SEND funding shortfall in schools of £1.2bn, union claims

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Funding for children with special educational needs has failed to keep pace with the rise in demand for provision, according to the National Education Union.

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The number of children needing support for SEND has risen by 33 per cent since 2015

Analysis carried out by the teachers’ union found that spending in nearly all councils in England (93 per cent) has not kept pace with the increase in the number of children with an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP), which has risen by a third (33 per cent) since 2015.

The number of children and young people with an EHCP has risen from 240,000 in 2015 to 320,00 in 2018-19.

The NEU says that the funding shortfall across England is £1.22 bn.

The union calculated the total cash shortfall in high needs funding since 2015, based on 2018/19 prices, by comparing per-pupil SEND funding in local authorities in England in 2018-19 with 2015 figures.

It says that funding for the high needs block (the budget reserved to fund extra provision) has only risen by 6 per cent over the same period, from £5.6 billion to £6bn in today’s prices.
The NEU attributes one reason for the rapid increase in demand to the extension of EHCP provision to young people with additional needs aged 19-25 – a policy which was unplanned and insufficiently funded.

The research was released to coincide with the start of the NEU’s annual conference, which is taking place in Liverpool this week (15-18 April).

Commenting on the research, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said, ‘The funding shortfall for SEND provision comes against the backdrop of the swingeing cuts to local authority budgets imposed by the Westminster Government over the last 9 years which have left many councils on the brink.

‘Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the Government had provided for services. This is an appalling way to be addressing the education of some of our most vulnerable children and young people and is causing untold misery and worry for thousands of families.’

In response the Government said it has increased spending.

Minister for children and families, Nadhim Zahawi, said, ‘We have increased spending on high needs from £5bn in 2013 to £6.3bn this year and it is not right to imply funding has been cut. 

‘We recognise the challenges facing local authorities and in December provided an extra £250million up to 2020 to help them manage high needs cost pressures. We have also provided councils with an extra £100million funding to create more SEND places in mainstream schools, colleges and special schools.’

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