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.