Spend on SEND and mental health, parents tell schools

Survey shows parents also have increasing concerns around the price of uniforms and school dinners
16th September 2019, 12:02pm


Spend on SEND and mental health, parents tell schools

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Many parents want extra school funding to be spent on child mental health services and support for youngsters with special educational needs and disability (SEND), according to a poll.

Alongside funding for textbooks, laboratory equipment and technology, parents also prioritise investing in children's happiness and wellbeing, the annual Parentkind survey suggests.

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School-related costs

It also found that parents have increasing concerns around school-related costs, such as the price of uniforms, dinners and trips.

And it indicates that many are still being asked to support schools financially, through giving cash donations, providing essentials like toilet roll and even helping out with maintenance.

Last month, ministers announced plans to pump an extra £7.1 billion into schools in England, saying those that have been underfunded will get the biggest increases. The move came after years of lobbying by headteachers and teachers for more cash.

The survey, conducted before the funding announcement was made, asked parents how any additional money given to their child's school should be spent.

More than half (55 per cent) said it should go on learning resources, such as textbooks and science equipment, while 43 per cent wanted extra cash spent on IT equipment.

Almost two in five (39 per cent) said extra funding should be invested in child mental health services, while around a third (34 per cent) wanted to see more support for SEND pupils.

Just over a third (36 per cent) thought money should go on the maintenance of school buildings and the same proportion wanted extra funding for school trips.

Child poverty: 'Government should be ashamed'

John Jolly, chief executive of Parentkind, said: "It's interesting to see parents are embracing a wide set of priorities beyond academic attainment, calling for more investment in learning resources, child mental health and SEND services - particularly among those eligible for free school meals - and for improving buildings and maintenance.

"These are critical to a positive learning environment without which we are failing our children."

Overall, 76 per cent of those polled said they think the cost of sending a child to school is increasing, with half (51 per cent) agreeing that they are concerned about the cost.

Asked which particular costs they were most worried about, the most popular answer was uniforms (46 per cent), followed by school trips (44 per cent) and school meals and drinks (19 per cent).

Almost two-fifths (38 per cent) of parents said that they have been asked to donate to a school fund this year, with 29 per cent saying they have done so.

Of those that have donated, around a quarter (26 per cent) said they donate more than £10 a month.

Parents were also asked about cost-cutting solutions introduced, or considered, by their child's school.

Some 22 per cent said that parents had been asked to pay for school clubs that used to be free, and 20 per cent said mothers and fathers were being asked to pay for events such as sports day or concerts.

Around one in six said they had been asked to supply teaching equipment, while 6 per cent had been asked to supply essentials, such as toilet paper, and 11 per cent had been asked to help with maintenance activities, such as redecorating classrooms and cutting grass and hedgerows.

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said the government should be "ashamed" of its record on child poverty. He said austerity was "not just a temporary phase for some families to endure, it is a day to day reality".

"Parents and carers are not the only ones who worry about austerity. Tragically, children are well aware of their family's money troubles. Our members tell us that children's worries leave them unable to learn and enjoy school. They are often embarrassed and ashamed. It's a message that sticks in the throat of everyone who has young people's best interests at heart," he added.

A Department for Education spokesman said that the extra funding announced last month will mean that all secondary schools in England will level up to at least £5,000 per pupil next year, and primary schools will get at least £4,000 per pupil by 2021-22.


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