£500,000 scholarship scheme launched for SEN support staff

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Hundreds of school support staff are to get degree-level and specialist training in helping children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), under a new £500,000 programme set out today by Children’s Minister Sarah Teather.

The annual SEN support scholarship programme will provide up to £2,000 each to boost the skills of talented teaching assistants and school staff who work with children with SEND. The scholarship cash will fund staff through rigorous, specialist courses and qualifications.

Support and aspiration, the SEN green paper published in March last year, set out major reforms to develop the expertise and expert knowledge of the wider school workforce – so the most vulnerable children have their needs identified early and get the specialist help they need.

The green paper pointed to evidence that in many schools, pupils with SEND were left to be supported ‘almost exclusively’ by teaching assistants – risking children becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the class and classroom teachers.

It said the best schools proved that highly-skilled support staff could be crucial in raising standards – if they were trained, supported, deployed and managed effectively – and it proposed a national scholarship scheme to send a clear message that high-level professional development should the norm throughout a support staff career.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather praised the scheme saying: “This is about getting the best from all school staff. These scholarships identify and train talented professionals, with the potential to develop their specialist knowledge further and pursue a teaching career in the future if they want.”

However, Philip Parkin, General Secretary for the teachers’ union Voice described the scheme as “too little too late and rather limited in scope”.

“The scheme targets only the elite – or ‘talented’ as the DfE describes them – those teaching assistants (TAs) who are already well qualified, with A levels or equivalent qualifications or who hold higher level teaching assistant (HLTA) status.”

Applications will open on 30 April and close on 17 May, with the first scholarships awarded later this year.

More information about applying to the SEN support scholarship programme

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