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Wednesday, 05 September 2018

Schools supporting children with special educational needs 'face bleak future'

Written by Nina Massey

Schools are faced with a bleak picture when it comes to supporting children with special educational needs, according to a report.

The report from school leaders' union the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), found teachers have been left struggling by tight budgets and cuts to health and social care provision.

The NAHT says the funding crisis in schools is not just about cuts to education budgets, but the cost to the most vulnerable children of cuts to a range of critical support services.

A survey of its members found that of the 637 who responded, 94% said they were finding it harder to resource the support required to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) than they did two years ago.

NAHT general secretary, Paul Whiteman (pictured), said: "The picture facing schools supporting children with special educational needs is bleak.

"Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have been severe cuts to health and social care provision.

"Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils. Without sufficient funding and a more coherent approach, the special educational needs (SEN) code of practice is nothing more than an empty promise from government to parents and children."

Seventy-three percent of respondents said it was harder to resource support for pupils with SEND due to cuts to mainstream funding, as cuts to teaching assistants and pastoral staff have had a major impact on schools supporting their most vulnerable pupils.

Only 2% said the top up funding they received was sufficient to meet individual Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) or statements for pupils with SEND.

More than four in five (83%) reported not receiving any funding from health and social care budgets to support pupils with statements or EHCPs.

Mr Whiteman added: "One million of the recognised 1.28 million children with SEN do not have any additional funding afforded to them.

"That means that the financial burden of additional support penalises those mainstream schools that are the most inclusive.

"This is unsustainable. Schools are seriously struggling to fund SEN support in the face of crippling budget pressures that sees them forced to cut critical support staff.

"We urgently need the government to recognise the scale of the problem and to secure an immediate increase in funding from the Treasury. It is make or break time for school funding."

The report, published on Wednesday, recommends the Department for Education (DfE) undertakes a full review of current and future demand for high needs funding to support pupils with SEND and secure an immediate increase in funding from the Treasury.

It also recommends the Government provides sufficient funding to redress the real terms cuts to the mainstream schools block funding.

The NAHT further calls for the Government to ensure there are sufficient trained therapists and professionals available to support the special educational and mental health needs of pupils.

Responding to the report councillor Anntoinette Bramble, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's children and young people Board, said: "The findings of this report reinforce the desperate need for the Government to provide significant, ongoing and sustainable funding to help councils manage the rising demand in support from pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)."

She added: "As a starting point we are calling for an urgent review of funding to meet the unprecedented rise in demand that councils are experiencing."

Minister for children and families Nadhim Zahawi said: "We have undertaken the biggest special educational needs reforms in a generation, including the introduction of Education Health and Care plans, so that support is tailored to the needs of individuals and families are put at the heart of the process.

"We recognise that there is increasing pressure on schools and on high needs budgets, which is exactly why funding is rising to meet this.

"Core schools funding is increasing to £43.5 billion by 2020 - that's 50% more per pupil in real terms than in 2000 - and within that total the high needs budget is £6 billion this year, the highest on record."

The NAHT represents more than 28,000 school leaders.

The online survey was open for a period of three weeks between May 21 and June 11.

Ninety-four percent of respondents were from primary or nursery settings and 91% were from mainstream, with 9% from special schools.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) National Association of Head Teachers.