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Spring statement: Increasing high-needs funding is a 'moral duty', heads say

Four fifths of school leaders are cutting teaching assistants' jobs or hours, finds union survey

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Four fifths of school leaders are cutting teaching assistants' jobs or hours, finds union survey

The chancellor has a “moral duty” to find more money to support children with high needs in today’s spring statement, school leaders have said.

This afternoon’s Commons announcement is the first to be held in March, following Philip Hammond’s decision to move the annual budget to the autumn.

It comes as the NAHT headteachers' union said its survey of school leaders found 80 per cent were cutting the number or hours of teaching assistants to make their budget balance this year, while 47 per cent were reducing non-educational support and services for children.

Mr Hammond has said he will not announce any new tax or spending measures today, but union leaders want him use the opportunity to increase school funding.

On Saturday, headteachers jeered education secretary Damian Hinds over the issue of school funding at the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders.

Underfunding concerns

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “NAHT represents the vast majority of school leaders running special schools and alternative provision – and those settings are some of the best in the world.

“They deliver amazing results every day to enable children and young people to live up to their potential. But it’s at risk if we don’t secure more high-needs funding for schools – and more of the critical health and social care funding that these pupils need.

“The chancellor has a moral duty to act on high-needs funding.”

He said the union's annual survey of school budgets showed that 86 per cent of school leaders believe that the government is underfunding the additional needs of children.

Spring statement plea

Marijke Miles, acting headteacher of Baycroft School, a special needs secondary in Hampshire, said the system is “creaking because it is underfunded". He added: “This reduces students’ aspirations and it is very harmful for their wellbeing.”

The NEU teaching union called on Mr Hammond to ensure that every school is guaranteed at least the same per-pupil funding they received in 2015 – and called for more “genuinely new money for schools, not money taken from other areas of education spending”.

It echoed the NAHT’s call for more increased high-needs funding, and demanded an immediate 5 per cent pay rise for teachers.

'Respond to concerns'

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The chancellor must use his spring statement to respond to the concerns of parents, head teachers, teachers and support staff and invest in our children and young people. The development of their skills and potential is essential to our future prosperity.”

Tes has previously revealed that councils have projected a £226 million black hole in high-needs budgets this year.

And the funding shortages in some areas could worsen as a result of new rules brought in alongside the national funding formula for schools.

The Treasury declined to comment.

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