Damian Hinds, Education secretary of the Department for Education has called for evidence as it is feared that schools and families are struggling to receive support. The figures show there are nearly 120,000 children with education, health and care plans (EHCP) in mainstream schools, and 112,000 are in special schools, with a 24% rise in the past five years. The department is seeking views from schools on whether the funding system “could better reflect the changing nature of need”, and whether cash can be “distributed more effectively”.
Barney Angliss, a consultant of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and founder of FestABLE, a national festival of specialist learning said in a statement that the announcement was a “smokescreen”. He also further elaborated, “There is no change in the nature of needs and the minister has produced no evidence of it. What has changed is the extent to which the DfE seems to care that our mainstream schools should be inclusive, watching an ever-increasing proportion of our children transferring to special schools because of the mainstream sector’s reluctance or inability to meet their needs in the face of inadequate training, insufficient recruitment and inappropriate systems of accountability.”
“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.” But the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), which is a representative body for head teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the picture facing schools with SEND children was “bleak” and the “simple” solution lay in more funding.
Responding to excerpts from the speech, general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have been severe cuts to local authority health and social care provision. Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils. A call for evidence is welcome, as the issue is complex, but ultimately the solution is simple: more money from the Treasury is urgently needed, both for schools and health and social care services.” The call for evidence will end on July 31.