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Current levels of support for pupils with high needs are holding them back, say school leaders

This Friday, school leaders from across the country will gather in Liverpool for NAHT’s annual conference, putting support for pupils with high needs at the top of their agenda.

The association also publishes a new analysis today of the factors behind the current crisis in high needs funding.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “Our analysis provides clear evidence that there is both increased pressure on the costs per pupil and increased demand for support for children and young people with the most complex special educational needs. The Chancellor must recognise the growing shortfall if we are to avoid our most vulnerable pupils missing out on the education that can allow them to realise their potential.”

NAHT’s Head of Policy Valentine Mulholland said: “Children with the highest levels of need are paying the biggest price for the government’s real terms cuts to education. High needs funding is used by local authorities to meet their legal obligations to disabled children and young people, those with special educational needs, and those in alternative provision. However, the system is now under unsustainable pressure; this makes it harder for mainstream settings to be inclusive.”

Key findings – the drivers of the crisis in high needs funding

1.    The real terms cuts to education funding since April 2015 have had significant impact on the education of pupils with high needs, meaning that funding has to be stretched much further to cover:

·         Unfunded pay increases for teachers and support staff.

·         Increases in employer costs for national insurance and Teachers’ Pensions representing over 5.5%

·         Cuts to the local authority Education Services Grant of £600 million that have shifted the burden onto schools.

·         The new apprenticeship levy of 0.5% of payroll costs levied on the majority of schools.

2.    Increases in the number of pupils with statements or Educational Health Care Plans (EHCP) with an increase of over 50,000 (21%) between 2014 and 2017 – 31,000 between 2016 and 2017 alone.

3.    A shift from mainstream to specialist provision of 5% of pupils between 2010 and 2017 (56% of pupils to 51%).

4.    The raft of reforms to curriculum and assessment have resulted in a less accessible curriculum for those with SEND in mainstream primary and secondary schools. 79% of school leaders in the latest State of Education report (2017) believing that the current national curriculum requirements are not providing the best outcomes for all pupils in mainstream education.

5.    A significant 19% increase in the number of pupils with SEND attending independent schools between 2010 and 2017. Independent special schools generally support pupils with the most complex needs so the cost of pupils in those settings is often much higher.

6.    A slight but significant increase in the number of pupils educated in alternative provision or PRUs, that are also funded from the high needs block, from 1,500 in 2013/14 to 2,200 in 2017.

7.    An increase in the number of children and young people being home educated or educated outside a school setting, from 3,305 in 2010 to 8,304 in 2017, with half of those, 4,050, now pupils awaiting provision.

Seven of the thirty four motions at NAHT’s conference will be about specific funding for children with high needs – the largest single group - illustrating that this topic is right at the top of the agenda for school leaders this year.

Press and Media contacts:

Steven George
NAHT Head of Press and Media
01444 472886
07970 907730

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

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