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(UK) England: MP ignores special needs students in new math standards

Apr 19, 2023, inews: Rishi Sunak has not considered children with special educational needs in maths plan, say campaigners

Charities and campaign groups supporting children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) and their parents fear Rishi Sunak has not considered them in his compulsory maths plan.

The proposal risks putting additional unnecessary stress on children with learning difficulties who are already struggling for adequate support, one campaigning mother told i.

Under the Prime Minister’s plans, which he outlined on Monday, every young person will be made to study some form of maths up to the age of 18.

Steve O’Brien, CEO and founder of the Dyslexia Foundation, said the Prime Minister has made adults feel embarrassed about their struggles with numeracy but it was key to note difficulties solving simple numerical problems can be linked to neurodivergence.

Mr O’Brien said: “It is important to acknowledge that the inability to complete basic mathematical tasks can be due to neurological conditions. Many dyslexics and dyscalculics struggle with short-term memory and experience difficulties in performing simple number problems….

Almost 1.5 million pupils in England alone have special educational needs, according to the latest Government figures.

The percentage of pupils with SEN support increased to 12.6 per cent in 2021/22 up from 12.2 per cent the previous year….

In his speech setting out the Government’s vision to ensure children study maths until 18 years old, Mr Sunak made no mention of provision for children who require SEND support. The omission has left groups concerned these children have not been considered.

Cat Eadle, co-founder of the Dyscalculia Network, said the message that more maths is better does not align at all with the experiences of the millions of people with dyscalculia.

Ms Eadle said: “Dyscalculics have very little support at all (there is no compulsory teacher training on dyscalculia and no universal screening). Many simply suffer in silence and are doomed to fail Maths GCSEs, as well as frequent resits that they are forced to sit. This has a huge impact on mental health and career prospects.”…

Hayley Harding mother to autistic son and co-founder of Let Us Learn Too, which supports parents who are fighting to get additional support for their school-aged children.

Ms Harding said: “For some children with SEND maths is a real struggle. Particularly for those children who are left to learn it without the right support due to the massively underfunded SEND education system. Furthering this struggle for two years seems unnecessary, putting stress on young people and their families who already face enough challenges.”…

Ms Eadle also expressed concern about the lack of focus on early intervention, while Mr O’Brien and Ms Harding both called for greater investment to address the shortage of support.

“The SEND agenda and children’s experience in the education system will not change without massive investment,” Mr O’Brien said. “It is time for the government to prioritise and commit to supporting children and adults with SEND issues rather than resorting to tactics that merely shame those who struggle with numeracy and literacy.”

Ms Harding said: “Rather than focusing on a plan like this the Government should be prioritising making sure all children can learn in the classes that are already being provided rather than adding more pressure on budgets and teachers who are already massively overstretched.”


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