The Government is failing children with special educational needs and disabilities. Without adequate high needs funding, thousands of children are losing out on a proper education and the support they need to learn.
There are now 390,109 pupils and students with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), an increase of 10 per cent on 2019 and 62 per cent on 2015. This is far more than anyone anticipated. Because the system cannot cope with the increased number of pupils with EHCPs, greater numbers are being educated in inappropriate settings. In the past year there has been a 15 per cent rise in the number of pupils with EHCPs attending independent schools, which are not independent special schools. There has also been a 17 per cent rise in the number of pupils with EHCPs in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). In the worst case, children are not receiving any provision at all - 1,260 pupils are of compulsory school age and not in education.
National Education Union analysis indicates that, in order to address these shortfalls, the High Needs Block should be £2.1bn a year higher, assuming the 2020/21 number of EHCPs were funded at the 2015/16 rate.
The Government has acknowledged the issue and has increased funding. with £350 million for 2019-20, £780 million for 2020-21 and the announcement of £730m for 2021-22. But this isn’t enough given the scale of need. The planned Comprehensive Spending Review covers the period to 2023-24 and the Government urgently needs to deliver more funding.
The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the financial situation for many schools, who have had to incur additional costs for higher grade personal protective equipment (PPE), duplicate sensory resources to stop cross contamination and additional cleaning staff. None of these additional costs have been reimbursed by the government, placing additional financial pressure on a sector which was already severely underfunded. See here to find out more about coronavirus and SEND.
What you can do:
DfE call for evidence
In summer 2019 we asked our members working as SENDCOs and within Special Schools for feedback on their experiences of working within the High Needs sector in the current SEND funding crisis. We used their responses to inform the NEU’s submission to the DfE’s call for evidence into SEND and Alternative Provision funding, which was designed to come up with new ways to fix the broken SEND system.
As a result of member feedback, the NEU has called for:
- Adequate and dedicated funding for the timely educational provision of children and young people with Special Needs and Disabilities. The SEND funding shortfall must be urgently addressed. All children have the right to access appropriate education.
- Reduction in unnecessary and excessive workload for teachers working with children and young people with additional needs. Members highlighted the time consuming and often admin driven aspects of their working day, which keeps them from working directly with young people who need their specialist skills.
- Greater consideration of the impact of mid-year movements of children with EHCPs on a school’s budget. Schools are not offered adequate and timely financial support to address unexpected provision for children who arrive after the start of the academic year. Schools should not have to simply “find the money” from elsewhere in an already over-stretched system.
Information gathered as part of the DfE’s call for evidence should help shape their SEND Review. The review was due to be published in 2020 but due to the pandemic has been delayed to Spring 2021.
Watch and share Maria's story
A school governor of 21 years speaks to the impact of cuts on her school and SEND provision.
Every child deserves to learn and thrive, but cuts to school funding are putting this at risk.
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