Special Educational Needs & Disabilities funding – cut to the bone!

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Teachers, parents and pupils march to deliver their petition to Downing Street for more SEND funding

SPECIAL Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) funding is being cut to the bone, the National Education Union (NEU) warned in a motion on the issue at their annual conference on Friday, demanding that the cuts are immediately reversed.

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘Current funding for special educational needs (SEND) in schools is grossly inadequate and the Covid crisis has made the future even bleaker for the existing 1.28 million SEND students.

‘The real-terms cuts to schools funding, aligned with the additional costs of Covid, has increased the pressure on SEND and mental health support both in schools and local authorities.

‘The Covid crisis has meant many SEND students have not had their usual access to the therapies and pastoral support that enables inclusion. Mental health services are stretched to breaking point as more young people face crises due to the effects of Covid restrictions, undiagnosed SEND and trauma.

‘Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) needs emergency funding to ensure all young people requiring support are able to access professional support in a timely manner, alongside proper long-term investment in mental health services in both schools and local authorities.

‘Government must properly fund all schools and to conduct an urgent review of high-needs funding. This must ensure that an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan provides the actual funding needed to deliver the SEND child or young person’s entitlement.

‘We must also remind government that EHC plans now apply for SEND young people up to the age of 25, as there is concern that so many families have difficulty accessing support beyond the age of 18.

‘Recovery education must have the capacity to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing rather than focussing relentlessly on academic catch-up.’

Meanwhile, the conference also raised the burning issue of the crisis in funding of nursery schools.

Commenting on the passing of motion 35 at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference, which is being held virtually, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘In principle, our government accepts that high-quality early years education is essential in the fight against educational disadvantage. In practice, it is a different story.

‘The number of maintained nursery schools is falling. Lacking any long-term funding guarantee and having been declared ineligible for government financial support for the costs of Covid-19, those nursery schools that remain open are under extreme financial pressure. Only 28% expect to balance their budget in the current financial year.

‘These schools are proven centres of excellence, often located in the most deprived areas of the country and providing skills and resources which support neighbouring early years settings. It is essential that these are not lost.

‘Yet a steady and unforgivable process of amalgamations and closures is leading precisely in that direction.

‘Over the last year, the NEU has worked with the NAHT, Unison and Early Education in a campaign which has reached literally millions of people. We have supported the valuable work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery Schools, Nursery and Reception classes.

‘With them, we call on the government to guarantee that maintained nursery schools will have viable long-term funding from September 2021.

‘The NEU is determined that the early years sector will not be the poor relation of the education system. If the government thinks it can quietly preside over the dissolution of the precious resource that maintained nurseries represent, it is wrong.

‘Today’s resolution commits the union to redouble our efforts. Working with a range of organisations, we will step up our effort to ensure increased funding.

‘We will commit new resources to supporting and organising our members in maintained nurseries. We are determined to expose the government’s lackadaisical neglect of this vital sector.’

Commenting on the passing of motion 26 at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference, which is being held virtually, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘The last ten years has seen a dramatic rise in child poverty across the UK – and without drastic, immediate action from government the numbers will increase.

‘Coronavirus has shone a light on the reality of child poverty in 2021 – and a clear majority of the voting public support government action to end child poverty.

‘At Conference we’ve heard how, throughout the pandemic, school staff stepped up, taking their nurturing and welfare role seriously.

‘Schools worked tirelessly to provide healthy, nutritious food, and the technology and pastoral support many pupils rely on.

‘Through the NEU partnership with the Daily Mirror, the Help a Child to Learn campaign shared out over £1.2 million worth of vital learning resources, like pens, pencils and paper.

‘Learning materials went to 1,260 schools in the most deprived areas of the country showing that schools, parents and the public want to work together to tackle poverty.

‘World-famous footballers cannot alone fix child poverty, but they have shown that the public wants to see poverty tackled.

‘The latest research predicts that by the next General Election, 730,000 more children and young people will be caught in poverty’s grip.

‘Nearly a fifth of school children are now eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), and many more from low-income families surviving on as little as £20.27-a-day miss out on this crucial support.

‘There is a new ambitious mood, created by Covid, where parents have witnessed the reality of different learning environments at home.

‘There is broad public support for extending FSM provision across the school holidays.

‘Tackling hunger and malnutrition would immediately alleviate a huge amount of anxiety for families.

‘We’ve got to have high ambitions for every child, and ensure wellbeing, nurture and learning go hand in hand in school but poor students need less poverty, urgently, not more schooling.

‘The government is pretending to voters that great teaching alone can lift students out of poverty, and it’s simply not true.

‘Powerful learning for every student must be our goal but we have got to face the fact that hunger, housing, and the anxiety created by poverty means poor children will be left behind their affluent peers.

‘Let’s close the gaps in income, food, housing and tech in order to close the gaps in opportunity and ambition.’

Motion 24 also passed at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference.

Conference voted that: ‘The NEU has today agreed to take forward proposals which strengthen roll out and implementation of its Anti-Racism Charter.’

On this issue Dr Bousted said: ‘Many schools have been using the NEU’s anti-racist framework which takes a whole school approach to challenging racism and increasing representation in the curriculum.

‘The self-evaluation tool has sections on leadership, teaching and learning, wellbeing and belonging and culture and community.

‘The NEU has an ambitious plan to support more schools and to develop the confidence and professional skills of members to identify and tackle the effects of racism on all aspects of progress and learning.

‘We are witnessing a huge push forward on anti-racism with many schools reviewing their curriculum around social justice issues and the inequalities highlighted by Covid.

‘Many schools and parents recognise that education must reflect the extensive impact of empire as well as the major contributions and achievements of black people in every subject area.

‘It is urgent that all black students can access a positive, engaging and representative curriculum.

‘Westminster isn’t listening on the need to review the curriculum and they would do well to be looking at Wales where they are adapting the curriculum.

‘The NEU is proud to be working with the Lewis Hamilton Commission, with the Runnymede Trust and with Cargo Classroom to develop tools for teachers which promise better educational opportunities for Black students.

‘We have got to recognise that racial disparities are still prevalent in assessment and attainment; in the recruitment, retention, pay and progression of black teachers and in the exclusion rate of black pupils.

‘In the 2018/2019 school year, 4,889 exclusions were due to racist abuse.

‘It’s urgent that Initial Teacher Education (ITE) better helps trainees create inclusive, anti-racist practice and the NEU is proud to be working on a project with the University of Newcastle to establish good practice in ITE on tackling race inequality.

‘Today NEU members have pledged to build on the anti-racist work done within the profession so far and to reach out to more schools and colleges, so every student has an entitlement to a fair and equal education.’