The Challenges for Children with SEND Post-Pandemic

Sara Spinks 3 July 2024 2 min read
The Challenges for Children with SEND Post-Pandemic  feature image

The scars of the pandemic left on our education systems, particularly for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), are becoming increasingly apparent. Attending to school, once seen as a beacon of normalcy, has become a daunting challenge for many, with disruptions to routines, support systems, and mental well-being. Recent reports shed light on the struggles faced by these vulnerable students, showcasing the uphill battle they face in reintegrating into an educational landscape that the pandemic has profoundly altered.

Anxiety within the School Environment

For many young people, the sanctuary of a confined classroom during lockdowns has morphed into a source of anxiety upon returning to a bustling school environment. Many now feel overwhelmed by the noises and crowds, indicating that dealing with crowds is particularly stressful for them. These experiences epitomise the challenges confronting children with SEND, whose needs were often sidelined during the tumult of the pandemic.

Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs)

The repercussions of this neglect are stark. With diagnoses delayed and support systems strained, children with SEND are finding themselves navigating an educational landscape that feels increasingly alienating. Before the pandemic, many schools supported a certain number of children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP), which outline additional support for students with special needs. Now, for many schools that number has skyrocketed, with an additional number of students requiring support beyond what each school can provide. The statistics paint a grim picture of a system struggling to meet the required duty-of-care and diverse needs of its students in the wake of the pandemic.

Many SEND Children Falling Behind

Many children with SEND find themselves falling behind academically, grappling with behavioural issues, and battling deteriorating mental health. The toll on both students and their families is immense, with frantic calls from school, episodes of self-harm, and persistent absences becoming distressingly common. This has led to an increasing feeling amongst safeguarding leaders that there is so much more put on schools post-Covid.

Support Services

The strains on support services exacerbate an already dire situation. With waiting lists for assessments growing and mental health services stretched to their limits, schools are left to pick up the pieces with limited resources. Despite valiant efforts to adapt, schools find themselves grappling with a myriad of challenges, from hungry children seeking food to students struggling with self-esteem issues exacerbated by the upheavals of the past years.

Schools Implementing New Strategies

Amidst the chaos, there are glimmers of hope. Schools are implementing innovative strategies to support their students, from creating safe spaces for breaks to providing tailored interventions for mental health support. However, these efforts are often overshadowed by the sheer magnitude of the task at hand.

Conclusion

As we navigate the uncertain terrain of post-pandemic education, it is clear that a fundamental shift is needed. Simply reverting to pre-pandemic norms is insufficient; we must seize this opportunity to reimagine a genuinely inclusive and equitable system for all. This requires increased funding and resources and a paradigm shift in how we perceive and support children with SEND.

The situation demands that schools handle additional issues even though the resources and infrastructure are lacking. It is time for stakeholders at all levels to heed this call and prioritise the well-being and education of our most vulnerable learners. Only then can we begin to build a post-pandemic educational landscape that is truly fit for the future.

Sara Spinks

SSS Author & Former Headteacher


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