Schools unable to support SEND pupils without more funding

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School leaders’ union NAHT has warned that without sufficient funding, the SEN code of practice is nothing more than an ‘empty promise’.


NAHT members say they are finding it harder to resource support for children with SEN

It comes as the union publishes a report today (Wednesday) outlining the struggle of schools to support children with special educational needs (SEN).

The report, which is based upon findings from a survey of 637 of NAHT’s members, highlights a lack of support for children in the early years.

One respondent said that there is no support for children under the age of five, while another claimed that fewer children were being identified as having SEND before starting nursery.

The latter said, ‘Changes for 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.

‘There are also parents’ expectations of the 30 hours for children with very complex needs. The local school [nursery provision] says children will have to go back to part-time until statutory school age, however we are told we are not inclusive enough if we do offer the entitlement to all who are eligible.’

Additional findings from the report reveal:

  • Nine in ten (94 per cent) members are finding it harder to resource the support required to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) than they did two years ago.
  • The majority blame cuts to mainstream funding, cuts to teaching assistants and pastoral staff for struggling to support the needs of children with SEND, as well as cuts to health and social care budgets.
  • Just 2 per cent of respondents said that the top-up funding they receive from local authorities is sufficient to meet individual EHCPs or statements for pupils with SEND.
  • There are long delays for pupils to be assessed – with 15 per cent waiting over six months from referral for an EHCP assessment, and 39 per cent waiting over six months from referral for an EHCP to be produced.
  • EHCPs are not accurate when produced.


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.’

He added, ‘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.

‘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.’

Minister for children and families Nadhim Zahawi said, 'We have undertaken the biggest special educational needs reforms in a generation, including the introduction of Education Health and Care plans, so that support is tailored to the needs of individuals and families are put at the heart of the process. 

'We recognise that there is increasing pressure on schools and on high needs budgets, which is exactly why funding is rising to meet this. Core schools funding is increasing to £43.5bn by 2020 – that’s 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000 – and within that total the high needs budget is £6 billion this year – the highest on record.'

  • The report, 'Empty Promises -The crisis in supporting children with SEND', is available here
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