The term “special needs” is used too widely, says Ofsted

Pupils are being labelled incorrectly – they need better teaching, according to inspectors

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Ofsted has argued that up to 25% of students in England would not be labelled has having special educational needs if they received better teaching and support.

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The education watchdog also argued that the term “special needs” was being used too widely amongst England’s 1.7 million pupils.

Inspectors visited 228 nurseries, schools and colleges, and studied the cases of 345 young people with disabilities and special educational needs.

“We felt that schools and teachers were well intentioned but they were over-diagnosing the problems – teachers in the classroom weren’t confident they could deal with the problems,” Christine Gilbert, Ofsted chief inspector, explained to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We feel teachers and schools need to have more confidence themselves about looking at what are barriers to learning,” added Christine.

The Ofsted report has not been received well by teachers however, with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) describing the claims as “insulting and wrong”.

“There is a real problem, if your class is big – 30 or 30+ children – then finding the time to give an individual child the attention they need is not easy,” said Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT.

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