Early last week the House of Commons education select committee heard from educational experts, schools and local authorities as part of their inquiry into education for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The education committee evaluated the 2014 reforms to the SEND system focusing on funding and the challenges that arose for schools and local authorities (LA), the impact of the reforms were also discussed and explored in order to determine and understand priority areas that the Department of Education (DfE) should consider for the next spending review.
Matt Keer, a panel member who is father of two deaf children, highlighted the struggle parents’ face when attempting to manoeuvre through the SEND funding system, which he believed to be characterised by “an inbuilt tension of funding where responsibility to the public purse dominates over children’s needs, and rights, to educational opportunities”.
The panels discussed the high rate of exclusions among pupils with SEND compared to those without. Justin Cooke, a policy and public affairs manager at Ambitious about Autism, suggested that there was “a financial incentive for schools to off-roll children with SEN, particularly when they get to the point of needing extra help that they do not get via an EHC plan or SEN support”.
As schools across the country are facing financial difficulties, as a result of a reduction in school funding, Justin further highlighted this point by suggesting that “if you have a school budget that is so tight you simply cannot pay teachers, there is an incentive to off-roll or exclude”. It was felt that pupils with SEND were unfairly paying the consequences of cuts to school budgets.