Croydon headteachers fear that they face a “perfect storm” as funding cuts will leave their schools unable to fulfil their responsibilities towards some of the borough’s most vulnerable children, those with special educational needs or disabilities.
Sarah Jones, Labour’s new MP for Croydon Central, surveyed headteachers across the borough and confirmed widespread anecdotal reports that support for children with special needs has been cut back significantly, mainly because of Tory Government funding cuts.
Jones’s survey of more than 50 Croydon headteachers show that 85 per cent of schools have been forced to cut special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support since 2015.
One headteacher told Jones that the funding cuts coming at a time of growing demand for SEND provision would adversely affect all pupils and staff at their school.
“There is a huge challenge to meet the increasing SEND demands,” the head said.
“With less staff and specialist provision this is a perfect storm waiting to happen. Not only will it affect schools’ ability to meet SEND needs effectively, but it will have a negative impact on the provision for non-SEND pupils, teacher morale and parental assurance.”
Croydon Council figures show there are now more than 2,000 children registered with special needs in the borough. Despite growing numbers of Croydon children requiring support for SEN, the MP’s survey has found more than one-third of schools (35.2 per cent) have had to cut SEN staff. A quarter of schools have cut parental support services which often assist parents of SEN pupils.
Jones met a group of Croydon teachers in parliament who were taking part in a mass rally against school funding cuts. The teachers backed up the survey concerns about children with special needs not being given adequate support.
The teachers also explained the pressure of stretched budgets on school staff, reporting high levels of stress, teachers being forced to pay for their own class equipment and people increasingly quitting the profession for alternative jobs.
“High needs” schools funding, which helps pay for special needs support, has seen real-terms cuts since 2015. Things are worse for special needs funding because of significant increase in demand for support in recent years.
Research from London Councils found that since 2013, the number of children registered as having special needs (those with Education, Health and Care Plans or ECHPs) has increased by 10 per cent, but high needs funding has increased by just 2 per cent – leading to a £100million shortfall in SEND funding across the capital.
“Special needs funding is a growing scandal which is damaging the education of some of our most vulnerable children,” Jones told Inside Croydon.
“I’ve heard countless stories from teachers and parents about how hard it is to support pupils with special needs properly. These survey results prove how widespread the problems are.
“The problem isn’t just special needs funding for schools but also cuts to local council budgets. Councils provide vital services for SEND pupils such as transportation. I’ve worked with a constituent who can’t even get her son to school because the right transportation couldn’t be provided.
“I’ve written to the schools minister to emphasise this, as well as the broader pressure Croydon schools are under. In Croydon, we have found that the vast majority of headteachers are having to cut staff. The Government must listen to parents and teachers who have said loud and clear that enough is enough.”
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