Supporting all special schools
Letter to PM
We write this letter as the head teachers, governors and CEOs of your special schools. The children we educate need your attention as the systems and structures in place are unsupportive and devalue the education of this group. These children and young people are struggling to have a place in our society and the size of this population is growing.
This is a problem that increases incrementally into adulthood, with detrimental effects on life chances and negative outcomes to communities. They are frequently viewed as being “not able” or problematical. It is clear that the achievements and aspirations every citizen should enjoy seldom materialize in their lives. This is in no small part due to the fact they can be denied, or may be unable, to make their voices heard. We write this letter to speak out for this group, so that they are not ignored.
We write this letter following the close of the parliamentary SEND Inquiry, led by the Education Select Committee and during the Government’s SEND review. The range of evidence was insightful and validated our experiences and on-going challenges for both the sector and children and young people. Ahead of the release of the final report and the distribution of your welcome pledge of an extra £780 million for children with SEND, we ask for your further consideration to ensure the opportunity of progress is maximised.
Issues that were exposed at the SEND Inquiry included that of joint responsibilities of education, health and social care and the inconsistencies and inadequacies of partnership working. Local Authority (LA) roles as commissioner and funding agent were also called into question at this Inquiry and followed up through the DfE SEND and AP provision call for evidence.
We respect that much work has been done to understand the situation that impacts both financially and practically on all children and young people in all sectors of mainstream and special education as it has been acknowledged that mainstream funds have been backfilling the LA deficits to the High Needs budgets for many years as the system no longer serves its purpose. Additional complexities of LA capacity and capability puts further pressure on the current system. We have now reached an unsustainable situation that cannot be rectified without total commitment to change.
We ask you to address the 5 points below:
- To urge your peers to establish an All Party Parliamentary Group for SEND to ensure the good work of the Education Select Committee and oversight of the DfE developments continue to inform future policy and decision making in the best interests of our most vulnerable children and young people. A good model is the highly successful APPG for Nursery Schools which we would wish to emulate.
- To invite representation of Headteachers in the SEND and AP sector to support the much needed developments and change to the sector.
- To distribute a proportion of your pledge of £780 million to increase Element 1 (per pupil/place funding) - This has remained stagnant at £10k.
- To fund the increases to support staff pension contributions and salary increments. Whilst we welcome the announcement of funding for teacher pensions, special schools also rely on a significant number of support staff. Traditionally, these staff have not been supported by government injections of additional funding.
- To hold the Healthcare sector to account - children and young people are the future, and the NHS are responsible for supporting their healthcare needs.
We believe that solutions are achievable and will bring about efficiencies, clarity, accountability and stability to our current, unregulated sector. A focus on tangible costs of provision/resource, rather than the arbitrary values of costs to reflect need will enable the development of a High Needs National Fair Funding Formula
In the short term, our concerns relate to how your pledge to increase funds to pupils with SEND will be distributed. If given directly to LA’s, it is likely that funds will simply plug the deficits that have accumulated within the High Needs block. Therefore, funding will not reach those pupils who attend specialist provision. In this case, pupils with SEND will be disadvantaged in relation to their mainstream peers.
In many areas of the country, as exposed by evidence given to the SEND Inquiry, special schools have had to support additional services that are necessary to support pupil healthcare needs. Costs as high as £90k per year are what schools are having to find to pay for 1:1 nursing care for our most complex children and young people. This is a cost that is not consistently supported by health authorities across the country. This is another aspect of the SEND postcode lottery. Additionally, rising on-costs for these staff and those in support staff roles, including salary increments have never been supported by recent government injections of funds to schools and LA’s.
We trust that you are aware of many of these aspects of special school provision and that you understand our dedication to raise the profile of this group of pupils. We welcome and look forward to the opportunity of working with you.
Our pupils are able and proud to be in our communities. They want to live a life and contribute positively. They deserve to have an equal opportunity to thrive and be educated for a better life into adulthood. Without your support and action, this may never happen.
Thank you for taking the time to consider our request for help.
The CEOs, head teachers and governors of your special schools