditions including dyscalculia (a difficulty understanding the concept of numbers); dyspraxia (developmental coordination difficulty); behavioural, emotional and social difficulties; or severe physical disabilities, among others.
Yet the survey of 800 mainstream independent schools found few catered for such children.
The authors of The Good Schools Guide — Special Educational Needs, said: “Only 60 per cent of mainstream private schools provide for pupils with mild dyslexia — the simplest of education needs often affecting the brightest children.
“As for more demanding conditions, less than 16 per cent of private schools are able to cater for pupils with mild attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD).”
“Only a tiny number of private schools are willing to take pupils with serious conditions. Just 9 per cent of schools have any support for severe dyslexia and, as for severe ADHD, the number of private schools willing to offer provision is less than 1 per cent.”
Sandra Hutchinson, the editor of the guide, said: “These figures show quite dramatically that many private mainstream schools are not making any real effort to cater for special needs.
“There is a huge gap between the number of schools prepared to cater for a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, compared to a behaviour problem like ADHD. It would suggest that many schools are really just making a token nod to SEN.
“The only special needs pupils they really want are those very bright children with the mildest of dyslexia. Schools know these pupils will cause minimal disruption and are likely to boost their league table exam results.”
Mrs Hutchinson added: “Money plays a big part in why some private mainstream schools do not want SEN children. Schools have got to balance the books and teaching one lesson 20 different ways to cater for different needs is considerably more costly than teaching 20 lessons one way.
“Schools are also very conscious of the wishes of their fee-paying parents. It is very much a question of not in my backyard.
“If parents are paying, they want little Johnny to have the maximum attention and not have a teacher distracted by another child with even minor extra needs. In some private schools, it is almost more acceptable to fund a rugby coach than a specialist SEN teacher or therapist.”
Parents sometimes experience difficulties getting help for their children in state schools, and many turn to the independent sector which has some specialist schools with excellent reputations for catering for those with special needs.
The guide is full of praise for some mainstream independent schools which do offer good SEN provision.
Of Cranleigh Preparatory School in Hampshire, the guide says: “A super go-getting, can-do place, but tempered with tangible warmth and friendliness.
“SEN provision very good. It has a dedicated learning support department and specialist tuition for pupils with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.”
A survey earlier this year by the Bow Group, a centre-right think-tank, found the number of pupils with special needs in independent schools had almost trebled in the last decade.
It said such children accounted for 83 per cent of the growth in the independent sector since 1997. However many of these will have gone to specialist schools.
Gosh this article is great (as well as appalling in what it identifies) and is exactly what I'm finding with my daughter's school. I have experienced the following at her independent school;
- told she's disrupting the other children
- the policy is very weak
- the policy doens't encourage identification of learning difficulties witin the school - assumes kids come to the school with it already diagnosed
- teachers have a very small (only 1?) set of approaches/techniques for teaching the kids (as it assumes the kids are all pretty similar (and mainly bright))
- teachers have a very small set of techniques for dealing with kids who 'do something wrong' with little (no?) recognition of whether the technique is appropriate for a child with a learning difficulty
- unfortunately they don't have to conform to the same practice as state schools and so pointing out that something is deficient can't be supported by an external body/regulation/reference for evidence
It is extremely frustrating and I feel has actually made it worse for my daughter and she'd have been better off in the state system where I could have been equally unhappy and not spent the money !