There have been many, many articles about school funding. Every week I read another piece bemoaning the reduction in funds – even the most ardent supporter of austerity would be hard pressed to deny it.
Teaching unions have reacted angrily to the pressure placed on schools and colleges. But I fear that the fight for sufficient SEND funding has been lost in the media noise.
We are talking about children and families. Raising a child with a disability is hard work. And the system is complex; nothing is simple. Don't get me started on the Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) – the so-called "magic document" that’s as easy to get hold of as a unicorn.
Parents have no choice but to fight for their child. And now they’re having to do so through the legal system. Even then, it's no guarantee they'll win. I have yet to meet a parent who literally just walked into a system, got the funding and got the place. I hope they exist.
So why do we fight? Because when SEND education is truly done well, it is a very beautiful thing. When expertise is combined with tailored resources, it not only benefits the child but also the whole school. A child with SEND can be part of the class, they can flourish alongside their peers – and when they do, their parents are happy. These parents then bring their time and energy to school.
The SEND funding crisis
Children with additional needs prove to other children that disabilities are not a barrier to success. Inclusion works when children grow up with disability – they learn that there’s all types of people in society, all with different capabilities and talents. No one "type" of person is better than other. Don’t we want a caring society? One in which everyone has value? Children must be taught that someone is defined by their ability, not their so-called "condition".
But all of this requires money. And there isn't much of it about.
Last year, I wrote about my fears that support was about to be ripped away. It’s happened to us. It’s happening to other families. Our health visitor has gone, and the support worker for young children is under threat. It’s a travesty because there is such good practice here.
These services, at the very least, will become rationed. If pre-schoolers don’t receive positive help and if parents are isolated, how do they get their children school-ready? Children will arrive at school destined to be even further behind the rest of the class. This cannot be a wise choice.
So what can be done? Funding, without a doubt, has to be increased. But we also need recognition of the benefits of an inclusive education. No one should be isolated. Everyone can contribute to society, and my child has as much right as anyone to a good education.
At the heart of this is this question: how much value do we place on people and their potential? Is it only the so-called "academic 10 per cent" who should achieve?
Sara Jane Porter is a teacher in a further education college