The next government has been urged to provide more funding to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.
The National Education Union asked members to rate the government’s support to SEND pupils using Ofsted-style ranking. No respondents said outstanding, just two per cent said good, 31% said requires improvement while the majority with 67% of respondents rated performance poor.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It should be a point of shame for the Government that so few education staff believe it is up to the task of providing for SEND pupils. If this truly were an Ofsted adjudication, the Department for Education would be in special measures by now.
“Every child with SEND should have access to the provision they deserve, but it is all too often the case that parents and teachers are confronted with barriers,” she added.
One-fifth of respondents to the survey are head teachers and 61 per cent serve as Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCO) in their school.
The survey revealed that 88% of respondents believe the challenges to supporting SEND pupils have worsened since 2015, with 53% of all respondents saying it has got ‘a lot worse’. Just 7% had witnessed an improvement.
When asked about the barriers to effective support for SEND pupils, the survey revealed:
– 89% said funding levels were a barrier, and that this had worsened. 59% of all respondents believe it has got ‘a lot worse’.
– LSA and TA staffing numbers had improved for just 4% of respondents. A far greater number – 79% – had seen a reduction at their school.
– 76% have witnessed longer waiting times for SEND assessment, and 91% stated that waiting times for access to support services (CAMHS/BSS/EPS) have worsened too.
– 42% stated that class sizes had gone up in their school. Just 2% had seen an improvement.
– Inflexible curriculum and a toxic testing culture remain a negative factor, with respondents saying they are getting worse (46% and 58% respectively).
The NEU states that more than one million children with SEND do not have adequate funding to help them access their education, and thousands of young people have no educational provision at all.
Despite the government’s recent pledge of an additional £700m in funding for SEND, schools and local authorities are still facing a £1bn funding shortfall, the union warns.
When asked what the government needed to do to improve SEND provision, an overwhelming 92% of members said “more funding”. The results showed:
– 75.47% said quicker access to SEND assessment
– 77.99% said quicker access to local SEND support services
– 80.50% said more effective early intervention and SEND support
– 87.42% said improved access to CAMHS mental health support
– 60.06% said flexible curriculum.
Dr Mary Bousted added: “The campaign for more funding has made significant gains but it has not gone far enough. It is quite clear that the Government’s strategy is failing, and much more needs to be done to ensure that every child gets the support needed. We are still £1bn short of funding to properly support SEND children in schools.
“It would be a grave error to underestimate the strength of feeling amongst parents of SEND pupils. Parents, heads, teachers and school staff are listening closely to the pledges of each party in this election. If you value education, you must vote for education,” she concluded.