At the end of July, the Department for Education (DfE) announced that 19 local authorities had opened bids for the creation of new free schools for children with special educational needs or a disability (SEND).
Schools minister Lord Nash said: “Free schools are providing many good new school places in response to the needs of communities across the country. This process will give local authorities the chance to identify expert organisations with proven track records in SEND provision to run special schools that will help hundreds of children fulfil their potential.”
Catering to the needs of pupils with SEND can be a complex issue as it requires many organisations to work together. Teachers, who are instrumental to the progress of children with SEND, need regular training and the support of SEND co-ordinators (SENCos).
Moreover, furniture and educational resources can be more or less conducive to SEND children’s learning processes. UK educational suppliers recognise they need to develop SEND-specific resources if they are to enable schools to provide the high-quality education children with SEND deserve.
For some BESA members, it’s a personal matter. SEN teacher Bob Hext, for example, started devising games for his students with dyslexia because he found many of the 1980s materials inadequate to help them learn properly. He decided to set up his own company, Crossbow Education, in 1992 to provide dyslexia and visual stress supplies to all who need them.
Focusing on supplying SEND resources can also be a sound business decision. While about 15% of all pupils in the UK are deemed to be SEND, the actual number has increased to 1.24 million children over the past year, due to increasing pupil numbers overall.
There is, therefore, a growing market for SEND-specific resources in schools. The opening of these new free schools would create 1,600 new special free school places. It is a chance for BESA members specialising in SEND supplies to develop their offerings further and work with the new schools.
Among them, LDA is constantly improving its products and services by working closely with experts, who have extensive experience of working with children with a range of SEND conditions. Its new book on the Autism spectrum gives teachers a better understanding of the condition and ideas about how best to adapt the curriculum to get the most results for children on the spectrum.
Meanwhile, Mike Ayres Design focuses on the learning environment. Building multi-sensory concepts, environments and products for care and education, the company thrives to enable children with SEND to learn in an inclusive environment.
There are opportunities for a wide range of education companies to get involved in providing SEND resources – from furniture to EdTech, from publications to assessment. If you are interested in developing SEND resources, or want to discuss issues in the sector with other suppliers, join our BESA Special Needs Group.