MPs urge Chancellor to invest in special educational needs after latest figures show extra £4.6bn is needed to meet demand
A cross-party group of MPs have called on the Chancellor to invest heavily in special educational needs after the latest figures showed an additional £4.6bn was required each year to meet the current demand for support.
Members of Parliament have backed a campaign by local authority education funding group f40, stating the Government’s Change Programme on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) will take too long to implement and does not come with the additional funding and resources to make it happen.
In a letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, signed by 30 MPs, including Robin Walker MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, and Sir Gary Streeter MP, Vice Chair of f40, they state: “We are extremely concerned about the deepening SEND crisis and believe that without substantial extra funding and bold policy changes, the situation will only deteriorate further.
“Demand and expectation around SEND support are far outweighing the funding and capacity available, and the issues are expected to quickly worsen without significant investment.”
They have urged the Chancellor to deliver the following in the Autumn Statement:
- Significant additional baseline High Needs funding (f40 has calculated that £4.6bn needs to be found)
- Substantial additional SEND capital funding (above what has already been promised)
- The removal of historical inequalities in the National Funding Formula, which means some schools receive far less funding per pupil than others.
Some MPs are also planning to write individual letters to the Chancellor urging him to invest more in SEND.
f40 has calculated that the extra £4.6bn is needed each year to meet the growing demand and expectation for High Needs support. The calculation is based on the growth in inflation since 2015 and the increased number of Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) issued over the same period, which are provided to children and young people who require additional support.
This figure is backed by the National Education Union (NEU), National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), and County Councils Network (CCN). It is based purely on current need and does not allow for additional increases in the future. It also does not take into consideration the increasing complexity of needs in pupils, especially for those that struggled during the pandemic.
f40 believes significant extra SEND capital funding is also required, above what has already been promised, to help provide additional SEND school places in every local authority area. At present, a lack of locally-provided places means many children are being sent to expensive independent SEND schools, which can cost local authorities more than twice as much.
Due to a lack of funding and capacity, the majority of local authorities have deficit SEND budgets, with some reporting deficits more than £100m. The latest estimates conclude that the cumulative local authority High Needs budget deficit across England will be around £3.6bn by March 2025. Unless dealt with quickly, some local authorities fear the deficits could leave them bankrupt.
f40 Vice Chair Sir Gary Streeter MP urged Government to take urgent action. He said: “These services are critical for the development of our most vulnerable people and are essential to support their families. All schools, both specialist provision and mainstream, need more funding, support, and training to meet the needs of SEND pupils.”
f40 Chair, Cllr Alex Dale, said: “The Government’s SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan makes some good suggestions, but it does not go far enough or will act quickly enough to deal with the crisis we are facing. Without significant extra resource and funding, the recommendations will not be possible to achieve.
“At a time when Government is focused on levelling up and helping young people to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is counter-intuitive that SEND support is so badly resourced. It is also a false economy and will cost the State more in the longer-term.”
Robin Walker MP said: “Although I recognise Government has increased funding substantially in this area, it is very clear that demand is growing even faster and a situation in which every local authority has a High Needs deficit is clearly not a sustainable one.
“Both as a constituency MP in Worcestershire and Chair of the Education Select Committee, I am convinced that our schools need extra funding for pupils with special educational needs.”
Organisations involved in education are all agreed that SEND requires additional funding.
Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the NAHT, said: “The crisis in SEND is one of the biggest challenges facing the whole education sector right now. Whist the Government’s recent SEND action plan contains some sensible ideas, it ignores the single biggest factor driving the crisis – insufficient funding. Government must ensure there are sufficient resources and greater capacity in the system to meet the needs of all pupils now and then we need a realistic plan for the future.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of ASCL, said: “The SEND system is in crisis. The scale of need far exceeds funding and resources. Ministers must shore up a broken system now by committing in the Autumn Statement to additional investment.”
Cllr Roger Gough, CCN’s spokesperson for Children’s Services, said: “The rising pressure on county authority budgets from demand for SEND services is of enormous concern. Local authorities always aspire to provide the best service for the most vulnerable children, but without the additional funding f40 is calling for to accelerate the Government’s SEND reform plans we will be increasingly unable to meet the expectations of parents.”
Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of NEU, said: “Education is the most important investment any Government can make. There is undeniably a crisis in provision for pupils with special educational needs. Parents are frustrated by the current bureaucratic process that can take years to deliver the additional support. This can only be tackled by significant investment, as called for by f40.”
The MPs who signed the letter are as follows:
- Sir Gary Streeter MP, Vice Chair of f40 (Conservative – South West Devon)
- Robin Walker MP (Conservative – Worcester)
- David Davis MP (Conservative – Haltemprice and Howden)
- Matt Hancock MP (Independent – West Suffolk)
- Claudia Webbe MP (Independent – Leicester East)
- Kim Johnson MP (Labour – Liverpool, Riverside)
- The Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP (Conservative – Staffordshire Moorlands)
- Rachael Maskell MP (Labour – York Central)
- Julian Knight (Conservative – Solihull)
- William Wragg MP (Conservative – Hazel Grove)
- Peter Aldous MP (Conservative – Waveney)
- Tim Loughton MP (Conservative – East Worthing & Shoreham)
- Nadia Whittome MP (Labour – Nottingham East)
- Derek Twigg MP (Labour – Halton)
- Dan Carden MP (Labour – Liverpool Walton)
- Alex Sobel MP (Labour and Co-op – Leeds North West)
- Richard Burgon MP (Labour– Leeds East)
- Richard Drax MP (Conservative – South Dorset)
- Ian Liddell-Grainger MP (Conservative – Bridgwater and West Somerset)
- Dr Dan Poulter MP (Conservative – Central Suffolk and North Ipswich)
- The Rt Hon Sir George Howarth MP (Labour – Knowsley)
- Daisy Cooper MP (Liberal Democrat – St Albans)
- Damien Moore MP (Conservative – Southport)
- Tony Lloyd MP (Labour – Rochdale)
- Andrew Lewer MBE MP (Conservative – Northampton South)
- The Rt Hon George Eustice – (Conservative – Camborne and Redruth)
- Andrew Selous MP (Conservative – SW Beds)
- Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Conservative – Worthing West)
- The Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP (Labour – Exeter)
- Jo Gideon MP (Conservative – Stoke-on-Trent Central)
For more information about this press release, contact:
Karen Westcott, at DTW, on 07545 210067 or at Karen@dtw.co.uk