Video: Prime Minister's Questions: Schools are being financially penalised for supporting children with additional needs, David Drew MP tells Theresa May
Schools are being left out-of-pocket if they provide extra support for children with additional needs says Stroud MP David Drew.
He’s so concerned about the impact of the National Funding Formula on schools which aim to be inclusive that he raised the issue directly with the Prime Minister on Wednesday.
Mr Drew is deeply worried that schools have to use their basic funding to provide any additional support for children, because of a lack of proper funding for special education needs and disabilities (SEND).
“This not only means that children with any additional needs may miss out on the support they need, but has the wider effect of putting additional financial pressure on schools which aim to be inclusive,” said Mr Drew.
During Prime Minister’s Questions today in the House of Commons, Mr Drew asked:
“Schools in the Stroud constituency are telling me that they are forced to use core funding to make up for the additional requirements of Special Education Needs and Disabilities and special schools are having to meet considerable rising costs.
“Will the Prime Minister look at the National Funding Formula with an aim of helping those schools to make sure they are fully inclusive?”
Prime Minister Theresa May responded:
“I recognise the need to ensure that those with special needs are being provided for in the most appropriate setting.”
The new government funding plan is forcing schools to use their core funding to meet the costs of providing additional support for children who have Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP).
Schools like Thomas Keble School in Eastcombe which welcome children with a range of needs are being hit financially because they are being inclusive.
“School funding is already inadequate, but it is grossly unfair to hit schools in the pocket if they aim to provide inclusive education, which is why I raised this directly with the Prime Minister,” said Mr Drew.
“Proper financial provision should be in place to enable all children to fulfil their potential, whether they are in a mainstream school or in specialist provision.”
Julia Maunder, headteacher of Thomas Keble School, explained that Thomas Keble receives £216,000 in ‘additional needs’ funding, to support children who need additional help with literacy and numeracy. But the same pot of money is also to be used to pay £222,000 for provision for children with EHCPs at the school. The funding is also ‘counted’ towards the school’s minimum level of funding of £4,600 per pupil.
“This means all of our additional needs money is being used to deliver the core curriculum with nothing left for the funding’s intended purpose; to deliver intervention and support that enables children with additional needs to succeed and flourish,” said Ms Maunder.
From September 2018, Thomas Keble will have 37 students with EHCPs and around 21% of its students require additional support with literacy and numeracy.
“Our expenditure is in line with other similar schools nationally but the needs of our students mean we are being placed at significant financial disadvantage. But there does not seem to be any plan to address this crisis of provision for some of the most vulnerable children in our society?” said Ms Maunder.
“Inclusive schools like ours, which aim to enable all children to fulfil their potential are being financially penalised and vulnerable children and their families are missing out on the support they need.”
Children with disabilities or special education needs who attend special schools are also missing out financially.
Jane Jones, headteacher at The Shrubberies School in Stonehouse said:
“The new National Funding Formula is having some small positive impact on mainstream schools in Gloucestershire - but no discernible impact at all on Gloucestershire’s maintained special schools.
“This is partly because rising costs faced by all schools, such as increases in National Insurance and pensions have a disproportionate effect on special schools which have higher staff ratios.
“Our budgets have also been hit by cuts to other services, such as educational pyschology, school nursing and social care early intervention, which means we face extra costs.
“Quite simply, the government’s promise of a 0.5% will not materialise for children at special schools.”
The new National Funding Formula (NFF) was announced in September and its key promises were that schools would receive minimum funding levels of £3,500 per pupil at primary schools, £4,800 per pupil at secondary schools and would receive increase of 0.5% per pupil from September 2018.