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Parents from across Warwickshire have gathered in Leamington to discuss what many are calling a “national crisis” in funding for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). The public meeting at the town hall was part of a campaign for more funding and support for SEND children and preceded a rally, which will take place in the spring.
Campaigners have said that over the last five years, special education needs’ budgets within schools have been hit by multi-million pound cuts in England and warnings of a ‘national crisis’ set to affect thousands of children and young people with disabilities across the country have been voiced by many teachers and parents. Parent Simon O’Hara said: “Schools are caught in a loop of no funding. “Where a school is seriously committed to meeting the needs of all its children, the current funding for SEND makes it almost impossible to do that. “Central government has to do better. “These are our children. “They deserve the best and they should get the best.”
The meeting raised the issue that Central Government funding cuts have left local authorities with insufficient money to fulfil their legal obligations to SEND pupils. Currently many children, 20 in Warwickshire, are not able to attend school due to lack of places and support within schools. Latest official figures show the number of pupils with SEND nationally has increased for a second consecutive year and they represent 14.6 per cent of pupils, up from 14.4 per cent last year.
Pupils with SEND are six times more likely to be excluded from school and account for almost half of all permanent exclusions. Chair of the meeting Emma Mort, Warwickshire NEU joint district secretary and NEU National Executive member, commented, ‘it was heart breaking to hear from so many parents about how the reality of the crisis in SEND funding and support impacts on them.
The meeting was a first step in a campaign to ensure that schools and local services are properly funded and that all children can access the education they deserve.’ During the meeting parents, teachers, headteachers, councillors and Leamington and Warwick’s MP Matt Western called on the Education Secretary Damian Hinds and Chancellor Philp Hammond to increase funding to local authorities to ease pressure on SEND budgets. County councillor Helen Adkins (Labour, Leamington Willes) said: “I know that Warwickshire County Council officers are doing everything they can to ensure that our SEND children receive the support and provision they are entitled to within the limits of the budget they have, but the Tory leadership should be making more noise about the crisis schools are facing and should be asking for more money from Central Government.”
The group SEND Warwickshire will be holding a rally starting at the Pump Room Gardens on Thursday May 30. Further information is available on the Facebook page – SEND National Crisis March Warwickshire.
There is also a petition titled Increase SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) which can be accessed here:
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western is calling for the Government to increase funding to local authorities in order to ease pressure on SEND budgets. He said: “Austerity is nowhere near over, even though the Government are claiming it is. “Schools are struggling with increased pressures, such as extra contributions to national insurance, pension contributions and the apprenticeship levy. “They have no money left to adequately deal with SEND students’ needs. “They need extra money for this, not less. “When will the Prime Minster end austerity and increase funding to schools and Local Authorities?’ The Department for Education has announced that 37 special and two alternative provision schools for SEND children or pupils excluded from mainstream schools, are to be built across England – creating 3,500 places. But Paul Whiteman, general secretary of headteachers’ union NAHT, said: “This money will only go so far and funding shortages in schools go much further and deeper.”