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38,000 sign petition for SEND funding reform

Campaign comes as MPs hear concerns that funding pressures are leading schools to exclude children with SEND

SEND support in mainstream schools is woefully underfunded, warns Mary Bousted

Campaign comes as MPs hear concerns that funding pressures are leading schools to exclude children with SEND

A petition with more than 38,000 signatures calling for urgent increased funding for special educational needs has been handed in to the Department for Education.

A group of around 60 people including parents, teachers, children and union representatives arrived at the department's central London headquarters carrying placards reading: "More funding for SEND in schools."

The School Cuts coalition petition addresses education secretary Damian Hinds, telling him an emergency is happening on his watch.

It says: "The government is failing to provide the funding necessary for schools and local councils to give children with SEND adequate support.

"Nationally, school cuts are leading to losses of staff, equipment and care required to safeguard children with the most complex needs in the classroom.

"The government has a basic duty to make sure all children can access school, but instead it's failing thousands of children who just want to learn."

SEND pupils 'hit the hardest'

Earlier today, the Commons Education Select Committee heard concerns that funding pressures are leading councils to "string out" agreeing care plans for children with SEND.

Experts also told MPs that school funding is so tight that some heads are excluding or off-rolling pupils with SEND to save money.

The petition urges the government to "properly" fund special educational needs and disabilities in schools and colleges so no child has to wait for adequate provision.

It also calls for funding to be given back to local authorities so they can commission SEND support and services in line with what children in their community need.

According to DfE figures, 2,000 children are awaiting provision, many of whom will already be in one school but waiting for a place in a different one, or they are over 16 and waiting for a sixth form or college place.

The data also suggests around 320,000 people are receiving tailored support through Education, Health and Care plans.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, was one of those who delivered the petition.

She said: "Children needing special educational needs and disability provision across the country are increasingly struggling to access the education they deserve, as real-terms cuts to school and local authority budgets hit those pupils hardest.

"This is causing untold misery to the families of children with SEND and putting both schools and local authorities in an impossible position.

"Children with SEND already have issues and challenges in life, and the last thing we should be doing as a country is making this worse."

She added that she would be paying close attention to the Budget statement on Monday and expected to see the government was listening and would act.

A DfE spokesperson said it has made £200 billion available to councils up to 2020 for local services, and core schools funding is increasing to £43.5 billion by 2020 – including £6 billion of funding specifically for children with complex special educational needs and disabilities.

She added: "Children and young people's mental health is a top priority for this government.

"Our Green Paper includes a new workforce for schools and colleges to provide timely and effective support for children, and £1.4 billion has been made available to ensure that 70,000 additional children and young people a year will be able to access NHS specialist services by 2020-21.

"Mental health will be pivotal in our long-term plan for the NHS, which we're backing with additional funding of an extra £20.5 billion a year by 2023-24."

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