News | Published February 19 2019

73% of young people in custody have SEN, with insight from Chiltern Way Academy

Increasingly so in the past year, education has begun to feature prominently within political discourse. Since the headteachers march on the 28th September, a formal inquiry has been launched by the Education Committee into funding for students with SEN following widespread calls to re-evaluate the funding provision for education. 

Ian McCaul, the CEO of the Chiltern Way Academy, believes wider action must be taken to address systemic failures for those with SEN. Responding to these statistics, he argued that SEN is the issue in the prison system, stating that if we address this issue we will significantly reduce the number of people going to prison. The Chiltern Way Academy Trust is an award-winning Special Educational Needs Academy for boys and girls aged 9-19.

Focusing on social, emotional and mental health and autistic spectrum conditions, they educate the most behaviourally challenging and vulnerable students in the education system.

In an interview with The Parliamentary Review, McCaul drew attention to a recent report released by the Ministry of Justice which studied the demographics of young people in the custodial system. The report studied those in custody at the end of Key Stage 4 in the academic year 2012-2013 and included an assessment of those with SEN.

It concluded that “young people sentenced to custody are more likely to have a SEN compared to the overall pupil population.” The study found that 45 per cent of those who had been sentenced to less than 12 months in custody were recorded as having SEN without a statement while 28 per cent were recorded as having SEN with a statement. These figures changed to 46 per cent and 21 per cent respectively when applied to longer term custodial sentences.

McCaul identified this statistic as a wider indicator of the failure to properly recognise both the proportion of the population with SEN and the need to address their requirements, a sentiment that is echoed in his submission for The Parliamentary Review. Criticising the lack of focus from across the political spectrum, McCaul called for a wider appreciation of these issues to prevent such a disproportionately high number of SEN individuals entering the criminal justice system.

As Chiltern Way Academy deals with the most behaviourally challenging students, McCaul stressed that an awareness was needed of the importance of institutions like his, as they are often the crucial step in preventing those with SEN entering the custodial system. McCaul highlighted that if greater recognition was awarded to the fact that so many in custody do have such needs, attention could be focused on finding the source of this issue. Referring to the wider situation, he pithily summarised that instead of trying to mop the floor, we ought to turn off the tap.

To try and solve these problems, McCaul called for wider recognition and closer collaboration between government departments, as well as with institutions like his. He criticised government departments for working separately rather than collectively and stated that if closer collaboration was achieved, interdisciplinary trends, like the amount of SEN individuals in the custodial system, could be addressed.

The Chiltern Way Academy focuses on providing vocational experience to all of their students, to ensure that when they leave education, they are able to integrate and succeed in the wider world. McCaul called for greater attention to be paid for these pupils between the ages of 16 and 25. He articulated his belief that if greater attention was paid at an earlier stage, the knock on effects would be huge.

Not only would those pupils be more likely to develop practical skills to aide them in later life, the custodial system and other public health services would have their burdens significantly reduced. By providing their students with employment education and subsequent advice, Chiltern Way Academy aim to provide their students with what they perceive to be the most crucial thing: long term employment.

Lord Blunkett, co-chairman of the Review, commented on these findings. He stated that: “The work of the Chiltern Way Academy, and those like them, working with children with special needs and learning difficulties are doing an excellent job against the odds.

When the Coalition Government passed the Children and Families Act it was with the best intentions. However, the Education, Health and Care Plans envisaged as providing support through to the age of 25 have signally failed.

A combination of austerity measures, lack of coordination and joined up thinking nationally and locally and sometimes incompetence have left young people and their families without the support and early intervention needed to avoid both distress and enormous public expenditure later in life.

This is not a party political matter but putting the resource in where and when it is needed appears to be beyond the capability of those currently responsible.” 

Authored by

George Salmon
Business Editor
February 19 2019

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