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School leaders take action for children with SEND ahead of budget

  • School leaders are raising significant concerns about the financial sustainability of SEND provision ahead of next week’s budget
  • School leaders’ union NAHT is supporting the first All Party Parliamentary Group for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
  • Petition signed by hundreds of school leaders to be handed to 10 Downing Street


Today (Tuesday 3 March) the inaugural meeting of the first APPG for SEND, set up by Emma Hardy MP and supported by school leaders’ union NAHT, will take place in Parliament. A petition signed by more than 300 leaders of special schools in England will later be handed in to 10 Downing Street.


The government’s reforms to SEND provision since 2014, whilst being the right ones, have not been backed up by sufficient funding. The Education Select Committee has said the DfE set the reforms up to fail by not providing enough resources. They have urged the government to make further announcements on SEND funding in the upcoming Budget on 11th March. *


School leaders are concerned that, 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. Schools are having to find the money to cover costs as high as £90k per year 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 LAs.


The petition is addressed directly to the Prime Minister and says: “The children we educate need your attention. The systems and structures in place are unsupportive and devalue the education of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. These children and young people are struggling to have a place in our society and the size of this population is growing. 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.”


Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West and Hessle, said: “Today is the inaugural meeting of the first APPG for SEND and I am delighted that we have the support of the NAHT. The SEND provision reforms that the government introduced in 2014, whilst worthy in its aims have failed to deliver.


“The government did not provide enough funding from the start and it has left SEND provision in a very precarious position, with some schools having to provide the costs themselves which is not being covered.


“We have a petition, which has been signed by over 300 school leaders addressed personally to the Prime Minister. This government is failing the needs of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, and the SEND provisions in place do not provide our pupils with the necessary support to fulfil their potential.”


Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, which is supporting the APPG and the petition, said: “The government’s pledge of an extra £780 million for children with SEND, is welcome, and desperately needed. We’re taking this action now because next week’s Budget presents a clear opportunity for the government to invest further, as all the research shows they must.”


Sabrina Hobbs, Head at Severndale Specialist Academy in Shropshire, said: “Society frequently views young people with SEND 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 may be unable, to make their voices heard.  We write this letter to speak out for this group, so that they are not ignored. Our pupils are able and proud to be in our communities.”


Marijke Miles, Head at Baycroft School in Hampshire, said: “Mainstream funds have been backfilling the Local Authority deficits to 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 can only be rectified by more money and health and social care stepping up to match what education settings have done.”


Adrian Carver, Head at Downs View School in Brighton & Hove, said: “In the short term, our concerns relate to how the government’s pledge to increase funds to pupils with SEND will be distributed.  If given directly to LAs, 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.”


The petition urges the Prime Minister to take a direct interest in pupils with SEND by:


  • Inviting leaders in the SEND and Alternative Provision sector to support the much needed developments and change to the sector.
  • Distributing a proportion of the pledge of £780 million to increase Element 1 (per pupil/place funding) – this has remained stagnant at £10k.
  • Funding the increases to support staff pension contributions and salary increments – while we welcome the acknowledgement of teacher pay and pension contributions, special schools also rely on a significant number of support staff. Traditionally, these staff have not been supported by government injections of additional funding.
  • Holding the Healthcare sector to account – children and young people are the future, and the NHS is responsible for supporting their healthcare needs.


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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