Campaigners demand action to end ‘national crisis’ in special educational needs

Thousands of parents, disabled children and young people across England and Wales have demanded the Government acts to end a “national crisis” in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) funding.

Campaign group SEND National Crisis delivered a petition with more than 12,000 signatures to Downing Street at midday on Thursday.

Organisers estimate around 1,000 people joined the march in the capital, and campaigners also gathered in 26 other locations across England and Wales.

According to the National Education Union (NEU), special needs provision in England has lost out on £1.2 billion since 2015.

It says funding granted to local authorities has failed to keep pace with demand for SEND provision.

The number of children and young people with an education health and care plan has increased by 33% since 2015.

Sharon Pratt, the mother of a teenager with ADHD, organised the march at Westminster.

She said: “Our campaign is to ensure that special needs funding actually goes to help the children that it’s supposed to help.

“We need to ensure there is enough funding to go around.

“Often there are children out of school for very long periods of time, their mental health starts to deteriorate and they’re missing out on education.”

Mrs Pratt’s son, who suffers from ADHD and severe dyslexia, has been expelled from a second special school.

She added: “We need schools that aren’t going to give up, so that they can meet their full potential.”

Nadia Turki, co-founder of SEND National Crisis, said: “We are demanding a necessary change to the framework to ensure workable regulatory controls and to ensure SEND funding is ring-fenced to ensure delivery precisely where it is most needed.”

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our ambition is for every child, no matter the challenges they face, to have access to a world-class education that sets them up for life.

“Funding for the high needs budget is a priority for this Government and we know that councils and schools are facing pressures – that’s why in December we provided an extra £250 million up to 2020 to help manage these costs.

“This takes the total amount that we have allocated for high needs funding to £6.3 billion this year, compared to £5 billion in 2013.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) SEND National Crisis.