Special educational needs failures: The open secret that shames Britain's education system

Stock image of special educational needs.
Credit: PA
Thousands of parents and children are being failed by the system, new figures show. Credit: ITV News Anglia
  • Words by Neil Barbour of ITV News Anglia

There's an open secret in the UK, acknowledged publicly by parents, councils, experts and government.

Thousands of children with additional needs are being failed, cast aside from education, forced to fight for their most fundamental of needs. Help.

I've been looking into failings in the special educational needs (SEN) system for five years now, ever since my own daughter was diagnosed as autistic, and what I've found has shocked me. 

Parents, desperate for help, fighting for what most of us would expect as a basic right for our children: education, healthcare, support. 

What's striking is the sheer weight of stories we could tell. 

Right around the region, people are facing enforced hardship, relentless battles, deliberate obfuscation. Hundreds, probably thousands of people each with individual circumstances, united by their desperation. 

There's something I can relate to in each of the families I've met. It's their capacity to deal with challenges; their unshakeable drive to fight; the unwavering love for their children born out of the obstacles they've encountered.

There's one sad truth in each home too. The sense of resignation. Not resignation to failure, or defeat. It's a resignation that the reality they face is "just how it is".

Families in thousands of pounds of debt, resigned to the fact that's how it needs to be. Parents of children waiting months for a diagnosis, reconciled with the fact that they're bottom of a bulging waiting list.

Schools and councils pleading for more funding for a faltering system, overrun with demand, short of supply. Professionals trying to do more with less, tight on time with overwhelming workloads.

Every part of the system resigned to the fact it's not working; each part calling for it to be fixed.

Personally I feel lucky. We didn't have to wait long for diagnosis, for schooling, for help. We still have to fight, not nearly as much as the families I've spoken to, but it's still necessary.

For the families I've spoken to, luck doesn't come into the conversation. 

All they want is help.

Have you been affected by the failures in special educational needs provision? Email your views or experiences to