In September 2021 the National Association of Head Teachers published the results of a survey which noted the concerns of its members about ‘the insufficiency of funding for pupils with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).’
The survey revealed:
- Almost all school leaders (97%) reported that funding for pupils with SEND in their school is insufficient, and similar numbers (95 per cent) reported that top-up funding for pupils with education, health and care (EHC) plans was insufficient.
After many months of public consultation, in March this year the Westminster government published ‘Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP) Improvement Plan.’ It has an ambitious aim to reform the present system of education for children with special needs: ‘to create a society that celebrates and enables success in a variety of forms, with the culture, attitudes and environments to offer every child and young person the support that they need.’ There is promise of an investment: ‘£2.6 billion between 2022 and 2025 to deliver new places and improve existing provision for children and young people with SEND or who require alternative provision, reducing the need for costly independent provision.’
The website Special Needs Jungle offers an interpretation of the SEND Plan which commends the Westminster government’s intention, but points out that there are ‘no imminent legislative changes,’ and that ‘most key proposals won’t [be] implemented nationally until at least 2025.’ Full analysis of the Plan is a lengthy undertaking and will be published as it is completed. The very name of the website is an indication of the difficulties parents with children with special education needs encounter when negotiating a complex system.
SEND Reform England
In May this year a group of Mums formed the voluntary organisation SEND Reform England and launched a petition. They are worried about what they see as a ‘broken’ system of SEND education for their children, and ask for review and reform of Education, Health, and Care Plans (EHCP), the legal documents which outline the education and support needs for a young person, and the outcomes for their futures. On June 21st the Petition had 60,000 signatures and was delivered to 10 Downing Street, after a protest rally in Parliament Square of 1000 people who had travelled from other parts of England to join the Mums in London.
SEND Reform England have now planned a nationwide day of protests. These will cover all Local Authorities (LA) in an area, and are not designed to target the LA where they are being held. Places have been chosen to enable people to travel at most 1-2 hours from their homes, while covering the greatest geographical area across England.
The Newcastle Protest will be on Friday 13 October 11am – 2pm at Newcastle Civic Centre. As the organisers from SEND say, ‘the bigger the turnout, the bigger the impact.’