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LSAs: It’s Not What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It



 

For many parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (“SEND”) having dedicated 1:1 for their child in school is the difference between a placement succeeding (or having any chance of succeeding) or not. There are many reasons why a child might need a very high level of individualised support, including a requirement for constant vigilance to prevent harm to themselves or to others, frequent interventions to remain engaged and on task and a bespoke curriculum delivered at a pace and/or in a manner significantly different to the general class.

 

Regardless of the reasons, however, schools and local authorities often display considerable antipathy towards the deployment of Learning Support Assistants (“LSAs”) in this way. Whilst some of this is doubtless attributable to the cost of such support (the average wage is £20,000 pa), it also speaks to an ideological resistance to the nature of the support. When challenged, reference is repeatedly made to a landmark study that, it is said, demonstrated that 1:1 support for children with SEND is not only largely unhelpful to them but is in fact positively detrimental.  However, proper consideration of the study reveals that this view represents a fundamental misreading of what was actually found.

 

The study in question is from 2009 and is called the Deployment and Impact of Support Staff in Schools project (“DISS”). It concluded that there were indeed difficulties with the proper use of support staff, including a need for better training and professional development of such staff, as well as increased opportunities for planning and feedback between them and teaching staff. In addition, it was noted that SEN students received too little direct input from qualified teachers as this role was frequently delegated to support staff. In short, the main issue was not the existence of 1:1 support but how it was used. To be effective, LSAs must supplement not replace qualified teacher input, they must themselves be properly trained to meet the needs of the students they are supporting, and they must be adequately prepared to deliver that support.

 

None of this means that LSAs are unnecessary for children with SEND, much less actively harmful. In truth, many children with SEND simply would not be able to attend school absent the consistent and personalised support enabled by a 1:1 LSA, and the First Tier Tribunal SEND (“FTT SEND”) regularly orders the inclusion of such support in EHC Plans. For such support to benefit the child, however, it requires careful planning and deployment of LSAs, who should be recognised and rewarded for the critically important role that they play in schools today.

 

If you feel your child or young person requires 1:1 support SEND Advocacy Limited can help. If you need someone in your corner to help you secure the education your child or young person deserves, contact us today.

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