Government has published the report commissioned by the Minister for Education Prof John Cortes, which looked into the marked increase in the number of children with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND).

The report, prepared by Public Health professional Una Geary used data from the Department of Education and an extensive literature search to arrive at its conclusions. There were also meetings with stakeholders and a public meeting. While the terms of reference were to identify causes, the report goes on to make a number of recommendations.

The report finds that increases in SEND, in particular autism and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are being seen globally. While increased awareness makes a contribution, it does not account for the whole increase, which is real. Parental health and age, and smoking, are some of the contributory factors, while excessive screen time in very young children is considered to exacerbate the conditions.

The key recommendations made in the report are:

1. Tackle maternal health

2. Provide support for parenting skills

3. Limit children’s screen time

4. Continue to pursue a philosophy of inclusion in Education

At a press call Prof Cortes was joined by the Director of Education Keri Scott and Director of Public Health Dr Helen Carter.

The report’s main conclusions and recommendations were summarised and will be the subject of discussion within the Department of Education and the schools, the Ministries of Equality and Health and the GHA and Care Agency who will use the report to inform policy and action.

The full report can be viewed here: with Special Educational Needs report 14th March 2024.pdf

The Department of Education has said that for its part, it puts in place specialist provision, supportive structures and strategies to help children and young people as soon as any additional needs are identified. The introduction of support is not dependent on there being a formal diagnosis.

Director of Public Health Dr Helen Carter commented, “I was pleased to have been approached to undertake this project at the request of the Minister for Education. I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to the project"

Director of Education Keri Scott said, “We continue working hard to ensure high quality provision for all learners under our care, and are particularly mindful of the more specialist provision that children and young people with SEND require. The significant increase in the numbers of children and young people with SEND that we have experienced in the last decade particularly, has required additional resourcing from a human and physical point of view, which we have provided. We will continue working with schools and all our partner agencies and departments to ensure we do our best to meet children’s needs at all stages of their learning journey.”

The Minister for Health and Public Health, the Hon Gemma Arias-Vasquez, said: "We will imminently be publishing a neurodevelopmental pathway which looks to address some of the issued raised in this report. The report highlights the need for education, health and public health to take a multi-disciplinary approach to tackle the issues around special educational needs in Gibraltar."

Minister for Education Prof John Cortes said “This is a significant step in our providing the right educational setting for our children, especially those with special educational needs. I'm delighted that we have undertaken this important research project. It provides us with a vital analysis and evidence that we have increasing numbers of children being identified by understanding some of what is happening we can better support them and their families in getting the most out of their journey through our schools”.

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