Budget cuts leave schools struggling to support vulnerable pupils, says report

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Teachers are struggling to meet the needs of vulnerable children with special needs because of cuts to school budgets and health and social care services, a report has found.

The report from school leaders’ union the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) reveals the cost to the most vulnerable children of cuts to a range of critical support services.

A survey of its members found that of the 637 who responded, 94 per cent said they were finding it harder to provide the support required for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) than they did two years ago.

The NAHT found that it was becoming harder to deliver special needs services because there are fewer teaching assistants and support staff in schools.

NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman said: “The picture facing schools supporting children with special educational needs is bleak.”

Seventy-three percent of respondents said it was harder to provide support for pupils with SEND due to cuts to mainstream funding.

Just two per cent said the top-up SEND funding they received was sufficient to meet the needs of pupils.

Mr Whiteman added: “One million of the recognised 1.28m children with special educational needs do not have any additional funding afforded to them.

“That means that the financial burden of additional support penalises those mainstream schools that are the most inclusive.”

Warnings have been made that councils face shortfalls in their high needs budgets, which support pupils with serious physical and mental disabilities. North Yorkshire County Council has warned that the £44.8m it receives from the Government is not sufficient and the high needs budget overspends by £5.5m.

The NAHT report said the Department for Education (DfE) should carry out a review of high needs funding and secure an immediate increase from the Treasury.

It calls on the Government to provides sufficient funding to redress the real terms cuts to the mainstream budget.

The Government should also ensure that enough therapists are available to support the special educational and mental health needs of pupils, the NAHT said.

Anntoinette Bramble, who chairs the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “As a starting point we are calling for an urgent review of funding to meet the unprecedented rise in demand that councils are experiencing.”