Today families of children with SEND—and the children and young people themselves too—are making history.
Up and down the country they are gathering in their hundreds, maybe even thousands, in town squares, city centres, in London’s Parliament Square right in front of the seat of government, and even on a beach, to protest the crisis in SEND.
Why would they take a day of precious half-term to spend it protesting? Because they’re angry, FURIOUS, at the failure of the government to fully support the SEND reforms and schools themselves with enough funding. They’re fed up with fine words and ignorant platitudes. They’re steaming mad at vulnerable children left without appropriate educational provision, or of still having to fight for their children’s fundamental rights to education despite the intentions of the Children and Families Act. And with LAs cutting essential services, the SEND reforms are like giving someone a shiny new wheelchair accessible van but only enough petrol to go half a mile. It’s not so much a journey, it’s a road to nowhere.
What more information does the government need?
Unless it’s delayed by the coming change at the top - as it may well be - the government’t spending review is expected to be announced any day. Yes, they say, there’s a consultation (a very complicated consultation) underway for high needs funding. But given all the research that’s been done, and the over 700 submissions and oral hearings to the SEND Inquiry, it’s hard to know what else the Department for Education wants to understand.
In the words of Robert Halfon MP, chair of the Education Select Committee, “It’s a big mess”. Never a truer word was spoken. He spoke sternly to the trio of DfE men sat like chastened schoolboys who are determined never to take the blame, telling them that of the 700+ submissions, not a single one said the reforms were going well. [Read Catriona Moore’s assessment of that hearing here] It’s, in a nutshell, a good idea, poorly executed. Not enough RING-FENCED cash, not enough targeted training, a withdrawal of the Independent Supporters WAY too soon, not enough emphasis on CULTURE CHANGE and all this against a backdrop of SAVAGE cuts from local authorities.
They bleated that the good practice they saw never got a look in - and I’m sorry but I have to say that’s bollocks. Not only have we covered good practice on SNJ, we have asked repeatedly for the DfE to send us case studies as we really do want to show positive aspects of the reforms - God knows we’ve all put enough effort into them. But nada, zilch, niente, nothing has been forthcoming. The offer still stands, by the way. We don’t hold grudges (well, okay, we might—it depends who it is)
A message that can’t be misunderstood - or ignored
So today is a day for ACTION! Today we’re SENDING A MESSAGE TO THE GOVERNMENT LOUD AND CLEAR. We’re joining with the #SENDNationalCrisis protest march and rallies along with thousands of other parents, children and young people, teachers and other SEND practitioners and professionals to demand action on funding for SEND
Let the government — the Treasury — be in no doubt the strength of feeling across the whole country. If you’re heading out to your local march, pray for sunshine and good luck. The events kick off at 12pm as the #SENDNationalCrisis team hand in this petition to Downing Street (for whoever’s left there). We will be broadcasting LIVE from Facebook through the morning and we will be adding them to the end of this post.
Today doesn't mark the end, it’s just the beginning. To Poppy Rose and Nadia Turki, our SNJ team want to say an ENORMOUS CONGRATULATIONS for what you have achieved today. Despite your own personal struggles - and I know it has been far from easy - you have both played a blinder and mustered a countrywide parent posse to be proud of.
Renata and I, along with our little entourage, will be in London, and we’ll be speaking near to the start of the rally in Parliament Square. Please come and say hello if you’re there and be interviewed for our coverage.
(I’m pleased to have been able to help the team with some PR support. If you’re looking for some words to use to cover the event yourself, you can download this press release here)
The funding crisis key statistics (in case you’ve been on Mars)
- Funding is in crisis: The funding gap for high-needs SEND was at least £287m last year, and is projected to reach £1.6bn in the next 2 years [Source: ISOS Partnership “Have we reached a ‘tipping point’? Trends in spending for children and young people with SEND in England”, December 2018]
- The SEND Reforms are in crisis: So far, half of all local area SEND services have failed their Ofsted / CQC inspection, and the picture is getting worse – 70% failed in the first quarter alone. [Source: Ofsted website, 17th May 2019]
- Local authority decision-making is in crisis: Parental appeals to the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) have increased by 80% since the SEND reforms began. Parents win nine in ten SENDIST appeals that reach a hearing. [Source: HMCTS Tribunal Statistics Quarterly]
- Complaints to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman about SEND have risen by 150% since 2015. The LGO upholds 87% of these complaints – the highest of any category they investigate. [Source: LGO evidence to the Education Select Committee SEND Inquiry, April 2019]
- Children and young people with SEND are in crisis: Pupils with SEND account are six times more likely to be excluded from English state schools than pupils without SEND. On average, just 6% of people with learning disabilities are in paid employment. [Sources: Department for Education, “Permanent and fixed-period exclusions in England”; IPPR North “Plans that work: Employment outcomes for people with learning disabilities”, April 2019
- FOI data from the Health Service Journal shows in 2017-18, more than 500 children needing Tier 3 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have waited over a year to start their treatment. Half of the 11,482 children needing treatment waited more than 18 weeks following their initial assessment. Only 14% began treatment within four weeks. True figures are likely to be much higher, as only 30 out of the 50 trusts approached by HSJ responded to the FOI requests with this year’s data. [Source:Young Minds, August 2018]
- We’re the country’s future. We demand our right to a properly funded education!
- SEND National Crisis: Marching for our disabled children’s future
- Keeping up with the politics of SEND
- The DfE’s out of SEND Funding ideas. Can you help out?
- Half-a-billion pound funding gap for SEND says Local Government Association
- Help SEND parents legally challenge the government over national funding crisis