October 2021

The Chancellor announced this week in the Government’s Budget and Spending Review that he is allocating £2.6bn to help create more than 30,000 specialist school places in the next three years. (This was the only mention of support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, despite extensive campaigning by the Disabled Children’s Partnership and others for dedicated funding for health and social care.)

IPSEA’s view is that, while new funding is always welcome, focusing on special schools won’t solve all the problems currently facing children and young people with SEND. In addition, this is capital funding – meaning it is for buildings and facilities – and doesn’t include staffing costs and the day-to-day costs of actually running schools. There is a detailed analysis of this on the Special Needs Jungle website.

 Further, while the Government’s focus is on improving the suitability and accessibility of school buildings, the biggest barrier to children and young people with SEND attending mainstream schools  and colleges isn’t always because these settings are physically inaccessible but because they aren’t inclusive in other ways.

 Ali Fiddy, IPSEA’s Chief Executive, said:

 “It’s essential that policy-makers understand that special educational provision, and support for children and young people with SEND more widely, doesn’t just mean special schools. While specialist provision is important, the majority of children with SEND are not at special schools, and don’t need to be.

 “The Government needs to look at why special schools are currently bursting at the seams, and at how all children and young people with SEND can be supported most effectively. This means properly implementing the current legal framework, intervening early to support children before problems escalate, requiring all mainstream schools to be genuinely inclusive and meet their obligations under the Equality Act 2010, and making education, health and social care services work together as the law says they should.

 “The failings in the SEND system aren’t solely down to funding. We also see a widespread culture in local authorities of seeing parents and families as adversaries rather than allies. Too many local authorities put unlawful obstacles in the way, rather than working with families to make sure children and young people get the special educational provision and support they need.”