Disabled children “bearing the brunt” of cuts to school funding

Children with special needs or disabilities are ‘bearing the brunt’ of many years of funding cuts, says a new report.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 17 May, 2019, 10:54
Disabled children are ‘bearing the brunt’ of many years of funding cuts, says a new report.

Just a quarter of parents of children in mainstream schools say their child’s SEND needs are being met by their school, according to a survey by Sheffield Parent Carer Forum.

The Forum has published a report, called the State of Sheffield, which says education policies are prioritising academic attainment above all else.

More than 700 parents of children and young people, aged up to 25, with special educational needs and/or disabilities gave feedback for the report.

Compared to a 2014 survey, there was a significant decline in satisfaction with mainstream schools.

It says: “Children with SEND in mainstream settings are bearing the brunt of many years of real term funding cuts.

“In 2014, almost half of all parents of mainstream pupils thought that their child’s needs were being met by their child’s school; in 2019, this had fallen to just a quarter.

“Mainstream schools and colleges have been disincentivised from promoting inclusion by an education policy that prioritises academic attainment above all else.

“Where parents rated mainstream provision as inadequate, this was mainly due to insufficient support, expertise and understanding, the negative impact this was having on the child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, and poor communication with parents.

“Many parents said that their child’s support had decreased due to school funding cuts.”

One parent said: “Our school barely has enough funds to educate ‘normal’ children, never mind those who need extra help.”

The report adds: “The concerns about mainstream education extended into the post-16 sector, with several parents highlighting concerns about insufficient support, staff expertise and communication at Sheffield College.”

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Satisfaction with special schools remained high at 80 per cent. Many parents said how much happier their child was since they had moved from a mainstream to a special school.

Integrated resources, units in mainstream schools which cater for pupils with SEND, had mixed reviews. Satisfaction had reduced and some parents said the units had become overcrowded and understaffed.

The report adds: “Funding is clearly important, but very often the element that makes or breaks a child’s experience in mainstream is the ethos of the school.

“Whilst some schools embrace diversity and manage to be inclusive on a shoestring budget, others appear to regard learners with SEND as little more than an inconvenience. We heard from several parents who felt that they had no other option but to home educate.”

One parent said: “They have no understanding that things may appear ok at school but when T gets home he struggles with the buildup of emotions from the day and replays everything for weeks.

“No support has been put in place at school despite the fact that academically the gaps are beginning to show and socially they are widening.”

Part-time timetables were not unusual and almost a fifth of mainstream pupils aged five-15 did not attend school for five days per week. Half of these pupils had Education, Health and Care plans.

Rates of fixed-term exclusions and unlawful exclusions, for example where a child is sent home or asked to stay at home because school did not have enough support staff available, remained high.

The full report can be read here