Tag Archives: special educational needs

Government watchdog confirms the huge scale of the SEND funding crisis

The National Audit Office has today published their investigation into special educational needs support. Entitled “Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England“, it has revealed that more than four in five local authorities are overspending their high needs budget.

A couple of months ago I sent a survey to all headteachers in my constituency asking how education cuts affected their pupils. All the surveys returned highlighted cutbacks in SEND provision as being a huge area of concern.

1.3 million pupils in England are identified as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Over a million (79%) do not have Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans.

The NAO report looked at how well pupils with SEND were supported, examining

  • the system for supporting pupils with SEND (Part I);
  • funding, spending and financial sustainability (Part II);
  • the quality of support and experiences of pupils and parents (Part III).

The report is a long read – 60 pages – but includes detailed analysis and charts to outline the current dire state of affairs. The conclusions reached are:

How well pupils with SEND are supported affects their well-being, educational attainment and long-term life prospects….The system for supporting pupils with SEND is not, on current trends, financially sustainable. Many local authorities are failing to live within their high-needs budgets and meet the demand for support. Pressures – such as incentives for mainstream schools to be less inclusive, increased demand for special school places, growing use of independent schools and reductions in per-pupil funding – are making the system less, rather than more, sustainable. The Department needs to act urgently to secure the improvements in quality and sustainability that are needed to achieve value for money.

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4 July 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Govt must tackle obesity crisis to save lives
  • Lib Dems: Increase in SEND pupils will squeeze school budgets further
  • Welsh Liberal Democrats – Wales now a remain nation
  • Lib Dems: Overstretched school budgets are putting our children’s health at risk

Lib Dems: Govt must tackle obesity crisis to save lives

Responding to Cancer Research UK reporting that obesity now causes more cases of four common cancers in the UK than smoking, Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

The reports that many cancers are more likely being caused by being overweight than smoking shows the need for Government to step up plans to tackle

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The State of Children’s Rights

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England just published their 2018 report into the State of Children’s Rights. Their report outlines “systemic failures to protect children in England”. They write:

National and local government is failing to protect children in England whilst policymakers focus on Brexit, leaving children traumatised, powerless and vulnerable to abuse in many areas of their lives.

CRAE have used new data, gathered through Freedom of Information requests, in writing this report. It has been thirty years since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was adopted by the United Nations, yet the UNCRC has still not been enshrined in British law. I wrote about that four years ago here.

Areas of concern, amongst many, are child homelessness; how children are treated by the police; rising school exclusions; and the increased number of children living in poverty. It is an extensive report, so I can only give a brief overview of each section. Needless to say, I welcome these proposals.

The paper calls for children’s rights impact assessments to be part of any changes to the law in relation to Brexit, including statutory instruments. It also proposes a cabinet minister with responsibility for children’s rights be appointed and that there should be a

statutory obligation on public authorities to conduct child rights impact assessments in all decision-making affecting children, including in budgetary decision-making.

The fullsome section on Poverty and Homelessness has many good suggestions to take children out of poverty, including excluding children’s benefits from the benefit cap and getting rid of the two-child limit on child tax credit and UC. It calls for an abolition of the practice of housing children in B&Bs, hotels or caravan parks.

FOIs carried out by CRAE reveal that 1,173 looked after children were housed in independent accommodation for longer than 6 months.

There were serious issues raised in the Safeguarding section around the rising number of children in care and provision for them; the staggering rise of children suffering abuse and neglect; and the rising number of sexual offences against children. The report calls for children involved in county lines to be treated as victims of trafficking and modern slavery, not criminals.

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Ministers must properly address the Special Educational Needs and Disability funding crisis

Vince Cable is holding a Westminster Hall debate on funding for special educational needs and disability this afternoon.

In an article for Politics Home, he outlines the impact on families when they don’t have the support that they need…

A single mum in a small flat with a child who needs constant attention while she tries to look after other children, and hold down a job to make ends meet; a couple who have sacrificed careers, holidays and a social life to care for a child with severe, complex needs, seeing the child growing up to an adulthood of continued dependence while they themselves are ageing and their own relationship is falling apart. There are numerous variations of these.

Of course, there are also happier stories.  Stories where support provided in school or via the local authority or health service makes all the difference.  But for every family who does not get the support they need, there is an unacceptable impact for parents and children alike.

Local authorities are under huge financial stress, however:

At a human level a painful conflict results between parents who want the best for their children (and have the law on their side) and local authorities who want to do their best but are under financial stress after years of painful cuts. More and more requests for EHCPs are being declined or delayed, and funding cuts have led to reductions in the specialist teachers and educational psychologists who provided expert advice to schools teaching SEND pupils. Rationing has taken the form of foot-dragging over ‘statements’, now ‘care plans’.  And attempts to mandate adequate local schooling rather than what parents consider to be superior specialist schools, often leading to tribunals, with additional cost, emotional stress and anger.

So is it just a question of more money?

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LibLink: Sarah Teather – Special needs children deserve more

Writing over in The Guardian, Liberal Democrat minister Sarah Teather says:

John Harris writes of the fight he had to simply get the basic support for his autistic child (Special needs kids deserve better than a rush to reform, 21 May). His experience is a story I have heard over and over again. It is precisely this problem that the coalition government is trying to fix…

I also know the system doesn’t work well enough for children with less severe needs either, such as those with unrecognised language difficulties whose frustration in trying to communicate shows up as angry, even criminal, behaviour.

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LibLink | Sarah Teather: Q&A on special needs provision

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather recently took part in an interview followed by a readers’ Question and Answer session for the Guardian about special needs provision:

Sarah Teather, the children’s minister, comes across as genuinely passionate about helping children with special needs. So much so that at one point in the interview, she got quite cross. The health service is failing some of our most vulnerable children, she said. The chance of a child receiving speech and language therapy is “between low and nil”, while the wait for a wheelchair can be “really long”, she said.

On free schools and academies helping …

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