Havering SEN pupils 'fell further behind than peers' during pandemic

A stock image of students in a classroom. Picture: PA/Ben Birchall

Education has been disrupted during the pandemic - Credit: PA

Pupils in Havering with special educational needs (SEN) had a lower attendance rate, fell further behind and were slower to return to school than their peers during the pandemic. 

That’s according to a report presented to Havering Council's children and learning overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday, January 20. 

The report had been specifically requested by councillors in a previous meeting of the committee after a document on schools’ handling of the pandemic was deemed to have lacked detail regarding SEN pupils. 

According to the new report, while schools worked to provide face-to-face education for SEN pupils during the pandemic, “attendance was below the national average as many parents were particularly nervous due to the complex medical conditions and vulnerabilities of their children”. 

It also repeats anecdotal evidence from Havering schools that SEN pupils fell further behind than their peers during the lockdowns - an idea supported by “nationally documented” trends. 

“This was because they had both lower online/face-to-face attendance rates than others, and often they were in families that are more economically challenged, resulting in parents struggling to provide the support for home learning," it said.  

“They also had issues such as sharing technology with siblings, although schools worked very hard to mitigate these factors.” 

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During the return to classrooms following the various periods of lockdown and remote learning, teachers put on additional “intervention groups” to help make up for lost ground, but the report noted that SEN pupils were “often slower to return to school”. 

The pandemic also saw more of the parents of children with SEN in Havering turning to children’s social care for support, being unable to make use of the usual respite care. 

“Short breaks provision was difficult to keep going during the pandemic, due to providers not being able to deliver and holiday clubs not open," the report added.

“This led to families being under increasing pressure and the escalation of behaviours that challenge in children.” 

The council attempted to address this with an increased direct payment offer for parents who employed their own personal assistants, and £300 was also allocated for families to buy toys or equipment to support children. 

READ MORE: Attendance percentages plunged to 'low 20s' at some schools last winter, committee hears