Inclusion Now 55

Inclusive Education and Funding in England

Promises made by the UK Government on school and SEND funding are not what they seem. Even if true, which they are not, they do nothing to deal with structural problems created by wider Government Policy, that make it increasingly difficult for mainstream schools to successfully include disabled children and those with special educational needs. The Government needs to recognise the reality and act.

Prime Minister Johnson, like his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron, has promised to “level up” school funding across the country. But, if you fast-forward to the highest point in the Prime Minister’s plan, in three years’ time UK schools will be reeling from a £1.3bn funding shortfall in 2022/23 compared with 2015/16 — the biggest in a generation. In real terms, the Government is not levelling up historically poorly funded areas to the level of the best funded (and usually most deprived) areas, but cutting the best.

The numbers just don’t add up, accounting for rising school costs and number of pupils the budget has to cover:

  • Since 2015 the average amount spent on a pupil has fallen from £5,000 a year to just under £4,700. Schools need an extra £2.4bn a year to put that right.
  • 83% of schools in England will lose out in 2020 compared with 2015.
  • Schools in England will be £2bn poorer in 2020 than in 2015.
  • The Government is putting more money in but not enough (Source School Cuts Campaign)

This has been met with a widespread negative response and coverage:

“The government has pledged to invest an extra £7.1bn in schools in England over the next three years up to 2022-23, including an increase of £2.6bn to the core schools budget in 2020-21, but the unions say there will still be a shortfall of £2.5bn in the coming year after years of devastating cuts.” Guardian 30.09.19

NEU joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney stated:

“Johnson has made lots of empty promises on school funding – but his numbers don’t add up. The latest funding announcement falls well short of settling the shortfall for every child. And crucially it fails to reverse the cuts schools have suffered since 2015.”

Unison’s Head of Education Division John Richards commented:

“Schools are so cash starved that staff are buying equipment like pens and stationery with their own money. Valuable teaching assistants are also being axed by schools as they struggle to balance budgets. The government keeps promising resources but schools need money now.”

This means all pupils with SEND in mainstream schools with no Education Health Care Plan (EHCP), who receive funding from a “non-ring fenced” SEN Support budget, lose out. Which puts increasing pressure on parents to get an EHCP for their child.

The Government’s Higher Needs Block funding which pays for EHCP provision is not keeping up.

It is estimated the £780 rise million rise, added in September 2019, will not prevent a £1.3billion deficit by 2021. Until recently, Local Authorities have taken money from other funding to bridge the gap. However, the Department for Education has now stopped this ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ approach, meaning more cuts in EHCP provision. Ironically the ability to switch budgets was the main reason the courts found in favour of the Government in the Judicial Review last year. This is now closed down.

Currently 8,000 children with SEND are out of school awaiting placement. The reasons more mainstream schools say they can’t meet the needs of children with SEND referred by Local Authorities (LAs) are complicated. If parents demand a mainstream school, the only legal reason a school can give for not accepting them, provided the school is non-selective and has places, is interference with the efficient education of other children. The pressure on schools to meet raised attainment targets on national tests is high. Many schools claim they do not have the expertise or practice to meet the child’s SEND needs. But schools and teachers are legally expected to admit the child and make reasonable adjustments so they can thrive. Local Authorities are not prepared to place children with EHCP Plans in schools, even though they have the power to do so. The fact an increasing number of academies and free schools have reduced the numbers of pupils with SEND at a faster rate than maintained schools has had a big impact on this.

When Michael Gove introduced the new national curriculum, discarding curriculum levels, no thought was given to how this would work with for the bottom quartile. Then continuous assessment and course work was replaced with exams and curriculum content based more on knowledge and less on skills and understanding. Which made it far harder to maintain good inclusive pedagogy and a child centred approach. Alongside the rigid curriculum, increasing use of zero tolerance behaviour policies have impacted massively on disabled pupils, leading to 50% of school exclusions constituting disabled pupils whose impairments are social, emotional or mental, such as ADHD, Autism or anxiety.

All of which is far removed from the Government’s commitment to implement Inclusive education under Article 24 of the UNCRPD or the Children and Families Act 2014.

Instead the commitment is to a presumption of mainstreaming. The values and pedagogy our school system is based upon need reasserting, and the principles of inclusive education put into practice. Importantly, this includes changing high stakes testing and rewarding schools for the success of all their pupils, alongside implementing concrete measures to welcome all and challenge exclusion and bullying.

If this change does not occur Government will never be able to fund the growing demand for non-segregated education.

What Can Be Done!

  • Ensure staff and parents understand the cuts and their impact
  • Pressure school leadership to run effective training and inclusion
  • Challenge exclusions and press for zero inclusion policies and training to make this a reality
  • Build local campaigns with parents ,teachers and school workers against cuts and for inclusion.
  • Join and be active in the School Cuts Campaign
  • Join and be active in the Send Community Alliance

Richard Rieser

World of Inclusion