A coalition of trade unions and 39 local authorities have written to the education secretary to warn of “dangerously inadequate funding” for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The School Cuts Coalition was first formed in November 2016 and now includes NEU, NAHT, ASCL, Unison, GMB and Unite.
In a letter to Damian Hinds, the group has demanded “a significant increase in high-needs block funding to local authorities, which will allow LAs and schools to provide appropriate support to children and young people with the most complex needs”.
It also requested an “immediate increase in funding for schools” to allow then to deliver additional support for SEND pupils.
But the coalition claims the government’s recent cash injection “does not introduce any new money into local authority budgets” and therefore “will not solve the long-term challenges LAs and schools face in delivering effective SEND provision”.
Funding problems have been exacerbated by a rule change that means councils are no longer able to freely move money from general schools funding to cover spikes in demand for higher-needs cash.
Just 0.5 per cent of schools’ funding can be moved into the high-needs block for special schools and pupil referral units, if it is needed to cover an increased demand for places. To transfer the money councils must have the approval of a schools forum, a group of local heads.
A Schools Week investigation in April revealed that 27 local authorities had appealed the rule, and four won permission to move the money without agreement. A further 11 were allowed to move more that 0.5 per cent, provided they gained the approval of a schools forum. Overall, more Conservative councils were successful in their appeals that Labour councils.
During the same month a survey of 901 staff working in schools in England by the ATL section of the NEU found half had witnessed their school cut support for SEND children this year, 10 per cent more than in 2017.
The letter claimed that there are over 2,000 children and young people with SEND who are currently at home with no education provision at all.
“This is an unacceptable situation leading to huge stress and anxiety for parents and their children,” it said.
“It is time this situation was reversed by implementing a fair and fully funded system for SEND that ensures children and their families are given the education and support they need and are entitled to.”
Minister for children and families Nadhim Zawahi said: “We want to make sure every child with special educational needs gets the support that they rightly deserve.
“We are undertaking the biggest special educational needs reforms in a generation, introducing education and health care plans that are tailored to the needs of individuals and put families at the heart of the process.
“Already, nearly 320,000 children and young people are benefiting from these and we will continue to work to make sure every child gets the support they need to fulfil their potential.”
The councils challenging Hinds over SEND funding
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council
Barking and Dagenham London Borough Council
Birmingham City Council
Bristol City Council
Cambridgeshire County Council
Cumbria County Council
Ealing London Borough Council
Enfield London Borough Council
Hackney London Borough Council
Halton Borough Council
Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council
Hartlepool Borough Council
Hounslow London Borough Council
Islington London Borough Council
Kingston London Borough Council
Lambeth London Borough Council
Leeds City Council
Lewisham London Borough Council
Liverpool City Council
Newcastle City Council
Plymouth City Council
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Salford City Council
Sheffield City Council
South Tyneside Council
Southwark London Borough Council
St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council
Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council
Waltham Forest London Borough Council
Warrington Borough Council
Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council
Wiltshire Council Baroness
Wokingham Borough Council