If there’s a starker figure among a horrible series of other stark figures that drives home the harsh reality of what austerity has done to education, it’s the one given by the IPPR this week, highlighting that children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) have experienced a real-term funding cut of 17 per cent.
Oh, you can whack on an extra 5 per cent if you’re a child with SEND needs severe enough to warrant an EHCP and you live in the north of the country. So that’ll be 22 per cent round here. Or just shy of a quarter, if you want to put it another way.
Just shy of a quarter of the money allocated to children - gone in four years. Money that would have been used to fulfil a child’s statemented needs in regards to transport, care, counselling, therapy, equipment; essentials in the quest to allow that child the right to the same opportunities in education as any other.
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'These SEND cuts run especially deep'
If there is such a thing as a measure of common decency of a society, I think it can be found in how, during times of turmoil, those who are most in need are cared for and protected. But I don’t see any care or protection in these figures. I see no attempt to soften the blow for children and their families who already have to deal with so much to simply try to ensure that they are not disregarded.
These cuts run especially deep, given the transformative nature that good provision can have. For many, it allows greater access to the world, and helps those with SEND find their place within it. And yes, as mentioned in the report, it’s also true that there are tangible economic benefits to investment in SEND.
'No exception to sanctioned squeezing'
Having said that, although it’s a pragmatic argument, I think it’s secondary to an ultimate truth that allows those that run the country to employ a strategy that effectively takes educational provision away from those with disabilities. It is a truth that illustrates that there is no exception to this sanctioned squeezing, and as a former teacher who spent a large percentage of his professional career working with students with SEND and who currently is employed in disability services at a university, working with those who, despite many hardships, are able to thrive in the higher echelons of education, it is a truth that frightens me to my very core.
If a standard of education can be taken away from those who are in such obvious need then the ramifications for all are dire. It is a litmus test for the greater state of society and the value placed on education for all. It’s also a test of humanity and how that humanity is expressed. With these figures, illustrating these huge cuts, it fairly obvious to me that it’s a test that has been failed.
Tom Starkey is an education writer and consultant