Opinion Former Article

NASUWT: Spending cuts threaten special needs provision

Funding cuts, increasing privatisation and the growth of academies and free schools threaten support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), according to the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union.

There are fears that the fracturing of the SEN system is likely to have a major impact on the ability of schools to deliver high-quality education to some of the most vulnerable children in society.

The narrowing of the definition of SEN to a more medical definition, coupled with plans by ministers to only provide specific funding to pupils with ‘high needs’ will mean many will not be given the support they need to succeed.

The NASUWT’s view is backed up by new research carried out by Canterbury Christ Church University for the NASUWT, which will be published today at a major SEN conference at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“This research is a wake-up call to the Coalition Government to cease its damaging approach to pupils with SEN.

“There is a real concern that reductions in specialist support will leave children abandoned by the very system supposed to care for them.

“Narrowing the definition of SEN is, in our view, a cynical attempt to save money at the expense of some of the most vulnerable children in our schools.

“All children have the right to high-quality education, enabling them to achieve their potential and the NASUWT will continue to ensure their needs are met.”

One of the report’s authors, Simon Ellis said:

“Only proper dialogue between government and teachers is likely to unravel the complexities related to the identification of SEN.

“This is unlikely to happen if an approach is adopted that assumes that teachers are getting identification wrong.

“The reality is that current guidance within the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice contains numerous interpretable, subjective phrases that contribute to the variations that exist.”


Notes to Editors

Hosted by the NASUWT, Reflection, Renewal and Reality: experiences of SEN and Inclusion – policy and practice, will hear from experts from the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted, as well as leading academics.

Journalist and education campaigner Fiona Millar will chair a panel discussion which will also include NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates.

Today’s findings highlight well-established concerns of thousands of teachers that there is not adequate funding for SEN provision and this is only likely to get worse.

In addition, the Coalition Government’s swingeing cuts will result in fewer teaching assistants (TAs) as well as specialist support services provided by local authorities, both vital in supporting the work of teachers with SEN pupils.

The report, ‘Reflection, Renewal and Reality: Teachers’ Experience of Special Educational Needs and Inclusion’, finds that teachers are not over identifying SEN.

It also stresses the dangers of seeking to establish a consistent interpretation of SEN, warning that this encourages a definition that focuses on medical needs, which will have profound implications for schools and pupils.

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