Tory Austerity really does hit the most needy

Sharon-Smith-Chesterfield school teacher
Chesterfield school teacher and governor slammed Derbyshire County Council

Teachers know best: They know they are not getting the funding from Tory run Derbyshire County Council to do their best.

A Chesterfield school teacher and governor have slammed Derbyshire County Council for not providing enough funding for kids with special educational needs.

Sharon Smith, a teacher at Brampton Primary School in Chesterfield, said the school has a £54,000 shortfall in funding for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

What is SEND?

Some children and young people may require more help to learn and develop than children and young people of the same age. If this is the case they may be classed as having special educational needs (SEN) so they can get extra support. This could include anything from more accessible information to one to one support at school or college.

Some children and young people with SEN may also have a disability which does not affect their ability to learn but might stop them from being able to do certain day-to-day things.

How is SEND identified?

Every local area must identify which children and young people have SEND so that it can plan how it will go about meeting their needs.

Children and young people with SEND will be identified through many different ways. Some may have their SEN identified by a health worker or a Paediatrician in their early life and some children and young people’s needs may become evident later on in life, for example when they enter a certain stage of education.

Some children’s SEND can be predicted in early age. For example, certain conditions may mean it is more likely that they will require more support to learn and develop.

In all situations, the families of children under the age of 16 must be told about their child’s needs and families of young people over the age of 16 should ordinarily be involved in this process as well.

Who can get support in the SEND system?

The SEND system applies to all children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities aged 0-25, as long as they are in education or training.

The support received by a child or young person with a learning disability will vary significantly depending on their needs. It may involve a range of professionals across the education, health and social care systems.

You can also read the Government’s guidance on the SEND system, and children and young people and their families’ rights under it.

Tory Austerity hitting the most needy

Sharon Smith states that the her school needs a flat rate of £6,000 per SEND pupil but is only given enough funding for four children. However, Brampton has a much higher than average number of SEND pupils, with 13.

“Without the required funding, the school may not be able to accept any further SEND pupils.”

A “scandalous” situation. 

Ms Smith said: “We have 13 SEN children needing a one-to-one teaching assistant.
“This number is much higher than average  because we have a good reputation. Students travel from Belper, Bolsover and Matlock.

“However, Derbyshire Notional SEN funding is linked to local area deprivation and pupil numbers but there is no link to the number of SEN children.

“This is unfair on our school budget.”

She claims that some with more SEN children than most schools are placed at a “financial disadvantage”.

The reality direct from the chalk face

Similarly, Sharon Davis, who is a governor at the school and has a 10-year-old son who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is a full-time wheelchair user, says that funding for SEN support is not allocated fairly.

At Derbyshire County Council’s full council meeting on, it was stated: “The reality direct from the chalk face, is that schools are making teaching assistants redundant because Derbyshire Notional SEN Funding does not take into account the number of children on an EHC plan (a legal document drawn up by the county council which ensures children with SEN are given adequate support and funding at their school).
“Brampton primary has children with an EHC plan who travel from Bolsover, Belper and Matlock because the school has an inclusive philosophy as well as expertise in supporting children with complex needs.

“Brampton supports SEND children from all over Derbyshire but this is not taken into account. Ms Davis felt that soon, schools will be “unable to afford SEN children” and mainstream schools may “discourage them from attending” in future.

In response, Councillor Alex Dale, the county council’s cabinet member for children and young people, confirmed that each school was needed £6,000 per SEN pupil.
However, he did refer to a cap on how much money each school can be given.

To help cover gaps such as this, he said, funding was also available from the authority’s high needs block..He said: “I have been to Brampton and met with you and the head and I do agree it is a particularly challenging situation.

“It does seem that the school has become a victim of its own success.
“What we can do is look to see if there are any exceptional circumstances in which we can offer any further funding support.”

Councillor Dale confirmed that this would be done “as soon as possible” and that Brampton’s SEND funding had been increased by 3.5 per cent in recent years.

Nationally there is a Half a billion shortfall in school SEND funding

Council bosses around the country have warned, schools are being pushed to the brink and need urgent support

A funding gap of more than half a billion pounds for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

A survey of 73 councils has shown a projected shortfall of £536 million in funding for SEND support  for 2018-19 – more than double the gap for last year.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that children with SEND could miss out on a mainstream education unless there is urgent action and funding from the government.

The Department for Education acknowledged that local authorities were facing cost pressures, and said it was keeping “the overall level of funding under review”.

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “We face a looming crisis in meeting the unprecedented rise in demand for support from children with special educational needs and disabilities.

“Parents rightly expect and aspire to see that their child has the best possible education and receives the best possible support.

“Councils have pulled out all the stops to try to do this, but are reaching the point where the money is simply not there to keep up with demand.

“Schools are also being pushed to the brink by the underfunding of SEND, at a time when there is already severe pressure on general schools funding.”

The interim findings of new research by the LGA are announced today at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester. They follow a Tes exclusive last year that predicted funding aimed at supporting the most vulnerable pupils – those designated as having high needs – was heading for a shortfall worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

The new LGA’s research shows that councils have overspent their allocated budgets for children with SEND, known as the High Needs Block, for the past four years. This has seen them “top up” budgets with funding from elsewhere, such as general schools budgets. However, this flexibility to transfer funding has now been significantly curtailed by government restrictions, further exacerbating pressures on councils.

The LGA is warning that the growing funding gap is putting at risk the ability of councils to meet their statutory duties. This comes as government figures show the number of children and young people with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) or statements has increased by 35 per cent in five years, from 237,111 in 2013-14 to 319,819 in 2017-18.

The LGA said the increase in demand was down to a variety of factors, such as population growth; the code of SEND practice raising expectations of parents; more young people aged 16 and over being on EHCPs; and funding pressures on mainstream schools affecting their ability to support pupils with high needs.

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our ambition for children with special educational needs and disabilities is exactly the same for every other child – to achieve well in education, and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.

“This is why we’ve introduced education, health and care plans, tailored to each individual, to ensure they are supported while they study.

“Local authorities and schools have statutory duties to support children and young people with SEND. In 2018-19, councils will receive £6 billion of funding for young people with more complex SEND – an increase from £5bn in 2013.

“However, we recognise that local authorities are facing cost pressures on high needs, which is why we are monitoring local authority spending decisions and keeping the overall level of funding under review. As part of this, we will be very interested to see the LGA’s final report.”

It was reported that council overspending on children’s SEND had trebled in just three years.

Authorities have already had to use hundreds of millions of pounds from their overall schools budget to support children with SEND, according to the Observer.

It identified 40 councils that have either cut special needs funding this year, are considering making cuts or are raiding other education budgets to cope next year.

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said there were now “devastating cuts” being imposed on both schools and local authorities. “It has brought services for children with special educational needs and disabilities to a dangerous tipping point,” she said. “Despite the prime minister’s promises, it is clear that austerity is not over for our most vulnerable children.”

The crisis stems from rising demand for special needs places that has not been matched by the necessary funding. Many councils blame a 2014 reform that extended their responsibilities for special needs children without providing sufficient resources.

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