SEND pupils are losing out

Education and support for SEND pupils is in crisis due to funding cuts – how is this manifesting itself?

The funding shortfall for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) keeps growing, nationwide, and it’s something schools are always trying to accommodate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out well and SEND pupils tend to feel the brunt of budget cuts and a lack of resources. There have been several high-profile cases of financial struggles for children with special needs recently; earlier this month, three families launched a landmark legal challenge over funding of pupils with SEND and lost their case.

These families, who represented many thousands of others in the same position, argued that the government’s budgetary decisions left local authorities in a position where they could not fulfil their legal obligation to provide education for the children in question. Despite a great deal of evidence surrounding the ongoing SEND funding shortfall, the judge ruled that ‘no unlawful discrimination’ had taken place’.

This is despite the fact that, back in September, the National Audit Office outlined the true state of SEND education, identifying ‘significant concerns’ regarding the support and education available to special needs children. The review found that four-in-five schools (81.3%) had overspent on their high needs budget in 2017-18 – which suggests SEND funding simply isn’t enough.

Experts are now saying that support for SEND children is ‘in crisis’;  ombudsman Michael King has stated that the number of complaints from parents relating to special education issues has risen by 45% in the last two years. He found that some families experienced delays of up to 90 weeks in having their cases dealt with; additionally, nearly 90% of these complains were upheld in the families’ favour. As a result, councils across the country are being criticised for their inability to meet their legal duties in supporting SEND children.

So what is required to get SEND funding on track and halt the increasing pressure on families and schools? What could the government do to change the landscape?

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