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Tuesday, 24 April 2012 10:56

Children's minister launches £500,000 scholarship scheme for SEN support stff
Catherine Gaunt, 18 April 2012, 1:23pm
A new Government scholarship scheme for teaching assistants who work with children with special educational needs and disabilities will pay up to £2,000 towards the costs of taking a degree-level qualification.
The £500,000 SEN Support Scholarship programme aims to boost the skills of hundreds of teaching assistants and school staff by funding 50 per cent of the costs of a range of degree-level courses and qualifications focussing on specific needs such as autism and dyslexia.
Applicants must be qualified to 'A' level or equivalent or hold Higher Level Teaching Assistant status.
Launching the programme, children’s minister Sarah Teather said, ‘This is about getting the best from 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 of they want.’
She added, ‘We know that support staff can make a real difference to the achievement of pupils with SEN and disabilities. They are never a substitute for a qualified teacher – but we know that when used effectively, they are vital to giving the most vulnerable pupils the support they need to get the most out of school.’
Applications open on 30 May and close on 17 May with the first scholarships awarded later this year.
Scholarships will be awarded to the highest scoring applicants whose applications meet the criteria. Applications will be scrutinised and scored by the Teaching Agency and Department for Education, and assessment will be externally verified.
Ms Teather also confirmed funding in 2012/13 to train 100 new special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOS) though the masters-level National Award for SEN co-ordination.
The scheme has been extended following the recent review into alternative provision by Government expert on behaviour Charlie Taylor to include qualified teachers working in pupil referral units.
The Government is shortly to publish its response and next steps to the consultation on last year’s SEN Green Paper which put forward proposals to raise the quality of SEN education and support.
The education union Voice, commenting on the programme, said there was a need for specialised training for all teaching assistants working with children with SEN and disabilities.
General Secretary Philip Parkin said, 'Although better late than never, this is 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.
'There remains a real need for the majority of TAs involved in special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) work – those employed at levels one or two, many of whom will be minimally qualified – to gain access to appropriate specialised training. Regrettably, this initiative does nothing for them.