MATs should introduce director of SEND role, report suggests

Multi-academy trusts (MATs) should create the role of "director of SEND" to help with inclusion, report from National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has suggested.

It also highlights that special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision in multi-academy trusts (MATs) and schools is coming under increased pressure.

The report found issues with staffing, access to external support, parental relationships and inconsistencies in local authorities’ (LAs) capacities to effectively support schools, to be of particular concern.

Matt Walker, the report's co-author, said: “While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model for the involvement of MATs in supporting SEND, this research suggests MAT SEND leaders are playing a crucial role in consolidating SEND initiatives, fostering collaboration, and offering skills and assistance to individual schools as the sector navigates this crisis.

He said it was "critical" “It is critical that fixing the SEND system remains a top priority for the government. He said a good start would be to address staffing challenges and providing adequate resources for schools and local authorities.

Interviews with 19 MATs found that SENCOs have had their workload increased considerably, primarily due to the rise in administrative tasks associated with managing Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) stemming from the growing numbers of pupils with SEND.

MAT-level SEND leaders tend not to mandate particular approaches but provide a vision or a framework across member schools. SENCOs observed that the introduction of MAT SEND leaders has led to greater levels of cross-trust SEND collaboration and strategic support.

The study emphasises, however, that MAT SEND leaders cannot overcome all the SEND system challenges alone. It calls on the government to offer adequate funding to improve access to external specialist support from services, such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and speech and language therapists.

It suggests MAT and school leaders should empower SENCOs as agents of change within their schools, innovating within the overarching principles and vision of the MAT allows them to respond effectively to the unique needs of their schools and pupils.

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