Can technology help pupils with SEND?


New research on assistive technologies will massively benefit pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), children and families minister Vicky Ford has said.

Technology of this type has been used in recent months to support pupils through the pandemic, by helping them to boost their learning, communication skills and independence.

In an address to the All Party Parliamentary Group, Mrs Ford outlined new research which is designed to assist pupils with SEND with the transition between education and the workplace.

The rapid evidence review of assistive technology marks the first time such work has been undertaken and it is hoped it will help schools and colleges to better understand how existing tools and technological approaches can be used to support pupils.

Life-changing technologies

In her keynote speech, Mrs Ford praised the responses of both the education and technology sectors for meeting “historic challenges” that have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic.

She said assistive learning has the power to “be life-changing for many”, and especially for those with complex care needs.

“In recent months, the importance of assistive technology has been demonstrated like never before,” she said.

“Our review will give schools and colleges a helping hand by providing greater transparency in what tools and interventions can improve outcomes of SEND students and bridge the gap from education into employment.”

Enhancing accessibility

Mrs Ford said the review should also enable technology firms to better embed accessibility features into their products and services while allowing policymakers to embed inclusion into their working processes.

“This will lead to real, meaningful differences in the quality of education for children and young people,” she added. “This is key, because we need to be clear: accessibility should never be an add-on, it should be the norm.”

Such support can include text to voice tools, subtitles, reading tools and other technologies that can aid teachers when delivering classes remotely.

Mrs Ford, along with the minister for digital and culture, Caroline Dinenage, has also written to technology giants Google and Microsoft calling for them to enhance accessibility on their product offering.

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