Funding cuts in education continue to have far-reaching effects in schools across the UK. As headteachers attempt to manage significant cuts, it is not uncommon for staff to be made redundant and subjects to be dropped from the school curriculum. In some cases, pupils have even been made to buy their own text books. In a survey carried out by the Guardian newspaper earlier this year, over 80% of teachers said that their school had been forced to make some form of cutbacks.
Special needs teaching is sadly not exempt from these enforced belt-tightening measures, and lack of funding has meant less support for pupils and students with special educational needs right across the country. As teaching assistants are made redundant, the role of supporting individual students, who require one-on-one specialist support in an already overpopulated classroom, falls firmly on the shoulders of the classroom teacher. In the same survey cited above, 38% of teachers said that special needs support in their schools had either already been reduced or reductions were expected to happen.
The LGA weighs in on the cost to families with special needs children
The Local Government Association (the LGA), which represents Local Authorities throughout the UK, made a statement in April affirming that cutbacks are on the rise and that more and more mainstream schools in the UK will be forced to turn away pupils with special educational needs. The LGA points out that the alternative — educating these children in special schools — will ultimately cost more money. Specific costs vary from county to county, but if we take the example of Derbyshire, the average cost of place in a mainstream primary school is a little under £4,000, whereas a place in a special school costs around £10,000.
Funding cuts to special needs teaching are particularly devastating as they come at a time when mainstream schools need to cope with rising numbers of pupils with special needs.
Chairman of the children and young people board of the LGA, Councillor Richard Watts, notes that the government's proposed "national funding formula" for children with special needs will restrict flexibility for Local Authorities. Watts points out that traditionally, Local Authorities have subsidised support for special needs with money taken from their central budgets. In the future, however, schools may refuse to do this, instead insisting that the money is channelled into other areas.
The overall result is that mainstream schools will be increasingly unable or reluctant to hire teaching assistants and fewer children with special needs will be able to have those needs met in their local communities. So, children who need the most support will increasingly have that support denied to them.
The Department for Education rejects this interpretation of the situation, insisting it has actually provided extra funding to support special needs teaching, build extra classrooms and radically improve facilities.
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of teaching assistants have been laid off and a large number of children and their families have been left unsupported.
How we can help
If you have a child with special educational needs and you feel that their needs are not being met and your complaints are not being heard, then please contact us. We can advise you on the steps to take to ensure that your child receives the support they deserve and is completely entitled to.