Hinds launches evidence review into school SEND funding

By Nina Jacobs

| 03 May 2019

The government has asked education leaders to provide evidence on the extent of the crisis in special needs provision and suggest ways that funding arrangements can be improved.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds praised schools' work for meeting the needs of children with SEND

Education Secretary Damian Hinds launched the call for evidence in a speech to the National Association of Head Teachers in which he praised the work of schools, teachers and support workers in improving outcomes for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

He said the high needs budget - which pays for the education of pupils with SEND and those in alternative provision - had risen from £5bn in 2013 to more than £6bn now, but acknowledged schools and colleges face significant special needs funding pressures.

With the needs of children changing and the number of pupils whose needs were being met in special schools rising to more than 112,000 in the last five years, he said the support that schools provided reflected this additional complexity.

Almost 120,000 pupils with an education, health and care (EHC) plan are continuing their education in mainstream schools but "providing for additional complexities can put additional pressures on schools", he added.

Hinds said he wanted to ensure the government had the "best understanding" of how its system for funding children with high needs was "operating on the ground".

Coupled to this, Hinds said he wants to hear from school leaders on "whether there are improvements we can make so every pound of public money we spend is building opportunities for young people".

The call for evidence comes just weeks after new figures emerged revealing councils in England have faced a £1.2bn shortfall in SEND funding over the last four years.

The analysis published by the National Education Union showed just nine of the 150 local authorities in receipt of SEND funding had enough to support need in their area.

The union's assistant general secretary Rosamund McNeil said: "The government is out of touch with the reality of the SEND funding crisis in schools. This ministerial review of SEND funding must prove to be a real step towards providing funding levels that allow SEND students to flourish.

"It is time for government to acknowledge that the number of children and young people with severe and complex needs has risen by a third since 2015, whilst funding for the high needs sector has only increased by 7 per cent. This funding shortfall has led to pupils with SEND missing out on £1.2bn of specialist provision.

"Teachers, parents, heads and support staff have shown a united front in their campaign for proper SEND funding to enable quality education - it is time for government to listen."

Hinds announced in December an extra £250m up to 2020 to help local authorities manage high needs cost pressures as well as £100m funding to create more SEND places in mainstream schools, colleges and special schools.

A further £31.6m has also been announced to train more than 600 new educational psychologists to identify special educational needs and carry out assessments.

"These changes have increased the amount of tailored support children and young people with SEND are receiving but it has increased demands on the education sector," the Department for Education said.

"The department will now work with all those involved in the SEND system to hear directly about how it can work better to improve outcomes for young people and whether funding could be distributed more effectively," it added.

The DfE will run the call for evidence until 31 July.

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