Hundreds of school support staff are to get degree-level and specialist training in helping children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), under a new £500,000 programme set out today by Children's Minister Sarah Teather.
The annual SEN support scholarship programme will provide up to £2,000 each to boost the skills of talented teaching assistants and school staff who work with children with SEND. The scholarship cash will fund staff through rigorous, specialist courses and qualifications.
Support and aspiration, the SEN green paper published in March last year, set out major reforms to develop the expertise and expert knowledge of the wider school workforce – so the most vulnerable children have their needs identified early and get the specialist help they need.
The green paper pointed to evidence that in many schools, pupils with SEND were left to be supported 'almost exclusively' by teaching assistants – risking children becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the class and classroom teachers.
It said the best schools proved that highly-skilled support staff could be crucial in raising standards – if they were trained, supported, deployed and managed effectively – and it proposed a national scholarship scheme to send a clear message that high-level professional development should the norm throughout a support staff career.
Children's Minister Sarah Teather said:
This is about getting the best from all school staff. These scholarships identify and train talented professionals, with the potential to develop their specialist knowledge further and pursue a teaching career in the future if they want.
We know that support staff can make a real difference to the achievement of pupils with SEN and disabilities. They are never a substitute for a qualified teacher – but we know that when used effectively, they are vital to giving the most vulnerable pupils the support they need to get the most out of school.
These pupils need more, not less, time with the schools’ best teachers. Our green paper sets out a clear reform programme to raise the quality of SEN education and support across the board.
The scholarship programme will fund 50 per cent of the total course costs – up to a ceiling of £2,000 each.
There will be a competitive application process, open to support staff who hold A level or equivalent qualifications or hold higher level teaching assistant (HLTA) status. It will fund staff to take a wider range of degree-level equivalent qualifications and specialist diplomas in specific impairments such as in dyslexia or autism.
Applications will open on 30 April and close on 17 May, with the first scholarships awarded later this year.
This new fund for support staff scholarships is in addition to the national scholarship fund for teachers which opens its second round this month.
The minister also today confirmed funding in 2012/13 to train 1000 new special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) through the master's-level National Award for SEN Coordination – on top of almost 9000 training places funded to date since September 2009.
This year the scheme has also been extended to include qualified teachers working in pupil referral units, to support improved SEN provision, following the Government's behaviour expert Charlie Taylor’s recent review into the quality of alternative provision.
SENCOs are teachers with specialist qualifications who play a lead role in a particular school on planning and delivering provision for pupils with additional needs.
SENCOs work with senior leaders and other teachers to:
identify pupils in need of more help;
advise on the most effective provision;
liaise with outside specialist agencies; and
oversee the delivery of targeted help for pupils with SEN.