In a speech to NAHT members on the first day of the union’s Annual Conference in Telford on 3 May, the secretary of state for education Damian Hinds announced a “call for evidence” into how funding arrangements for pupils with complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) can be made more effective.
“Teachers change lives, we all know this, and nowhere more so than in the incredible work they do to support children with special educational needs and disabilities. They have my huge admiration and thanks for that work,” Hinds told delegates.
“We introduced education, health and care (EHC) plans to help that work and thousands of children with the most complex needs are now receiving more tailored support to help their learning. That support needs investment and while we have already hugely increased spending in this area, I recognise that providing for additional complexities can put additional pressures on schools.”
He continued: “I want to make sure we have the best understanding of how our system for funding children with high needs is operating on the ground – and whether there are improvements we can make so every pound of public money we spend is building opportunities for young people.
“I’ve made clear that I will back head teachers to have the resources they need to provide the best education possible for every child – that ambition is no different for children with SEND, nor should it be. So I hope teachers and leaders will work with me to lead a system that unlocks every child’s potential.”
There are almost 120,000 pupils with EHC plans in mainstream schools, and the number of pupils in special schools has risen to over 112,000. Since introducing EHC plans, the Department for Education (DfE) has announced an £250 million up until 2020 to help local authorities manage high needs cost pressures, £100 million for more SEND places and £31.6 million for more than 600 new educational psychologists.
While these changes have increased the support children and young people with SEND receive, they have also increased demands on the education sector, the DfE said. It wants to work with all those involved in the SEND system to hear how it can work better to improve outcomes for young people and whether funding could be distributed more effectively. The call for evidence runs until 31 July.
The secretary of state also took the time to answer questions from delegates and ended the session by addressing the topic of Brexit. He remarked that he and many of his colleagues felt frustrated by the challenge of trying to make the case for other priorities such as schools, hospitals, and crime. To this point, Paul Whiteman responded by assuring the secretary that NAHT members would do everything possible to ensure the case for schools cut through the noise of Brexit.
Watch the whole speech below.
First published 09 May 2019