Early SEN identifcation to help reduce youth violence

London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is to invest almost £4 million in a new programme targeted towards early identification of special educational needs and interventions to support speech and communication skills in primary schools.

It comes as the latest data reveals that in the academic year to 2021 children with special educational needs were four times more likely to be excluded from school, while last year more than two thirds of children in England and Wales who had been cautioned or sentenced for a serious violence offence had special educational needs.

The VRU was set up and funded by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and aims to tackle violence that is rooted in prevention and early intervention.

Its new investment will seek to close the gaps in learning for children with speech and language needs and who are in the first three years of primary school. To be delivered during the next academic year across seven London boroughs, plans are being developed and will be discussed with local authorities around training teachers and staff to support children to reason, argue and explain, as well as other speaking and language interventions.

Supporting children’s language skills and their ability to think and communicate is central to narrowing the gap between socially disadvantaged children and their peers.

It’s a key focus as part of the VRU’s determination to keep young people in education because evidence shows it increases their life chances. However, in order to do that, it’s vital that schools and teachers are properly supported in working towards education being fully inclusive, fair and available to all. That involves investing in and supporting schools to intervene early to drive down exclusions.

Evidence shows that children with a history of either suspension or exclusion from school are more likely to be affected by violence. Data shows that whilst less than 1 in 200 children are permanently excluded from school, almost one in two of the prison population were excluded as children.
Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said: “Education is the cornerstone of our communities. It’s where children and young people are safe, it’s where they grow and it’s where they develop and improve their life chances.

“The VRU’s focus is working in partnership to help make education available, inclusive and accessible to all. We know there are gaps in key communication skills exacerbated by the pandemic and its vital that we identify those early and intervene when it really matters most.

“We all have a role to play in making education inclusive for all and a fundamental part of that is giving hardworking teachers the support and training to identify gaps and to do what they do best – provide a platform for children to develop and thrive.

"That’s why we’re investing in a package of measures using early intervention to better develop speech and language skills. In promoting inclusive practices and healthy relationships we are supporting schools in providing accessible education for all young Londoners."

Read more