Pupils With Special Education Needs Could Suffer From A Lack Of Support
Vulnerable pupils could be adversely affected after government changes to deprivation funding have left schools struggling with budget challenges.
Public law specialists at national law firm Irwin Mitchell believe the recent reports are ‘a serious concern’ and could have a negative impact on many pupils with special education needs.
Since the 1970s the Department for Communities and Local Government and its predecessors have calculated local measures of deprivation in England. Based on the results, extra funding is provided by government to schools for the pupils who live in the poorest postcodes.
However, there have recently been changes to funding tied to The English Indices of Deprivation which means fewer pupils are now eligible for the higher bands of funding which has led to schools suffering a budget shortage.
The Guardian spoke to a number of headteachers about these changes and one admitted to having to try and deal with a £250,000 deficit in her budget.
The budget changes mean that 12 members of staff have to leave and the headteacher, using a fake alias, admitted to The Guardian that “it feels horrible”. She said: “Some of my kids have serious mental health issues. Some families really struggle to engage and get their children into school – they don’t understand the importance of good attendance and punctuality – and these staff are on to them, phoning them in the morning. Our capacity to support those pupils will be reduced.”
A number of other schools are struggling due to funding changes, at one school the percentage of pupils eligible for the two highest bands of postcode-linked money has dropped by 16%.
A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders in January 2016 revealed that of nearly 900 mainly secondary headteachers and senior leaders questioned, more than a third believed their school’s financial situation would become critical or very serious within the year.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We have delivered on our manifesto commitment to protect the schools budget and as pupil numbers increase, so will the amount of money in our schools.”
Steven Baylis, an education law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, regularly works on cases where people from deprived areas have not received the educational provision and care and support they need.
“The fact that School budgets are suffering as a result of changes to The English Indices of Deprivation is a serious concern which increases the risk of vulnerable pupils not getting the help and support they rely on.
“A high number of pupils from deprived areas have Special Educational Needs and depend on the reading assistants, family support workers and counsellors whose jobs are being cut.
“There is clearly a growing expectation on schools to meet the needs of these pupils within their own resources which is becoming increasingly difficult due to funding issues.
“Local Authorities have a clear duty to assess a child or young person’s education, health and care needs where they may have special educational needs and cannot be met within the school’s own resources.
“With schools struggling financially it is even more critical that applications for a child’s assessments are made without delay so the local authority can consider whether it may be necessary for special educational provision to be arranged in accordance with a formal Education, Health and Care Plan.
“If a child has a statement of special educational needs or Education, Health and Care Plan it is important that the support the child requires is clear and detailed. The local authority must ensure that any support specified is delivered and must provide funding which enables that to happen.
“Schools must be proactive in working with parents and supporting them to allow parents and guardians of the child to challenge local authorities to prevent vulnerable children being disadvantaged. Parents can also raise any concerns they have in respect of their school’s funding settlement with their local MP and government.”
Steven Baylis - Associate