SEND funding crisis on verge of putting pupils and staff at risk

Heads are warning that cuts to special needs funding are on the verge of putting the safety of pupils and staff at risk.

The message comes as more than 100 school leaders, teachers and governors gather for a special summit on the crisis in funding for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND) today.

The NAHT heads' union, which is organising the event, has gathered evidence that paints a grim picture. One special school leader warned: “It's getting perilously close to risk assessment and safety issues if staffing continues to be cut.”

Another leader said: “There are no more cuts we can make. All children are suffering but in particular our most vulnerable SEN learners as we cannot provide the support they need because we have had to cut support staff so severely.”

TV presenter and campaigner Carrie Grant will join the SEND and education experts at the summit.

NAHT research has found that 94 per cent of schools are finding it harder to get funding for pupils with SEND than they did two years ago.

A budget squeeze has left schools scrambling to fund the extra 30,000 SEND pupils with a statement or Education Health and Care (EHC) plan in the education system in the past five years.

Councils are facing legal action over cuts to funding for pupils with SEND, which covers everything from dyslexia and learning difficulties to physical disabilities and autism.

The Local Government Association has warned schools are being pushed to the brink by a funding gap of more than half a billion pounds for children with SEND.

Data from 90 councils collated by TES has revealed that state funding of places in independent special schools rose 40 per cent in five years to more than £565 million.

“The picture facing schools supporting children with special educational needs is bleak,” Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said.

"Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have been severe cuts to local authority health and social care provision. Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils.”

Ms Grant, a parent of children with SEND, added: “For years now, policies and funding have seen school staff and parents going head to head.

“It’s time to turn our attention further up the food chain and get the policies and funding that will support schools, putting the lifeblood back into the teaching staff and allowing pupils to flourish, whoever they are, whatever their gift or challenge.”

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