A new National Audit Office report makes clear the terrible consequences of the Government’s failure to properly fund SEN provision. It states that the Government “needs to act urgently” to improve the quality of SEN support.
Children in Sheffield, and across the country, are being badly let down by a system that lacks the funding and resources to support them. The NAO report found that between 2013/14 and 2017/18 there was a real-terms reduction of 2.6% in funding for pupils with high needs along with a general reduction in per-pupil funding across the board. It concludes that funding cuts have left schools without the resources they need to provide specialist SEN support and that many pupils “are not being supported effectively”.
The NAO’s findings match a 2017 survey, which found that only 63% of teachers felt able to meet the needs of children with SEN. Furthermore, in July, Ofsted and the CQC found significant problems in SEN provision in half of the local areas they inspected.
As providing SEN support is relatively costly, families are even finding that underfunded schools are reluctant to admit children with SEN in the first place. Pupils with SEN are also far more likely to be excluded from school than pupils without SEN. In 2017/18, children with SEN accounted for 44.9% of permanent exclusions and 43.4% of temporary exclusions.
As a result, some families have been left with no choice other than to educate their children at home. In Sheffield, over the last six years, the number of children being home-educated has more than doubled. In 2013/14, 268 children were educated from home but that figure has steadily risen and now stands at 600 children.
From speaking to parents in Sheffield, I know that some children have been out of school for years because schools are unable to cater to their needs. I’ve also had reports of parents going to look at schools and being explicitly told: this is not the school for your child if they have autism.
The Government must now follow the NAO’s advice and act urgently to ensure that all children are given the support they need to fulfil their potential.