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(UK) 'All political parties [need] to make education priority in election manifestos'

May 4, 2024, Mirror: 'Full-blown crisis' in schools as kids with special educational needs neglected by Tories

A massive 99% of school leaders believe the funding they receive for pupils with special education needs and disabilities is insufficient to meet children's needs

A lack of funding for children with special educational needs in schools has led to a "full-blown crisis", a union has warned.

Nearly all school leaders (99%) believe the funding they receive for pupils with special education needs and disabilities (Send) is insufficient to meet children's needs, a poll has found. A survey of 1,048 members of the school leaders' union NAHT in England in April found many have been forced to reduce the number of teaching assistants or their hours worked - even though they offer individual support to children with Send.

Some school leaders shared fears with the union that funding shortages mean they are unable to keep children and staff safe. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), called on all political parties to make education a priority in their election manifestos.

Speaking at the union’s annual conference in Newport in Wales, he called on Education Secretary Gillian Keegan to be a “champion” for children at the Cabinet table. He said: "For the best part of 15 years now, schools have been treated as though they're a sideline, a niche portfolio to be considered once all populist talk on immigration, polarised positions on trans rights, and removing the right to protest have been exhausted.

“The effect of such neglect on our schools has been pernicious. If political parties think the electorate haven't noticed, or simply don't care, I strongly suspect they're all going to have a nasty shock during the election campaign."

Mr Whiteman also told hundreds of school leaders that the Department for Education’s decision to keep single-word Ofsted judgements "left a chill in the air". He said: "The accountability system, in its current form, resembles a diseased root which creates further havoc across the school ecosystem. From the monumental increases in workload, to never-ending cycles of monitoring and accountability, and, most importantly to the detriment of our members and their teams' wellbeing and mental health.”

Ofsted has come under greater scrutiny in the past year following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry. Mrs Perry took her own life after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating, "outstanding", to its lowest rating, "inadequate", over safeguarding concerns.

In its response to an Education Select Committee inquiry on Ofsted, the DfE said its priority was to look for ways to improve the inspection system rather than "developing an alternative to it". Sir Martyn Oliver, chief inspector of Ofsted, is due to address the conference this morning(SAT).

In March, he launched the watchdog's Big Listen public consultation, which closes at the end of this month, to seek views about the inspectorate.

A DfE spokesman said: "Headteachers across the country are doing an excellent job day in day out ensuring pupils have a world class education, and on average they are rightly among the highest 10% of earners in the country.”


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