The warning from the National Education Union (NEU) comes after a survey it carried out with 900 staff working in schools in England revealed that more schools are cutting support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Half of all respondents said their school has cut support for children SEND – up from 40 per cent last year.
Nearly a quarter of respondents in primary schools said their school has made cuts to the number of SEND support staff.
A member of staff from a Bristol primary school said, ‘The cuts to support staff are now so severe that the needs of children with additional needs are not always met and it is not safe for either children or staff.’
Findings from the survey also revealed it is taking longer for pupils to be sent for diagnosis of conditions such as autism, which the NEU says means children will not be getting the extra support they need.
On top of this, nearly 40 per cent of primary respondents said it is harder to access external support and a third reported that their school has less access to specialist teaching resources for SEND pupils.
A teacher in a West Sussex primary school said, ‘In the infant classes we cannot meet the needs of our SEND children. It's almost impossible to give our SEND children the one-to-one time they need. I feel the situation is desperate.’
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said, ‘If the true measure of a country is how it treats its most vulnerable, then this Government is failing big time. Children with special needs are being let down. The Government’s funding cuts are cutting so deep that schools cannot provide the support SEND pupils need and are struggling to access external support because this has been cut too. The Government needs to wake up to the facts and urgently make more money available for schools so they can keep SEND pupils safe and provide the help and support they need.’
A Department for Education spokesperson said, 'By 2020, core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion - its highest ever level and 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000 - and the introduction of the National Funding Formula will address historic disparities in the system. The high needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6 billion this year – the highest on record.
'We know more needs to be done to make sure that vulnerable children are not unfairly treated, which is why we have launched a review of school exclusions, led by Edward Timpson CBE. This will draw on evidence and expertise to understand what drives exclusion rates and address any inconsistencies.'
- Find out about Nursery World's SEND in the Early Years conference on 6 July at www.send-earlyyears.com