Analysis of the Government's £700m SEN Funding
Last week it was announced by the Government, as part of their supposed boost to Education, that they would put an extra £700m into SEND alongside this a further review was promised. Good news for SEND? Not really.
Firstly parents shout, "Why do we need yet another review, we've had plenty?!" To answer that, in Tory speak a review, means kick an issue into the long grass until it is is hopefully forgotten. So many SEND inspections have proved that a number of Authorities need to improve and have identified areas of improvement. Most of these findings are not funding related. Will these identified deficits of practice now have to wait for the eventual yet-another-review and the long grass kick? Oh, and what of the recent, lengthily, extensive SEND review carried out by the House of Commons Select Committee, that interviewed a range of professionals and users and found that SEND funding was inadequate. What of that review? However, we need yet-another-review...
On to the cash. Before we look at the 700m pledged to SEND we need to remember that the proposed boost to education in general is phrased over 3 years, with the main spending bulk in third year and this will only take schools back to their 2010 funding levels, so schools will continue to be strapped for cash and SEND pupils will no doubt continue to pay the price. The promised £700m will not happen until next spring and falls short of the 1.2b that is the amount estimated to fund the pressing SEND crisis. It also comes in April when spending is already allocated for this academic year. It is also only for one financial year with no further commitment.
So how effective will the £700m be? How will it be spent on our children with SEND? Will it restore the specialist teacher or TA who has been taken away? Will it address the shortage of therapy time? Save a specialist school or resource base from closing? Probably not, read on...
The Government could decide to use the £700m to increase spending in the High Needs Block. This is the funding for children with high needs who require a special school, resource base or an expensive package in mainstream. However it is more than likely that it may not go direct onto the front line to support children as a local Authority could use this spending boost to support it's infrastructure around requests for high needs packages e.g. on assessments, consultants, lawyers and effectively be used to fight parents' appeals.
More likely it could be used to plug the growing deficit in the High Needs Block. This was estimated to be £300m in April 2019 and by April 2020, when the 700m arrives it could be as much as 500-700m. So the magic money tree spend could arrive in time to wipe out the deficit with little pocket money left over. And what about the next financial year?...
BUT most children with SEND get their funding from the main schools funding block and it's not clear if any of this funding is going to be diverted into this fund and be ring fenced for SEND.
Most of all we should not forget that the SEND funding crisis results mainly from the introduction of EHCPs which support children and young people until they are 25 and cover not only Educational Needs but also health needs (some of which may be educational) and social care needs. The Disabled Children's Partnership estimate that the deficit in Health and Social Care funding is 1.5 billion.
This funding also does not cover funding for Disabled students in Universities where funding is capped and high needs students or the universities have to cover the deficit to cover high needs funding that exceeds the cap.
Forgive me being cynical but I cannot see this 700m benefiting our children. I doubt if more money will be forthcoming while yet-another-review languishes forgotten in the long grass.