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(UK) Poole: 1,900 signatures OPPOSING SPED bailout program

April 30, 2024, BBC News:  Poole mum's petition over special needs children funding

S. Coast

A mother has started a parliamentary petition against emergency plans to fund children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Rachel, who has seven-year-old non-verbal autistic twins, said services were "chronically underfunded".

However, the campaigner, from Poole, Dorset, said they were being cut further under the government's Safety Valve agreements with councils.

The Department for Education (DfE) has been approached for comment.

Thirty-eight English local authorities with high overspends on education have so far joined the Safety Valve programme.

The councils have accepted temporary extra government funding in exchange for cuts to SEND spending.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council has proposed to reduce the number of children with statutory SEND plans, cease plans at age 16 and teach more SEND children in mainstream schools.

Rachel, from campaign group BCP Alliance for Children and Schools, said the "shocking" plan did not prioritise children.

"These are significant cuts to things they can't control. They can't control need," she said.

"These agreements will impact every child in every school. The situation in classrooms will deteriorate [and] schools will have fewer resources.

"Obviously there's a national underfunding issue which the government should sort out."

Her parliamentary petition calling for the national Safety Valve programme to be suspended has so far attracted more than 1,900 signatures.

BCP Council is working on a new Safety Valve deal after the government rejected its initial proposal in March.

Children's services director Cathi Hadley said: "We have acted with integrity in making clear that we will not sign up to a program that would see our services fall below the statutory requirements as set by government."

She said the overspend was caused by rising demand that outstripped increases in government funding.

The Department for Education said: "Safety Valve agreements hold local authorities to account for delivering their high needs services in the most effective and sustainable way.

"We only enter into these agreements when our specialist SEND advisers agree it will give young people a better service."


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