The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has branded England's SEND, 'a system in crisis'.
From over 600 responses to an online survey, about their experiences in relation to the education of children with special educational needs and disabilities the NAHT found "powerful testimony of an education system struggling to meet the needs of its most vulnerable pupils". It says it will use T will use to press the government to ensure that not only schools but health and social care services are properly funded.
Who are the NAHT?
The NAHT represents over 28,000 school leaders across the UK and were one of the first to raise alarm over the school funding crisis hitting schools across the UK.
It points to figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that between 2009/10 and 2017/18, total school spending in England fell by 8% per pupil in real terms.
In addition to cuts to school funding, cuts to health and social care provision now often leave teachers at the front line in supporting a range of children’s needs, including those with special educational needs (SEN). 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.
Over the summer, the NAHT carried out their survey that revealed:
- Only 2% of respondents said that the top up funding they received was sufficient to meet individual education health and care plans (EHCPs) or statements for pupils with SEND.
- 94% of respondents are finding it harder to resource the support required to meet the needs of pupils with SEND than they did two years ago.
- 73% 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.
- 70% of respondents said that cuts to health and social care budgets were making it harder to support the needs of children with SEND in the last two years.
- 83% of respondents reported not receiving ANY funding from health and social care budgets to support pupils with statements or EHCPs.
- 30% of respondents don’t receive services from health and social care to support their pupils.
- There are long delays for pupils to be assessed, with 15% of respondents waiting over six months from referral for an EHCP assessment, and 39% waiting over six months from referral for an EHCP to be produced.
- EHCPs are not accurate when produced, with less than a third (32%) of respondents reporting that EHCPs accurately reflect and help to address the needs of their pupils with SEND.
- 75% of respondents said that professionals from health and social care don’t attend annual reviews and meetings enough to provide the support needed
What are the reasons?
When the 94% who were finding it harder than two years ago to resource support were asked what they thought the reasons for this were, the top three responses were:
- LA cuts to high needs top-up funding - 79% (74% of respondents to initial question)
- mainstream funding for the school - 78% (73% of respondents to initial question)
- health and social care services - 75% (70% of respondents to initial question).
Looking at the hardest access to services, the heads cited mental health services - CAMHS - as having by far the longest waiting times.
Social Care the worst hit
70% said that cuts to health and social care budgets were making it harder to support the needs of children with SEND in the last two years.
- 83% said they do not receive ANY funding from health and social care budgets to support pupils
- 30% said they do not receive ANY services from health and social care departments to support pupils
- Of those who do receive services, 82% said that these have declined in the last two years
- For each service, long waiting times were the greatest barrier to use.
We are failing many of our children with additional needs because of the shortage of specialist support, appropriate funding and adequate systems required to deliver effective early intervention.
Increasing social care demands on schools whilst implementing budget cuts is a paradox. Conference instructs national executive to press the government to prioritise funding in this area rather than expecting present funding to meet the social care needs of all children.
Funding and support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities is reaching crisis point in our schools.
As the champion for our most vulnerable children and young people, conference urges national executive to drive home the seriousness of the situation to the government and press for an overall review of the decline in funding and support for pupils with all levels of SEND. NAHT report
What does this mean for children?
The NAHT members are echoing what families are already experiencing and have Ben doing for some time: that government rhetoric about the money being pumped in is not meeting need and by some way.
In effect, children with SEND are not getting the support they need to help them thrive or even to attend school in the first place. This isn't just a 'now' problem; it will have a negative impact for their entire lives. Without the support they need, their chances of being contributing members of society are vastly diminished. This means they will be ever more reliant on the state throughout their lives.
Even very disabled adults are able to make a positive contribution, with support. Is this not what is expected of a society at the forefront of the so-called 'developed world'? If we are judged by how we treat our most vulnerable, this government would likely score a 1 at its GCSE.
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