There is a problem in schools and in Local Authorities. Well, it’s probably quite easy to see that there are far many problems, not just one. But here, I will be more specific. The particular problem that I’m referring to is that of Special Educational Needs funding. It started to bite in 2010, when there was a change of government, it continued taking a good chomp in 2015 when there was another election. It seems that the cuts continue to swallow entire programmes large chunk by large chunk. Young children’s educational needs are falling by the wayside before they’ve even hit the starting blocks of their educational support.
When referred for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) assessment, according to current policy in England, young people should be assessed within 20 weeks (which is already an inordinate amount of time within their educational journey). In reality, many Local Authorities are struggling to meet this deadline. Between 2014 and 2018, according to the BBC, more than 25000 young people had to wait longer than that statutory deadline. When it is added to the equation that young people awaiting EHCP assessment will have also undergone numerous cycles of ‘Assess, Plan, Do, Review’, in line with the graduated approach to supporting their needs, these young people may not have adequately accessed learning for a year or more. Accessing support takes too long, schools and teachers are at breaking point and learners suffer.
According to the Education Endowment Fund, the gap in attainment between learners with Special Educational Needs and their peers is already apparent in year 1 (aged 5). As learners progress through school the gap increases (up to as much as 9.5 months for learners eligible for free school meals) and young people with special needs achieve lower their than peers. The lack of capacity to assess (and subsequently meet needs) within Local Authorities compounds this, leaving young people with special needs unable to access learning adequately.
They are being failed by a system that was implemented under the pretense of being designed to streamline provision and ensure support for those with the greatest need. I do not for a minute believe that the system is supporting learners if they cannot even be assessed within time. Local authorities and schools need adequate funding, appropriately trained specialised teachers and suitable resources so that they can support learners with special needs to be their best selves.
I just can’t see it happening any time soon, and that breaks my heart.