Extra school funding urged for SEN and child mental health services

Many parents want extra school funding to be spent on child mental health services and support for youngsters with special needs, according to a poll.

Alongside funding for textbooks, laboratory equipment and technology, parents also prioritise investing in children’s happiness and wellbeing, the annual Parentkind survey suggests.

It also found that parents have increasing concerns around school-related costs such as the price of uniforms, dinners and trips.

And it indicates that many are still being asked to support schools financially, through giving cash donations, providing essentials like toilet roll and even helping out with maintenance.

Earlier this month, ministers announced plans to pump an extra £7.1 billion into schools in England, saying that schools that have been underfunded will get the biggest increases.

The move came after years of lobbying by heads and teachers for more cash.

The survey, conducted before the funding announcement was made, asked parents how any additional money given to their child’s school should be spent.

More than half (55%) said it should go on learning resources such as textbooks and science equipment, while 43% wanted extra cash spent on IT equipment.

Almost two in five (39%) said extra funding should be invested in child mental health services, while around a third (34%) wanted to see more support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

Just over a third (36%) thought money should go on the maintenance of school buildings, and the same proportion wanted extra funding for school trips.

John Jolly (pictured), chief executive of Parentkind, said: “It’s interesting to see parents are embracing a wide set of priorities beyond academic attainment, calling for more investment in learning resources, child mental health and SEN services – particularly among those eligible for free school meals – and for improving buildings and maintenance.

“These are critical to a positive learning environment without which we are failing our children.”

Overall, 76% of those polled said they think the cost of sending a child to school is increasing, with half (51%) agreeing that they are concerned about the cost.

Asked which particular costs they were most worried about, the most popular answer was uniforms (46%), followed by school trips (44%) and school meals and drinks (19%).

Almost two fifths (38%) of parents said that they have been asked to donate to a school fund this year, with 29% saying they have done so.

Of those that have donated, around a quarter (26%) said they donate more than £10 a month.

Parents were also asked about cost-cutting solutions introduced, or considered, by their child’s school.

Some 22% said that parents had been asked to pay for school clubs which used to be free, and 20% said mothers and fathers were being asked to pay for events such as sports day or concerts.

Around one in six said they had been asked to supply teaching equipment, while 6% had been asked to supply essentials like toilet paper, and 11% had been asked to help with maintenance activities such as redecorating classrooms and cutting grass and hedgerows.

A Department for Education spokesman said that the extra funding announced last month will mean that all secondary schools in England will level-up to at least £5,000 per pupil next year, and primary schools will get at least £4,000 per pupil by 2021/22.

The online Dynata survey questioned 1,500 parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between June 12 and July 3.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Parentkind.