Education secretary Damian Hinds has said he is looking for ways to improve the funding system for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Speaking at the NAHT headteachers' union annual conference today, Mr Hinds is to ask school leaders about their experiences – as part of a call for evidence on funding arrangements for pupils with complex SEND.
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Mr Hinds will say: “I want to make sure we have the best understanding of how our system for funding children with high needs is operating on the ground – and whether there are improvements we can make so every pound of public money we spend is building opportunities for young people.
Calls for more SEND funding
“I’ve made clear that I will back headteachers to have the resources they need to provide the best education possible for every child – that ambition is no different for children with SEND, nor should it be. So I hope teachers and leaders will work with me to lead a system that unlocks every child’s potential.”
He will add that he recognises that providing for additional complexities can put "additional pressures" on schools.
The latest government statistics show that 14.6 per cent of pupils in England have SEND, but only 2.9 per cent have an education, health and care plan. The remaining pupils are said to be on SEN support. Schools are expected to fund £6,000 of SEN support from their own budget before being able to draw on top-up funding from their local authority’s high-needs budget.
Today’s speech from Mr Hinds comes after the Commons Education Select Committee heard from Nick Gibb, schools minister, last month that the Department for Education was looking into high-needs funding as a priority.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said that while the focus was welcome, what was really needed was more money.
“The picture facing schools supporting children with special educational needs is bleak,” Mr Whiteman said. “Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have been severe cuts to local authority health and social care provision. Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils.
“We absolutely welcome the secretary of state’s focus on this issue; the overall funding crisis cannot be solved without getting to grips with SEN support. A call for evidence is welcome, as the issue is complex, but ultimately the solution is simple: more money from the Treasury is urgently needed, both for schools and health and social care services.”
Reforms were made to the SEND system in 2014 when statements of special educational need were replaced with education, health and care plans.
The government has said that the high-needs budget, money set aside for pupils with SEND and those in alternative provision, has risen from £5 billion in 2013 to over £6 billion now. An extra £250 was million announced in December 2018 to help local authorities manage high-needs cost pressures up to 2020, as well as £100 million funding to create more SEND places in mainstream schools, colleges and special schools.
The call for evidence launches today and will run until 31 July.