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Without sufficient funding SEN code of practice is nothing more than an empty promise, say school leaders

School leaders’ union NAHT today (Wednesday 5 September) publishes a report into the crisis in supporting children with special educational needs in schools.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “The picture facing schools supporting children with special educational needs is bleak. Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have been severe cuts to health and social care provision. Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils. Without sufficient funding and a more coherent approach, the SEN code of practice is nothing more than an empty promise from government to parents and children.”

NAHT received 637 responses to a survey of its members in May-June. The key findings were that:

Paul Whiteman continued: “One million of the recognised 1.28 million children with SEN do not have any additional funding afforded to them. That means that the financial burden of additional support penalises those mainstream schools that are the most inclusive. This is unsustainable. Schools are seriously struggling to fund SEN support in the face of crippling budget pressures that sees them forced to cut critical support staff. We urgently need the government to recognise the scale of the problem and to secure an immediate increase in funding from the Treasury. It is make or break time for school funding.

“However, the education budget was never intended to meet all the needs of pupils with SEND. Currently the ‘health and care’ are missing from children’s Education, Health and Care Plans, with little funding or support from health and social care services. Education cannot do it alone. Schools need the support of specialist services to meet vulnerable children’s needs. The government must provide more funding for health and social care services.”

The impact on children

Behind the numbers in this report lie the experiences of our members, and more importantly the children they are working to support, and it is those which most clearly reveal a system in crisis:

“A child arrived in September in a wheelchair with Cerebral palsy – we have to provide 1:1 support and 2:1 for toileting – we have received not a penny. Applied for top up funding – still waiting eight months later”

“It is extremely difficult to get children's needs diagnosed in the first instance and almost impossible to access CAMHS service"

“An Educational psychologist will only be provided for an EHCP application. We need their support before it gets to this stage. You can only get a child onto the CAHMS list if they are suicidal or worse”

“We have had no local authority Educational Psychologist for 2 years and have had to buy private EP reports at £520 a time. Speech and Language no longer work with the children in school, but make a termly visit and give recommendations, which we have to fund support for. Mental health services are so hard to access that we are now paying for our own counsellor, which takes up a very substantial portion of our funding”

“It is pointless having EHCPs if there is no funding to support what they say the pupil needs”

“Top up funding is being used to run our schools as the £10,000 per place has not been reviewed in almost a decade and is not currently enough to cover running costs of special schools”

“We are commissioning services from Health which were previously free but as the criteria for involvement is raised we have to pay for support (Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy and so on)”

“The CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] threshold is so high that pupils need to have attempted suicide to be taken on by CAMHS in this area”

“Changes to health provision for under-fives means fewer are identified before starting nursery. I have parents who are shocked that we have concerns when their child starts nursery”

“We have 39 children at SEN Support and there is no funding to support them due to the other pressures on SEND”

“There are long waiting times for educational psychologists and the work they are prepared to do is dictated by them rather than the child/school’s needs. Speech and Language therapists we just can’t afford to buy enough time so have to wait far too long. We use Occupational Therapists, not physios: their training is not sound enough in most cases to meet our needs. The thresholds are so ridiculous for CAMHS that we can hardly access them despite very high levels of significant needs. Individual CAMHS workers are highly effective but far too few and their system makes them inaccessible most of the time.”

The above are selected comments provided alongside answers in our survey which leave no doubt as to the urgency of the action needed to support children with SEND.

Press and Media contacts:

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

Rose Tremlett 
Senior Press Officer 
07545 354363

Email : press.office@naht.org.uk