Children with special needs lose out as schools reach 'breaking point' over funding cuts, says teachers' union

'The crisis in special educational needs has reached epidemic proportions. There is no money, there are no places, there is no support'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 10 April 2018 19:08 BST
Vulnerable children are missing out on school places and support amid funding cuts
Vulnerable children are missing out on school places and support amid funding cuts (PA)

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Vulnerable children are at risk of receiving “little or no education” due to their “social and emotional difficulties”, members of the National Education Union (NEU) have suggested.

Children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) are not getting the support they need as schools are at “breaking point” amid funding cuts, the largest education union said.

There is a crisis of “epidemic proportions” in education for children with SEND, teachers warned at the conference of the NEU’s Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in Liverpool.

A new survey, of more than 900 school staff, found that cuts affecting SEND pupils are worse this year. Half said their school had cut support for SEND children compared to 40 per cent last year.

Funding cuts led to nearly a third (31 per cent) of respondents saying their school had cut SEND posts this year, compared to a quarter last year (26 per cent).

More than half (54 per cent) have seen a reduction in teaching assistant support – affecting SEND provision at their school.

“In the infant classes we cannot meet the needs of our SEND children,” a teacher in West Sussex said. “It’s almost impossible to give our children the one-to-one time they need. I feel the situation is desperate.”

Eight per cent of teachers said that pupils are unable to attend school full-time due to a lack of specialist SEND provision.

Another straw poll of parents, released at the union’s conference, found that nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of children with SEND are not in school at all.

Proposing a motion – which said schools were at “breaking point” – Emma Parker, from Durham, called the findings from the survey of parents “shocking” and added that she’d been “reduced to tears”.

She warned: “The crisis in SEND has reached epidemic proportions. Children and their families are in crisis. There is no money, there are no places, there is no support.”

The poll, of more than 440 parents, found that 52 per cent were not happy about the type of provision their child is in and nearly three-quarters said they were not given adequate support to help their child.

Speaking on the motion, which was passed by delegates in Liverpool, Ms Parker added that a growing number of “invisible children” had been let down by a “broken, overstretched and underfunded system”.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “It is appalling that so many children with special needs are not getting school places and are not getting the help they need.

“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.”

She added: “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.”

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