Thousands of SEN children left without school places

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Dozens of councils across the country have called on the education secretary to urgently boost special needs funding as thousands of children have been left at home waiting for school places.

A letter – signed by 39 local authorities and education unions – calls for councils and schools to be given more money to make sure that children with SEND get the support they need. “We urge the government to act quickly on this matter,” the letter, which is addressed to Damian Hinds, says.

The number of youngsters with special educational needs, plans or statements has been rising – as has the demand for special school places. Meanwhile, funding pressures have made it harder for schools and local authorities to provide specialist provision to the most vulnerable learners.

More than 2,000 children with complex needs have “no education provision at all” due to inadequate funding, according to the new letter – which is backed by some Conservative-led councils.

Jo-Ann D’Costa Manuel, director of charity Autism Parent Empower, said she knows of parents whose children have been at home for two years while they wait for the right specialist school place.

“When they are left at home on a waiting list, even if they are provided some help, they become wasted years,” she said. “It is hugely wasted time and opportunity for them to progress.”

Some parents have been put in an “impossible position” and have been forced to quit their jobs to look after their children, according to Andrew Baisley, from the National Education Union (NEU).

And in other cases, parents have seen their children with SEND repeatedly being passed between mainstream schools because of funding and accountability pressures on staff, he added.

“I think it is harder to get kids into mainstream schools because there is a massive financial disincentive and there is an enormous accountability disincentive,” Mr Baisley said.

18/06/2018

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