Special Educational Needs funding in crisis

1 April 2018

The National Education Union (NEU) is today publishing data from Government and local authorities showing the impact of the Government’s funding cuts on students with the greatest educational needs. The cuts are hitting support for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Children facing some of the greatest challenges are paying the price for the crisis in education funding.

Children with Special Educational Needs not in school

The Government’s own figures show that over 4,000 children with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a Statement have no educational provision and are therefore not in school at all. This figure has increased by more than five times over the last five years. 

Source: Statements of SEN and EHC plans: England, 2017 Table 1

Schools Forums facing impossible choices

The NEU has looked through the evidence from minutes of Schools Forum (1) meetings and uncovered examples underlining the critical nature of the SEND funding crisis. As a result of Government cuts, Local Authorities and Schools Forums are being placed in an impossible position. They can either drastically cut SEND provision or cut provision for mainstream schools.

  • There is widespread recognition of a significant increase in the number of EHCPs. For example, West Sussex reports a 42% increase since 2014.
  • There has also been an increase in the number  of children identified with complex special educational needs.
  • The age range for which EHCPs must be provided by local authorities has been extended and must now include 0 - 5 year olds and 19-25 year olds.  This has happened at the same time as the Government has cut local authority funding.
  • The cost of independent provision for children with SEND has been increasing. For example, West Sussex local authority estimates additional cost of £2.7 million for 2018/19; other local authorities such as Hackney have highlighted the escalating costs of independent provision.
  • The costs of out of borough provision for children with SEND, and associated transport costs, are significant.
  • The demand for Special School spaces has been increasing according to many local authorities, even as funding is cut in real terms.  In Shropshire the Schools Forum minutes say: “There is simply not enough money being put in.”  The Schools Forum minutes for North Somerset say: "The current situation is untenable".

Nottinghamshire Schools Forum has summarised the issues neatly: increases in the number of children with complex and significant needs; increased demands of attainment level in mainstream schools; affecting their capacity to be inclusive; increased pressure for statutory assessment following the SEND reforms; and increased parental expectations that pupils will stay on in SEND provision beyond 16 years of age.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It is an absolute disgrace that the Government is starving local authorities of the resources needed for children with SEND.  Children are at home because local authorities don’t have enough money to provide suitable education.  Local authorities are being placed in an impossible position.  They have a legal duty to plan high quality education for every child with SEND, but cuts have taken away the resources they need to educate children with complex needs.  Extra money is urgently needed for SEND but it must be new money and not come from the already challenged school budgets. Parents and teachers are in despair.  The Government is failing thousands of children and families and must act now to resolve this critical situation.”

Editor’s Note

(1) Each local authority has a Schools Forum; these are consulted on school funding issues.