A study from the University of Sussex, School of Education and Social Work, has been released today entitled ‘Happier in his own clothes’. The paper examines the perspectives of parents of children with SEND and their experiences of the return to school in September 2020 and home-learning during the latest lockdown.
Whilst the report highlights many positives in the approaches taken by settings to reintegrate pupils in September and the significant improvements in home learning provision, 54% of parents still fear that their children will be further behind their non-SEND peers. However, the changes in schooling because of lockdowns were not always seen as having a negative impact. One finding of particular note was that half of parent carers said their child was less stressed because they had not been at school with some referring to less social interaction, more child-led learning, more attention on the development of a wider range of skills beyond the academic as well as a broader focus on mental health and wellbeing as part of the reasons for this. Building on the potential positive aspects of lockdown to be a catalyst for longer-term change the study makes several recommendations.
The main recommendations are:
- Prioritise social, emotional and mental health needs within the curriculum
- Explore the opportunities to create a more flexible and individually responsive school system for all pupils
- Explore the reasons for anxiety within school and work to adapt the environment, processes, interactions and teaching to change this
- Explicitly teach social communication and interaction to all pupils to develop stronger peer-learning approaches
- Build on the technological advantages such as new ways to keep in touch, deliver learning, re-imagine therapies to build stronger relationships with parents and families
- Harness the abilities and strengths that children have developed during lockdown such as improved technological and fine motor skills
- Ensure there is time to share experiences as a start for supporting social and emotional needs
- Reassess children with SEND to create child-centred academic, social and emotional targets
- Ensure all children with SEND are offered in school places in any future lockdown