Headteachers take a stand on school and SEN funding

Written by: Dorothy Lepkowska | Published:
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Despite the DfE's call for evidence, headteachers have hit out at inadequate levels of SEN funding and are threatening to take a stand against the general cost-cutting measures being forced on schools. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Headteachers could refuse to implement further cost-cutting measures, such as making staff redundant, unless the government reviews school funding with immediate effect.

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) have voted overwhelmingly to defy government cuts and consider ways of highlighting the extent of the cash crisis more forcibly.

This might include setting projected budgets that were in line with the real costs of running a school and refusing to balance budgets by reducing the terms and conditions under which teachers work.

Heads could also refuse to “co-operate and participate” in anything the government asks of them that does not have a direct link to day-to-day teaching.

The move was proposed at the NAHT’s annual conference in Telford over the bank holiday weekend. Dave Woods, a London headteacher who proposed the motion, said: “This crisis has reached a point where schools are no longer able to provide standards of education afforded to previous generations in our country. This is not good enough.

“They tell us that we’ve never had it so good. In doing so, they are causing irreparable damage to the education system.”

Clem Coady, NAHT North West president, urged colleagues to consider not carrying out “all the little extras” schools were now required to do, including “escorting a building surveyor around to show how poor our school estate is”, sending staff members to attend statutory moderation meetings and incurring massive supply costs, or completing the pupil census.

He added: “All the little extras that include submitting spending plans, when we’ve already told them we have no money and are in deficit.

“Until schools are funding properly fairly and adequately why should we waste precious time and money on these little extras supporting a department that refuses to accept that our schools are in financial dire straits?

“This would lead to industrial action going ahead, but if the little extras don’t add to the daily teaching and learning why should we waste money on (them)?”

In a separate motion, the NAHT voted overwhelmingly to demand an immediate cash injection to meet the needs of pupils with SEN.

Keith Wright, a school leader from North Yorkshire, said that children were being “built up” in primary school in preparation for secondary, only for schools to be unable to continue to help them make progress.

He explained: “I know year 7 is a challenging time and colleagues do not always have the capacity to take children to the next step. So, we put the children on this giant escalator telling them ‘it will be fine, it will be fine’, but when they get to the top there is a deep, black gaping hole.

“The funding crisis is the one fundamental massive barrier. We know that these children are not going to succeed, even though we know they could if schools had the resources.”

More than 250,000 pupils with the most complex needs are on Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) since the government’s 2014 SEN reforms. Of these children, 120,000 continue in the mainstream system.

Earlier at the conference, education secretary Damian Hinds had told heads that he was looking for ways to improve the mechanism for SEND funding, and asked them to submit their experiences as part of a government “call for evidence”.

The Department for Education says that the High Needs budget for schools has risen from £5 billion in 2013 to £6 billion now. However, Mr Hinds said we wanted to hear from schools about how to make funding arrangements for SEN pupils “more effective”.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said that while Mr Hinds’ focus was welcome, what was really needed was more money.

“The picture facing schools supporting children with SEN is bleak,” Mr Whiteman said. “Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have been severe cuts to local authority health and social care provision. Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils.

“We absolutely welcome the secretary of state’s focus on this issue; the overall funding crisis cannot be solved without getting to grips with SEN support. A call for evidence is welcome, as the issue is complex, but ultimately the solution is simple: more money from the Treasury is urgently needed, both for schools and health and social care services.”

The Department for Education’s call for evidence on SEN funding closes on July 31.


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