'I have pupils who really need dedicated special needs support, but the school doesn't have the funding'

One primary school teacher worries that some children in her class may never get a referral for the right support because their needs are not severe enough to be a priority when SEND budgets are as tight as they are


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Think of your class. In September they were merely a bunch of children labelled by characteristics defined by their old teachers. There were the funny ones, the bright ones, the criers (if you’re in KS1), the chatty ones and then the ones that say nothing at all. In each of these groups, you will also more than likely have at least one child with SEND.

I know it is an unwritten part of the job that we teachers think about our pupils even when we are at home. We are constantly planning for them, thinking about their progress or wishing for the next holiday break away from them.

Yet, there is something else that I think about; the thing that keeps me awake at night – worrying about those children with additional needs that will have to wait.

Prioritising needs

Funding is an issue for all schools at the moment. Many simply don’t have the money they need to support their most vulnerable pupils. Depending on the area in which you work, there could be as many as 10-15 children that need a referral for speech or language or to the NHS's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or another unit. This is the case for my school.

Due to the lack of funding, we have to prioritise our SEND children based on the level of their needs. Those children whose needs are not quite "severe" enough don’t make the cut and will not get a referral for the support that they would benefit from.

And then there’s the secondary worry of what happens next. How long will some of these children continue to slip through the net? Many of us will see pupils go two or three years without the referral we know they need. We will even watch some children make the move to secondary school without that referral.

If you work in a school like mine, this funding issue may be further compounded by high EAL percentages. It is often difficult to distinguish between the language barrier and a special educational need.

Lack of support

Where is the support to help teachers facing this decision everyday? Here we are, two thirds of the way through the academic year.

While I can see how much my class have all improved, I know there are still some children who need extra support which I am not able to provide them with. They need dedicated specialist help, but will more than likely not get it.

The children are not the only ones who need support; their parents or carers do too. In many schools, these people are forgotten.

We do our best, but where everything has become so strategic and driven by deadlines and external pressures, we can sometimes forget to reassure the adults. These relationships can be strained at times, but we shouldn’t forget they need as much support as their children do.

Nearly all schools will have a motto or mission statement that refers to supporting all of its pupils. But how true does this hold for the children – and families – who are still waiting?

The writer is a primary teacher based in London.

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