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School leaders slam SEND funding as ‘insufficient’

School leaders have slammed their allocated funding for special educational needs and disabilities provision as insufficient.

The National Association of HeadTeachers carried out a survey which found that almost all school leaders - 97 per cent – said that funding for pupils with SEND in their school is insufficient and 95 per cent reported that top-up funding for pupils with education, health and care (EHC) plans was insufficient.

Four in five (79 per cent) said they had to fund the purchase of additional services because they were not available or accessible from health and social care.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The crisis in funding for pupils with special educational needs is clear for all to see and is putting significant pressure on school budgets. This report underlines why a comprehensive review of SEND funding, based on pupil need, is urgently needed. Changes to the way that national funding is shared between schools will not solve the problem when there is insufficient money in the system in the first place. The government needs to increase funding so that schools are able to properly meet the needs of all their pupils.”

The school leaders’ union’s survey of more than 1,500 its members on school funding this summer lays bare the impact of over a decade of chronic underfunding of England’s schools.

The survey found:

Almost a third (31 per cent) of school leaders reported making cuts to balance their budget in 2020/21.

35 per cent of school leaders expect they will be forced to make cuts this academic year.

One in four school leaders predict a deficit budget in 2021/22 based on current funding levels.

Lesley Roberts, head teacher of a primary school in Berkshire, said: “Teaching assistants no longer help all pupils. They only work in the classes where we have children with EHCPs as we are short to cover their needs. This then reduces our ability to release staff for training and cover our office full time. We also can’t afford a caretaker or SENDco. As a headteacher in the last two years I have been a SENDco, school business manager, caretaker and headteacher as well as cover for the office and class. Special needs is beyond crisis in schools, it’s sucking the money from budgets.”

Lorna Legg, head teacher of a primary school in Devon, said: “We have pockets of rural and coastal deprivation here and a lack of easy access to services for our families and our schools. In fact, we have had no access to an Educational Psychologist for the past academic year. Special Needs provision is an area where the budget has been consistently overspent, due to increasing need and lower funding than many counties, with schools being 'asked' to give more of our budget share towards filling this gap every year.”

Paul Whiteman added: “The government’s failure to invest in schools over the past decade is forcing them to cut back on staff, support for pupils, and activities that enrich the school day. Despite all the rhetoric on additional investment in schools, it is clear that school budgets remain under enormous pressure. A far more ambitious programme of investment is required from the government if schools are going to be able to deliver the education that the current generation of pupils need and deserve.”

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