Help me sort out special needs funding, Hinds tells heads

The government will seek the views of schools on whether special needs funding should be reformed to make it “more effective”, Damian Hinds will announce today.

The education secretary will launch a “call for evidence” on SEND funding arrangements at the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference.

The department is seeking views from schools on whether the funding system “could better reflect the changing nature of need”, and whether cash can be “distributed more effectively”.

It follows a warning last month from think tank IPPR North that funding for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities has been slashed by 17 per cent in just three years as demand from rising numbers of pupils with education, health and care plans (EHCP) outstrips supply.

Ministers have already identified high-needs funding as one of two areas most in need of a funding uplift in the forthcoming spending review, the other being post-16 funding.

Today, Hinds will tell headteachers he recognises how the advent of EHCPs has meant schools have had to deal with additional pressures.

“That support needs investment, and while we have already hugely increased spending in this area, I recognise that providing for additional complexities can put additional pressures on schools.”

But Barney Angliss, a SEND consultant and founder of FestABLE, a national festival of specialist learning, said the announcement was a “smokescreen”.

“There is no change in the nature of needs and the minister has produced no evidence of it,” he said.

“What has changed is the extent to which the DfE seems to care that our mainstream schools should be inclusive, watching an ever-increasing proportion of our children transferring to special schools because of the mainstream sector’s reluctance or inability to meet their needs in the face of inadequate training, insufficient recruitment and inappropriate systems of accountability.”

Paul Whiteman, the NAHT’s general secretary, added that while the move is welcome, “the solution is simple: more money from the Treasury is urgently needed”.

The call for evidence will run until July 31.