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Contact CEO talks special schools on BBC Newsnight

Thursday 4th February 2021

Our CEO Amanda Batten was interviewed on BBC Newsnight this week about the low numbers of children with special educational needs able to attend school this lockdown - despite being entitled to.

You might like to watch it back online: BBC iPlayer - Newsnight - 02/02/2021 (starts at 25:50).

In the programme, the reporter Lewis Goodall visits Watergate School in Lewisham, south London, and explores the difficulties for special schools in trying to offer all disabled children a place this lockdown.

The reality on the ground is that this is not happening for many pupils at special and mainstream schools.

The programme also explores the difficulties for parents when their child isn't in school. Like Kim, mother to James, who says, "James and the other kids like him can't just be put in front of a computer, you must be with them all the time, help them hold their pencil, hold their pen".

Although the programme focuses on England the issues are similar in the other UK nations, with attendance figures for disabled children well below what they should be.

BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis describes the situation for families with disabled children: 

"So often in this pandemic the burden has fallen on those less able to bear it. Nowhere is that more true than in the field of education for special educational needs.

"According to government rules, all children with education health and care ( EHC) plans, those with more complex needs, are entitled to be in school full time. In reality just a third of them are. For many such children social distancing in schools is simply not comprehensible, but home learning is difficult or impossible. This has left school staff and parents facing difficult choices."

In the programme, our CEO Amanda calls for special school staff to be seen as part of the care workforce and be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccine.

We are greatly worried about the impact on the long-term development and mental health of disabled children, not only missing out on education but on the essential therapies that they often get at school. This could have repercussions for years to come.

Need advice about your child's education?

Join our Q&A Facebook session on EHC plans next Thursday 11 February with our education advisers from our helpline. Visit our Facebook page for updates.

We've got lots of advice on our website about education during the coronavirus pandemic, wherever you live in the UK. You can also visit our education section for any other query you have.

And our education specialists are here to talk through your concerns on our freephone helpline - 0808 808 3555 (Monday-Friday, 9.30am-5pm).