Cuts to SEN funding in education?


Here are the details of the £670million education cuts from Mike Baker. What caught my eye was the £311 million cut in the Area Based Grant which is the money local authorities get for spending on education which isn’t ‘ringfenced’. This means it can be used for such things as Early Years, SEN and other vital services for children which the coalition does not consider to be front line services. There is more detail here from Mike Baker on what doesn’t count as front line spending.

 I work in a small nursery. We have a little autistic boy with us who has made a small but gratifying amount of progress in his 18 months with us. We have a staffing ratio of approximately 1:5 and this boy has one-to-one support funded from outside the ringfenced Dedicated Schools Grant. He also attends a specialist Special Educational Needs nursery 2 days per week; again funded outside the DSG. They have fantastic resources and very experienced staff looking after such children. Our little boy has no language at all; he sometimes makes gurgling noises and cries and on a good day he may flap his hands in what we hope is a wave hello or goodbye. He is not continent and may never be. He enjoys running and jumping and matching numbers. All areas of the curriculum have to be careful matched to his very limited interests and stage of development. If he gets distressed which happens during transition times (when he arrives or at a change in routine) he tends to vomit. He does not eat at nursery; occasionally we have persuaded him to have a nibble of icing off a cake but that’s it. When with us for 3 hour sessions he refuses to drink.

 The little boy is due to start school in September when he turns five. All agencies involved agreed that he needs to go to a Special School, with all the extra resources and higher staff ratios that this will provide. His parents want him to go to a Special School as they can see that this is best for him. The years of experience of the teachers in the SEN nursery told them that there was no doubt this child would get a statement of SEN (which he has) and subsequently a place in a Special School. We have just heard with very little time left to challenge the decision, that he (and another child who is in his class of 4 at the SEN nursery) will be placed in mainstream schools, in classes with up to 30 children with one teacher. Our little boy has been offer one-to-one support (not anyone qualified as the amount on offer would not cover this) for 20 hours per week. He should be attending school 30 hours per week. The LEA say ‘give it a term’ and if it doesn’t work, they will review the situation.

 Autistic and other children with significant SEN find changes to routines extremely distressing. How will moving them again after a term be in the best interests of these children? I met the senior nursery nurse from the SEN nursery today and, like me, she is absolutely furious. Why have these children not been allocated Special Schools? A mainstream primary school place costs around £3000 per child per annum. A special school place costs £12000 per annum. Draw your own conclusions.

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8 Responses to Cuts to SEN funding in education?

  1. Jenni Jackson says:

    Surely if ever there was a case for civil disobedience, this is it? If all the people involved in the little boy’s care got together and decided to place him in the SEN nursery regardless of the rules, what are ‘they’ going to do? Especially if it is well publicised…

    There are times when things just have to be done on principle. We all know the saying ‘For evil to happen, all it takes is for good people to do nothing…’

    • anpa2001 says:

      I totally agree with the spirit of your reply and you clearly feel as angry as I do. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple; the family have English as an Additional Language and the mother is struggling to get through day to day life – no energy left for fighting. The child needs taxi transport too which further complicates matters. It’s a very sad situation.

  2. hmstack says:

    I sympathise with your plight about the needs of the young child with ASD, and the frustration that must be felt by many, about his pending move to mainstream primary education.

    For what it is worth, and I recognize it is little consolation, the context you describe is our legacy of the inclusion agenda of the past government, and is a part of a much larger picture nationally. Unless this young child has a Statement of SEN, and has been considered at a panel meeting for inclusion at local area specialist provision, there will not be a special school place available. This is nothing to do with the current round of spending cuts, although its timing may make it seem that this is the cause behind this situation.

    Over 9,000 special school places have been lost in the past few years, under the restructuring of specialist provision, something that the Coalition Government are striving hard to redress.

    There will be significant changes to policy and practice in the future. For now, sadly, many young children who deserve the best possible choice and education available, the status quo remains – mainstream education is the route to take, until such time as that is deemded to have failed – which will not be until the next Annual Review of the child’s Statement of SEN (assuming a Statement is in place).

    The costs, actually, of provision in mainstream places, for a child with a Statement of SEN are much higher than those you have stated, and correspondingly, those of specialist provision, which can draw on economies of scale.

    This is not about the current round of spending cuts, which it must be stressed, have not yet been implemented, but about what has been.

    I do hope this young man makes a successful transition to mainstream primary education, and that there will be a positive outcome for his subsequent transition to specialist provision, if that is felt to be appropriate in the future.

    with very kind regards

    • anpa2001 says:

      Thanks for your reply. I am aware that there has been a huge reduction in the number of special school places; in this case, there is no suggestion that there is no place available, that’s partly why the professionals involved are so shocked.

      The child has been issued with a statement of SEN following the usual procedure and the panel meeting you speak of. Again, the professionals involved have never seen this situation before where the statement has been agreed.

      Regarding the economies of scale in a special school , this varies of course but this particular child is currently in a class of 4 as he is considered SLD so the costs would be very high due to the ratios. I would be interested to see any links you have to costs of places – please reply if you have specific information. I was given the costings by someone local who I trust.

      I know that David Cameron disagrees with the previous government on Special Schools and maybe more places will be created in the future, but as I said earlier, I don’t think a reduction of places is relevant is relevant in this case.

      Regarding cuts not having been implemented, when organisations know cuts are coming they start looking for where they can be made. In my business I know our funding is likely to be cut (no definite news yet) so I am not recruiting any staff and not giving the payrise I would normally have given at this time of year.

      • hmstack says:

        Thank you for taking the trouble to reply.

        I was not aware when I posted that you run the nursery (sorry I did not read the bio first but followed a Twitter link to your post).

        I am surprised then by your views, since you will be aware of the inclusion agenda, and that there are very, very few children who will transfer to specialist provision before the start of formal education. For the most part, there is very little specialist provision available at pre-school age – in my authority, none.

        What you have described is fairly routine procedure. Some of the issues involved are not just about reductions in specialist provision places, but about, in many cases, an absence of a relevant and appropriate educational place within the area. There are, as you will know, very few out of authority places offered to children with a Statement of SEN.

        The issues of a Statement of SEN does not confer a right to a place in specialist provision. The named school – chosen by the parents – will be on the final Statement of SEN. There are always, of course, opportunities to dispute the named school, following on from the proposed Statement of SEN, but I am sure you are best able to advise parents of the procedures they need to follow.

        Finally, I would hope that all organizations are aware of efficiency savings, particularly in these times of fairly global financial difficulty. It is not about responding after the horse has bolted, but about efficient and proactive planning of budgets. The spending cuts announced recently, have not come from out of the blue, sadly, but are our new government’s response to profligate spending over the past decade.

        kind regards

      • anpa2001 says:

        Hi, I think there is some confusion here – the child is ALREADY in a specialist pre-school provision (we are lucky to have one here) and also attends my inclusive setting. He will be 5 in September so what I am writing about is a transfer to Reception Class. There definitely are places available in local Special Schools.

        We have much higher ratios than a mainstream school and are also a very small setting so we are able to manage despite not being a specialist provision. I am in favour of an inclusive agenda but only where mainstream schools have the proper resources available. Expecting an SLD child to be looked after for 10 hours per week with no adult other than the class teacher, is not in the best interests of the child, the teacher, or the other children in the class.

  3. Neil Ritchie says:

    A tragic story, and an example of utterly ridiculous decision making. In general, inclusion is something to build towards, but in this instance, we have a child who will find it very difficult to adapt to mainstream education. If he LEA will not take remdial action asap, little lad at the centre of it all will suffer.

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