Children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) are not getting the support they need and are at risk of being permanently excluded from school because of funding cuts, according to the National Education Union (NEU).
A survey of 900 staff working in schools carried out on Tuesday 10 April at the ATL’s (Association of Teachers and Lecturers) annual conference found that cuts affecting SEND pupils are worse this year, with half of respondents saying their school has cut support for SEND children this year compared to 40% last year.
The cuts are worse in primary schools, with 54% reporting cuts compared to 49% of secondary schools. Funding cuts led to nearly a third (31%) of respondents saying their school has cut SEND posts this year, compared to a quarter last year (26%). A member of staff in a Sheffield primary school said: “Highly vulnerable children are now in mainstream classrooms without the significant support they need or the trained staff. These children are now at high risk of permanent exclusion.”
“If the true measure of a country is how it treats its most vulnerable, then this Government is failing big time,” said Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU. “Children with special needs are being let down.
“The Government’s funding cuts are cutting so deep that schools cannot provide the support SEND pupils need and are struggling to access external support because this has been cut too. The Government needs to wake up to the facts and urgently make more money available for schools so they can keep SEND pupils safe and provide the help and support they need.”
During the survey, a teacher in a West Sussex primary school said: “In the infant classes we cannot meet the needs of our SEND children. It’s almost impossible to give our SEND children the one-to-one time they need. I feel the situation is desperate.”
And a member of staff in a Kent secondary school said: “Huge cuts to SEND provision - no teaching assistants left - is causing a nightmare for our most vulnerable.”
The NEU also did a small survey of 440 parents, which showed nearly a quarter (24%) of children with special educational needs are not in school and over 40% of SEND pupils over the age of four are not in full-time school. Half of the parents said they are not happy about the type of provision their child is in.
Dr Bousted added: “We know that 8,000 SEND children round the UK don’t currently have a school place – this simply is not good enough. The Government needs to get its act together and make sure these children receive the help and support they need.”
Responding to the statistics, a spokesperson from the Department for Education told HuffPost UK: “By 2020, core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion - its highest ever level and 50% more per pupil in real terms than in 2000 - and the introduction of the National Funding Formula will address historic disparities in the system. The high needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6 billion this year – the highest on record.
“We know more needs to be done to make sure that vulnerable children are not unfairly treated, which is why we have launched a review of school exclusions, led by Edward Timpson CBE. This will draw on evidence and expertise to understand what drives exclusion rates and address any inconsistencies.”