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Special educational needs funding "not sustainable", NAHT warns

Responding to the latest figures from the Department for Education on the number of Education, Health and Care plans (EHCPs) in England covering the calendar year up to January 2024, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders union, NAHT said:

“The number of children needing additional support through education and healthcare plans is now at a record high – but many families are still waiting too long for the assessments, and provision that they need. A decade of cuts and underinvestment has meant that there just isn’t the provision available for children.

"Special schools get £10,000 funding per pupil. But this figure has not increased since it was introduced in 2013 – an estimated real-terms cut of £1.3 billion. If it had kept pace with inflation, schools should be receiving an additional £3,548 a year for each pupil.

“The lack of resource has knock-on effects throughout the school as budgets are pooled from elsewhere, and leaders and teachers are caught up in lengthy tribunals because there simply aren’t the spaces for children.

“The current system is simply not sustainable. The next government must tackle the SEND crisis as a priority. There are no quick fixes – and we urge whoever wins the election to write off high-needs budget deficits and carry out a proper ‘needs analysis’ so that it can be determined what sufficient funding for both mainstream and high-needs SEND looks like, rather than the current sticking plaster approach. There must also be a fundamental review of place-planning, sufficiency of specialist places and admissions to ensure that pupils with SEND are able to attend the school that best meets their long-term needs.”

First published 13 June 2024