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ENGLAND: 'We are supporting even more pupils with complex needs'

May 4, 2024, (UK) tes: Just 1% of heads say SEND funding meets pupil needs

In response to poll findings, NAHT leader Paul Whiteman warns that the shortfall in SEND funding is leaving schools ‘in an impossible position’

Only 1 per cent of school leaders have enough funding for special educational needs and disabilities to meet children’s needs, a union survey suggests.

Nearly four in five heads (78 per cent) who responded to the poll from the NAHT school leaders’ union said they have had to cut teaching assistant numbers or hours in the past three years because of funding pressures.

And 84 per cent of school leaders said they may be forced to do this in the next three years.

Some leaders said they were worried that a shortage of funding meant they would not be able to keep children and staff safe. Others reported that budget difficulties had made them consider leaving.

Ninety-nine per cent of leaders said that the funding they get for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is insufficient to meet children’s needs. The responses included leaders in both mainstream schools and special schools.

Schools short of SEND funding

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said a funding shortfall for SEND is leaving schools “in an impossible position”.

“Schools face a perfect storm of growing demand to support more pupils with special educational needs at the same time as costs have increased massively and are still rising,” he said.

In the survey, the findings of which have been published as the NAHT holds its annual conference in Newport, leaders said the SEND funding crisis is making it harder for mainstream and special schools to provide the support that pupils need, including speech and language therapy, mental health support and staff training.

School leaders also said they were struggling with trying to fill the gaps left by under-resourced support services such as health and social care.

More than four-fifths of heads (85 per cent) said they were having to subsidise healthcare provision from their own budgets.

The problems with place funding

In special schools the £10,000 place funding schools receive per pupil has been frozen since 2013 - despite costs having increased over time. NAHT members have highlighted this as a concern.

Mr Whiteman said the government has failed to provide “anything like enough funding” for schools to meet SEND demand, and called for all political parties to pledge the money needed to tackle the “full-blown crisis” in SEND funding.

Calls to reform SEND funding have come from across the sector, including from the Confederation of School Trusts. The sector body for school trusts recommended a new national funding formula that covers minimum operating costs of all schools, including SEND and alternative provision settings.. . .

“There just isn’t capacity within special schools in our area, meaning we are supporting even more pupils with complex needs within our mainstream settings,” he added.

“We believe in inclusion and are currently doing our best with the limited funds, but, put simply, it is not good enough for the children with the most complex needs - they deserve so much more than we can give them.”

The survey was conducted from 10 April to 23 April this year, and received responses from 1,048 NAHT members.

A Department for Education spokesperson said funding for children with complex needs is increasing to more than £10.5 billion next year and £2.6 billion is being spent to support the creation of places for children with SEND, “more than tripling the previous level of investment”.

“Combined with the special and alternative provision free schools’ programme, this is helping to increase capacity, creating over 60,000 specialist places across the country,” the spokesperson added.



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