83% educators say SEND learners aren’t effectively supported to achieve, says 2024 Pearson school report

with Sharon Hague, Managing Director, School Assessment and Qualifications, Pearson

For the last few years, the educational publisher, Pearson publishes its annual Pearson School Report, a survey of over 12,000 teachers, students and education sector experts. In 2024, supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is the third biggest challenge teachers anticipate in the next year, after budgets and recruitment. However, the report underlines how good teacher support can make all the difference.

In 2024, while three-quarters of students say their teachers are supportive, 75% also say they struggle with engaging in lessons. 60% of teachers say today’s education system isn’t accessible enough — a damning indictment of our education system and something that clearly warrants further investigation and action.

Today on SNJ, Sharon Hague, Managing Director, School Assessment and Qualifications, Pearson has written for us about their report findings.

Our 2024 school report reveals the challenges facing educators and students, especially those with SEND, by Sharon Hague, Pearson

Now in its third year, the report takes a detailed look at education across England, sharing the voices of thousands of teachers, sector experts and students on the challenges and changes facing schools today, but also the innovative solutions that schools are finding in response to these. 

As I reflect on the launch of the 2024 Pearson School Report, teachers’ and students’ views are resoundingly clear: amid all the individual breakthrough moments, more can, and should, be done to support children with SEND in schools.

To many, it will be no surprise that SEND features highly in of the above—not just in the concerns and perceived barriers to learning, but also in the innovative ways teachers are working to support learners with a variety of needs.

“I work in a SEN school and the main positive impact I make is helping students feel like they fit in, they are an important part of [...] the community of the school [...] also that they are noticed and valued as individuals.” 

Secondary Classroom Teacher
Sharon Hague, Pearson

The challenges

The report's findings might initially seem quite stark but also familiar:

  • More than 8 in 10 (83%) educators believe that students with SEND and/or additional needs are not being effectively supported in their aspirations and achievements by the current education system – increasing 13 percentage points since the last year.  
  • The prevalence of SEND is one of the top three things teachers have grown more concerned about in the past year (61%)
  • Both primary and secondary teachers increasingly see SEND as a barrier to student learning over the next six months, rising to 75% of educators this year from 57% in 2022. This sentiment is especially strong among primary teachers, ranking it as their top concern/barrier at 83%, while 68% of secondary teachers say the same—a rise of 16% since the 2023 report, marking the largest year-on-year increase
  • Two in five primary teachers identified reforming SEND provision as one of the top three areas that would positively impact education in England, along with over half (57%) of headteachers.
  • Students themselves are recognising this too, with a quarter of secondary students saying better support for learners with SEND would be one of the changes that could most impact education (coming fifth behind digital assessment options, mental health support, free breakfasts for all pupils and better WiFi and access to devices or pupils). 
  • 40% of all students would like their school to make it fairer/easier for everyone to learn in a way that they need.

“The lack of specialist provision and outreach expertise mean many pupils are not in best provision to thrive.”

Primary Headteacher

In a society where we want all children to thrive, no one can argue these issues aren’t a cause for concern. We need to work together across the education community and beyond to drive positive change. 

The opportunities 

Amid the challenging findings, the proactivity and positivity of educators in seeking solutions and making a difference shine through.  

Schools are already implementing a range of solutions to help tackle these challenges. One of the standout figures from the report is that half of all schools are now offering SEND training for staff. As one secondary headteacher told us: "We are working with a special school to train staff to meet more profound SEND needs".

Some schools are allocating more time and resources to SEND-specific roles, with one primary headteacher stating: “Our Inclusion Manager spends a day a week on Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) applications, and I contact the SEN Assessment Team weekly.”

Additionally, almost six in 10 primary schools now provide sensory and/or wellbeing rooms for their students. While this is slightly less common in secondary schools, where only 43% of teachers report having such facilities, many schools are setting fantastic examples. For instance, a primary headteacher shared: "We have a quiet room, a SEND-specific teaching assistant, we are a Trauma-Informed School, and provide interventions for children." 

The rising role of technology

A recurring theme throughout the report is the significant role technology can and will play in enhancing accessibility and support for learners with SEND. Currently, 47% of primary teachers and 43% of secondary teachers believe technology is making education more accessible. Additionally, eight in 10 students report that technology makes it easier for all students to participate in school.

With nearly two-thirds of teachers (61%) believing technology will further improve accessibility for learners with SEND over the next three years, it seems this will be a key area for learners, schools and the sector as a whole to consider. This is something we’re incredibly passionate about and have seen the impact of firsthand through our remote invigilation service (enabling students to take exams from home) and offering the choice of onscreen exam options.

Where do we go from here? 

In 2024, 12,000+ teachers and students shared their views on education today. Since our first report in 2022, that number exceeds 25,000. Collectively, they’ve not only expressed areas of concern but also hope and curiosity.  

From conversations happening in classrooms to the House of Lords, we know that the report can fuel important discussions. As we gather more voices on more questions than ever before, we hope all changemakers in the country can join the conversation, build on solutions already in action in schools, and capitalise on the opportunity to take things further. 
Sharon Hague is Managing Director, School Assessment and Qualifications at Pearson.

Read the Pearson School Report 2024 online.

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