Disabled people’s educational needs have been overlooked

Research by the BBC has shown half of state-funded schools in England for children with special educational needs and disabilities are oversubscribed.

Pupils in specialist learning schools have been made to feel anxious as due to a lack of space, staff have had to introduce portable cabins and cupboards into teaching environments. 

man with backpack beside a books

In England, the number of children and young people being educated in specialist schools and colleges has increased by almost a third – to 142,028 last year.

A reason behind the dramatic increase is due to advances in medicine which has increased disabled people’s life expectancy, more awareness and better diagnosis. However, this means there are now more children and young people with needs that are difficult to meet within mainstream educational organisations. 

Whilst conducting their research, the BBC compared pupil headcount data to the number of commissioned places at 1.012 state-funded schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) during the 2021-22 academic year.

The organisation discovered 52% of SEND schools in England had more children in classes than their number of commissioned places – a school must take on a pupil if that institution is specifically named on their Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) – a legal document outlining the support a child needs. 

In response to findings, the Department for Education said it was providing £2.6bn in capital funding up to 2025 to deliver new places at SEND schools. It added that it had increased high needs funding by 50% since 2019, to over £10bn by next year.

This sum has been welcomed as the current budget councils are providing specialist schools with is not enough. Per student, funding begins at £10K and is increased depending on their personal needs. However, if a school takes on more pupils above the number of places they have available, they are not guaranteed extra money.

Despite an extra £400m in high-needs funding announced in the Autumn Statement, the Local Government Association says councils are facing ‘significant financial challenges’ and need long-term certainty over funding to support children with SEND.

Chairwoman of the LGA, Louise Gittins, told the BBC if no action is taken, councils will be in deficit by £3.6bn on SEND spending by 2025. Ms Gittins also called for the government to urgently publish its long-awaited proposals ‘for a reformed system which better meets the needs of children with SEND’.

Photo by Redd F


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