Special needs children face exclusion from school!

Parents and pupils protest against cuts in funding and loss of teachers
Parents and pupils protest against cuts in funding and loss of teachers

Children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) are not getting the support they need and are at risk of being permanently excluded from school because of funding cuts! This was the conclusion of an NEU (National Education Union) survey out on Tuesday at its ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers) section’s annual conference in Liverpool.

The survey of over 900 staff working in schools in England shows that cuts affecting SEND pupils are worse this year, with half of respondents saying their school has cut support for SEND children this year compared to 40% last year. The cuts are worse in primary schools with 54% reporting cuts, against 49% in secondary schools.

Funding cuts have led to nearly a third (31%) of respondents saying their school has cut SEND posts this year, compared to a quarter last year (26%). The situation is worse in secondary schools with 36% reporting cuts to SEND staff, compared to 24% in primary schools.

A member of staff in a Sheffield primary school said: ‘Highly vulnerable children are now in mainstream classrooms without the significant support they need or the trained staff.

‘These children are now at high risk of permanent exclusion.’

A member of staff in a Bristol primary school said: ‘We have a huge number of pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs or autism and we cannot support them properly.

‘SEND top-up funding has been reduced dramatically and so for a child that we used to be able to claim an extra £5,000 to meet their needs, we can now only get £1,001 as a maximum.’

A member of staff in a London secondary school said: ‘The special needs department is severely understaffed. This affects being able to actually support students in the way their education, health and care plan states.’ A teacher in a West Sussex primary school said: ‘In the infant classes we cannot meet the needs of our SEND children. ‘It’s almost impossible to give our SEND children the one to one time they need. I feel the situation is desperate.’

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: ‘If the true measure of a country is how it treats its most vulnerable, then this government is failing big time. ‘Children with special needs are being let down. ‘The government’s funding cuts are cutting so deep that schools cannot provide the support SEND pupils need and are struggling to access external support because this has been cut too.

‘The government needs to wake up to the facts and urgently make more money available for schools so they can keep SEND pupils safe and provide the help and support they need.’ The biggest changes in SEND provision are cuts to teaching assistant (TA) support, cited by over half of respondents (54%), rising to 58% of primary respondents.

Overall nearly one in four (39%) said this year there is less support for pupils with SEND support.

A member of staff in a Bristol primary school said: ‘The cuts to support staff are now so severe that the needs of children with additional needs are not always met and it is not safe for either children or staff.’

A member of staff in a Kent secondary school said: ‘Huge cuts to SEND provision – no teaching assistants left is causing a nightmare for our most vulnerable.’ A member of staff in a Rotherham secondary school said: ‘The reduction in teaching assistants has forced in-class support to cover those with an education, health and care plan. ‘Many children with SEND have no in class support.’

A primary teacher in Stockport said: ‘Specialist SEND support from learning support assistants (LSA) will no longer be on a one to one basis. ‘There will have to be one LSA for three children, some with very challenging needs.’

A member of staff in a Berkshire secondary school said: ‘We currently don’t have enough TAs to cover all the children with education, health and care plans (EHCPs). ‘Three TAs are to be made redundant this year and others will have their hours cut. Many children with EHCPs will get no classroom support.’

A member of staff in a West Sussex secondary school said: ‘Our special SEND support was a highlight of the school, but the lack of funding has led to increased cuts in SEND support staff and specialist teachers which is having a detrimental effect on students, leading to more students having to leave or contemplate leaving mainstream provision.’ A teacher in a West Sussex primary school said: ‘The play therapist support for SEND pupils for two days a week has been completely cut.’

A member of staff in a London primary school said: ‘The budget for staffing is set prior to September, without there being a contingency to cover additional staff to support children new to the school in September, for example, children who arrive in reception with special needs but without an EHCP. ‘This impacts hugely on these children and on the rest of the class who find their teacher and existing support staff stretched and unable to give the required levels of attention and interventions to the whole class.’

A teacher in a London primary school said: ‘We have a severely autistic child in school with no one to one support until a grant came through from an EHCP ‘This only covers half a day. We can’t afford to employ someone to cover full time so my teaching assistant is covering the afternoons, and booster groups for the other vulnerable year ones cannot be covered. ‘The situation is affecting his time at school, all the staff involved with him and the rest of the year one class.’

Worryingly, over a third of primary school respondents (37%) said it is taking longer for pupils to be sent for a diagnosis of conditions such as autism, and just over a quarter (26%) of all respondents, which means children will not be getting the extra support they need.

The funding cuts are making it harder for schools to access external support for SEND pupils this year, with nearly 40% of primary respondents saying it is harder to access external support service interventions, over a quarter (26%) overall. A third of primary respondents said their school has less access to specialist teaching resources for SEND pupils, 23% overall.

• The speech by Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ Section annual conference in Liverpool follows: ‘Teachers now work more unpaid overtime than any other profession. Beginning teachers, once they have paid tax, national insurance and their student loan, count the number of hours they are working, and then calculate that they are being paid less than the minimum wage…

‘I put the government on notice, now. It must trust its teachers and support them so that teachers can support their pupils and prepare them for life and work in the 21st century.  ‘And that is why the National Education Union is campaigning on pay, so that teachers can afford to stay in the profession. Our demand for a 5% fully funded pay rise is restrained and reasonable.

‘Are you all getting ready for the 21st and 22nd April – the weekend of action on school funding cuts? Have you ordered your poster? Have you ordered your leaflets? Have you arranged a local meeting? Have your organised a banner drop? ‘If not, get onto the ATL section website and order your materials and get campaigning to reverse school cuts.

‘We are campaigning on workload. Teachers’ working hours must be reduced and their work must become more satisfying and professional. As Kevin said to you yesterday, and I said to the NUT section conference, if the Government won’t take action on workload, the National Education Union will consult its members to do just that. ‘I believe the time has come, now, for the Government to set a limit on teachers’ working hours, a limit negotiated with the unions and properly enforced…

‘And Labour’s shadow secretary of state for education Angela Rayner has said that Ofsted is not fit for purpose.

‘She is absolutely right. Ofsted is not fit for purpose. It is an inspection agency which punishes schools which educate poor children, awarding inspection judgements based on a school’s intake rather than the standards of its teaching and the progress children make in their learning… ‘So, we will be asking all the political parties just what they are going to do about Ofsted, an agency, which, more than any other, has acted to exhaust teachers and school leaders and drive them from the profession. An agency which has done more than any other to decimate teacher supply and to threaten educational standards in England.

‘And while Ofsted and the regional schools’ commissioners engage in turf disputes about who inspects what, it pains me to say that some multi academy trusts get away with the fraudulent misuse of public money which has been given to them for children’s education. ‘Conference, if you are an academy trustee you should be doing a public duty, giving the best governance to the academy, or academy chain, you are a trustee of. If you are the CEO of an academy chain, you should be running it with a public service ethos.

‘You should not be awarding yourself £50,000 rises while your teaching and support staff suffer under austerity pay rates for years and years. ‘You should not be setting up companies, run by your daughter or your wife or some other relation, to provide “services” to your school, extracting profit, lots of profit, £120 million worth, out of public service.’