The SEND National Crisis march will deliver a 13,000-strong petition to Downing Street at 12 noon calling for urgent funding for education for disabled children and young people. This will be followed by a rally in nearby Parliament Square from 1pm.
The petition calls for rights and equality for young people with additional needs in education, with demands including:
- an independent enquiry in to the treatment of young people with additional needs
- a re-examination of Section 28A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 and the Equality Act 2010, to ensure the increased availability of resources for children with additional needs in more than one school per borough
- every school to be provided with the tools to provide education to all young people, regardless of needs
- preventing local authority resource based provisions (specialist provision within a mainstream school for a specific area of special need or disability) affecting the outcome of school choice by limiting parental choice applications
- regular monitoring of access to education for young people with additional needs by all local authorities to ensure a positive educational experience is being offered to all
- Campaigners will also be demonstrating at 25 other locations across England and Wales in the first national action of its kind.
Locations include Manchester, Liverpool, Derby, Rhyl, Worthing, Birmingham, Dorset, Bristol and Newport.
The National Education Union (NEU) is supporting the protest and is calling for its members to join demonstrations in their local areas. Other supporters include the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Deaf Children's Society, the Disabled Children's Partnership and Simpson Millar Solicitors.
Analysis carried out by the NEU last year found spending in nearly all councils in England (93 per cent) had failed to keep pace with the increase in the number of children with an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP), which rose by a third (33 per cent) since 2015.
Nadia Turki, co-founder of SEND National Crisis, said, ‘We can no longer remain silent when our children are suffering for want of adequate Government funding. We are demanding a necessary change to the framework to ensure workable regulatory controls, and to ensure SEND funding is ring-fenced to ensure delivery precisely where it is most needed.’
Poppy Rose, also a co-founder of SEND National Crisis, added, ‘The Government said austerity was over, but families say the lack of funding for support is having a detrimental effect on the mental health, life chances, and outcomes of disabled children and young people. While the reforms extended statutory support to age 25, young people have consistently found it impossible to secure suitable education or training.
‘It is an intolerable situation that means access to rights, equality, inclusion and the prospect of a bright future are being wrongfully denied to many thousands of disabled children. This is not just a national crisis; it is a national scandal.’
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said, ‘This is clearly a crisis, with pupils and parents bearing the brunt of real-terms funding cuts and the wholly inadequate planning by Government. Last year, when the NEU won an additional £350m for children and young people with additional needs, the Government admitted that "more needs to be done". We hold them to those words today. Get on with it.’
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said, ‘School funding cuts have made second-class citizens of a generation of children. We are reaching the point where a child with additional needs, be that disability or a mental health condition or behavioural issues, is immediately severely disadvantaged. For these children the idea of fair access to education is nothing more than an empty promise.
‘We urgently need the government to recognise the true scale of the problem and to release more money from the Treasury, both for schools and for health and social care services.’
Beccy Forrow, senior campaigns advisor at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said the special educational needs system is in ‘complete crisis’.
‘The time for tired soundbites and kicking the can down the road is over. The Treasury and the Department for Education must urgently look at the mountains of evidence and consider the many simple, cost-effective solutions that could begin to avert this crisis.
‘Everyone deserves the same start in life, but without immediate investment in this struggling system, children with special educational needs will continue to be left behind.’