Families of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) from North Yorkshire, Birmingham and East Sussex are challenging the Government’s approach to SEND funding.
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The parents believe that central government is leaving local authorities across the country unable to fulfil their legal obligation of providing education to children with SEND. They are calling on the education secretary Damian Hinds and the chancellor Philip Hammond to increase funding.
The two-day hearing, which takes place on 26 and 27 June at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, will examine whether the Government’s decision about SEND funding has been lawful.
Ahead of the hearing, members from the SEND Action campaign group, its supporters and education unions and disabilities charities including the National Deaf Children’s Society, will be holding a demonstration outside the high court in support of the families bringing the legal action.
Anne-Marie Irwin, lawyer and public law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, who is acting for the families, said, ‘The issue of funding for special educational needs is a major one at present and is something that we have been contacted about on many occasions in recent years but this is the first time that the Government has been taken to court over its decisions on SEND funding.
‘So many families are desperate to know that their children will be able to get the support they require to access an education, yet so many councils at the moment are resorting to budget cuts, which puts that under serious threat.
‘Our clients in this case simply feel that enough is enough and want the Government to reconsider the level of support it is providing to local authorities on the issue of special educational needs.’
Jo Campion, who leads the National Deaf Children’s campaign against cuts, said, ‘The situation is becoming completely intolerable for families across the country. Funding is being cut year-on-year and the specialist teachers these children rely on have been savagely cut back. As a result, deaf children’s grades are unsurprisingly far below where they should be.
‘This court case needs to be a massive wake-up call for the Government. They need to act immediately to stop this crisis spiralling out of control. If they don’t, an entire generation of disabled children will have their futures stolen from them.’
Gillian Doherty, founder of SEND Action, said, ‘The message to Philip Hammond, to Damian Hinds and to our next Prime Minister couldn’t be clearer: they must take urgent action to provide the support disabled children need and to which they have a legal right.
‘This is the 21st century, in one of the richest countries in the world. Our children are being failed by a system in a tailspin. It’s appalling that parents have had to take their own government to court to try to resolve this crisis.’
The National Education Union’s (NEU) joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said the court case highlighted the ‘severity of the current situation in SEND’.
Rise in SEND children without school place
Today the NEU released new analysis of Department for Education (DfE) figures showing the number of children with SEND without a school place has doubled in the last two years.
As of January 2019, 8,587 children with SEND were classed as ‘awaiting provision’ for a school place and had no access to any type of educational provision.
DfE figures for 2017 showed there were around 4,000 children with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) or statements of special educational needs who were ‘awaiting provision’.
Mr Courtney added, ‘We welcome the Department for Education’s efforts to make public the true situation for far too many young people with SEND, but it only serves to demonstrate the parlous state we are in. The fact that over 8,500 young people with SEND are currently not receiving any form of education is appalling and shows the Government has not listened to teachers and parents who are tirelessly campaigning for more funding.’
Last month, the DfE launched a call for evidence on how to make funding arrangements for pupils with complex SEND more effective, which runs until 31 July.