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Education in the media: 6 March 2017

Today’s news review looks at coverage of new investment in facilities for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities and a story about GCSE resits.

SEND investment

On Saturday, 4 March we announced £215m of investment to create more school places and improve facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Most councils will receive more than £1m with none receiving less than £500k. They can spend this money as they see fit and it can be used in any mainstream school including academies and free schools.

The story was widely reported by outlets including BBC Breakfast, local and national radio outlets and in newspapers including the Mail.

Vulnerable Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:

This Government is determined to build a country that works for everyone - a country where every child has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of their background, and any challenges they may face.


We've already made the biggest changes for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in a generation, but we want to go further and build on that success.


Our multimillion-pound investment will enable local councils to build new classrooms and improve facilities for pupils, ensuring that no child is left behind.

The move has been welcomed by the sector:

A joint statement from Contact a Family and the National Network of Parent Carer Forums said:

To make sure this money makes the best possible difference to families with disabled children and young people, it’s vital that local authorities work in partnership with them so they provide the services that families actually want and use.


Parent Carer Forums – networks of parent carers across the country - can help ensure this happens by working strategically with local authorities, Clinical Commissioning Groups and others to make sure the views and opinions of families directly influence the services that affect them.

Special Schools’ Voice, said:

Special Schools’ Voice welcome the extra capital investment and the difference this will make to children and young people with additional needs.

Alan Campbell, headteacher at Cambridge School, a special school in Hammersmith and Fulham, said:

Even small amounts of capital funding can have a huge impact. For instance, our current aim is to install kitchen equipment in classrooms so our pupils can learn the skills they need to live independently as adults.


We’re also hoping to turn an outbuilding into an outdoor classroom for vocational qualifications including horticulture, so pupils can go on to get the jobs they want.

GCSE retakes

In order to ensure that young people have the education, skills and training they need and that employers value the most, in 2013 we made it compulsory that all children must stay in education or training until they are 18. Alongside this we made it compulsory that all those pupils who didn’t get at least a grade C in maths or English retake those tests until they get a C or leave education.

The Victoria Derbyshire Show ran a piece this morning discussing the percentage of pupils who do retakes but then fail again. The piece included testimony from pupils who have failed resits and questioned whether the policy benefits them and also from teachers who say the move has caused them financial pressure because they’ve had to hire venues for the tests.

English and maths are essential building blocks. Many employers insist that applicants must be qualified in English and maths and we want to make sure pupils leave school with the skills that will most benefit them in life.

But we have said that we are looking at reforming the way school leavers who do not have GCSEs in maths and English go about getting qualified in these areas. This will in part be through reforming our Functional Skills programme.

A DfE spokesperson said:

We know school leavers who achieve GCSEs in maths and English significantly increase their chances of securing a good job, an apprenticeship or progressing to further learning, and we are working closely with the post-16 sector to look at how we can ensure more students are mastering these important skills.


However, we are developing credible, high-quality options for students through reforming Functional Skills qualifications in maths and English to make sure that they deliver the knowledge and skills that employers need, and consequently have credibility and prestige in the jobs market.

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