Schools struggling to provide SEND support

Funding cuts mean schools are struggling to provide proper support for children with special educational needs and disabilities, the National Education Union has warned.

In a survey of 901 staff working in schools in England by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers section of the NEU, half of respondents said their school had cut support for SEND children this year, with 54 per cent of primary school staff experiencing cuts and 49 per cent in secondary schools.

Thirty-one per cent said their school had cut SEND posts this year. Thirty-six per cent of secondary school staff reported cuts to staff, as did 24 per cent of teachers in primary schools.

The number of staff reporting cuts to SEND has risen dramatically since last year. In 2017, 40 per cent of staff said their school had cut support for SEND children and 26 per cent said SEND posts had been cut.

Eight per cent of all respondents reported pupils being unable to attend school full-time due a lack of specialist provision. This is more pronounced in primary schools, where 9.5 per cent of staff experienced this as opposed to 6.6 per cent of secondary staff.

Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the NEU, warned that children with special needs “are being let down” and school funding cuts had become “so deep” that schools can no longer provide the support SEND pupils need or access external support.

“The government needs to wake up to the facts and urgently make money available for schools so they can keep SEND pupils safe and provide the help and support they need,” she added.

Fifty-four per cent said the biggest change in SEND provision had been cuts to teaching assistant support.

There is also evidence that cuts are affecting external support, as 37 per cent of primary staff believe it takes longer for pupils to be sent for a diagnosis of conditions such as autism, as do 18 per cent of secondary staff.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education defended the government’s funding of schools, which she said will rise to its “highest ever level” of £43.5 billion by 2020, and said the introduction of the national funding formula “will address historic disparities in the system.”

She added that the high needs budget for SEND pupils was the “highest on record” at £6 billion this year.