London Councils has welcomed the government’s announcement of new action to improve outcomes for children with additional needs, while warning that the funding shortfall for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) must be urgently addressed.
Following the announcement, which includes measures to improve alternative provision and a national review into school exclusions, London Councils has highlighted that borough budgets for SEND provision were underfunded by £100 million in 2016/17 and that pressure on school finances limit their ability to support pupils with additional needs.
Cllr Peter John OBE, Deputy Chair of London Councils and executive member for Business, Skills and Brexit, said:
“Whether in mainstream, specialist, or alternative provision, all children and young people have the right to a high-quality education, so we’re pleased to see the government promising action to improve outcomes for children with additional needs.
“We support the ambition of ensuring children with SEND continue learning in the environment that’s right for their needs. The government’s review must look at both formal and informal exclusion rates to get a full picture of whether this is happening.
“London boroughs are deeply concerned that inadequate funding makes it harder for these pupils to receive the support they need at school, which puts them at greater risk of exclusion.
“The number of pupils with complex needs in London has increased significantly in recent years, and this trend is set to continue. We’re urging the government to review funding allocations to make sure schools across the capital are able to meet the needs of their most vulnerable pupils.”
In London, the number of pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans – the measure of more complex SEND – has increased by 10 per cent since 2013/14, a higher growth rate than seen anywhere else in England. Meanwhile, government funding for London pupils with SEND has increased by only 2 per cent.
The Department for Education’s statistics demonstrate that pupils with SEND are almost seven times more likely to receive a fixed period exclusion than other pupils. The most recent figures (for 2015/16) found that pupils with SEND accounted for almost half of all exclusions.
Many boroughs have also experienced issues with schools refusing to admit or keep children with SEND, despite there being a legal requirement to do so. A survey found that 19 out of 24 London boroughs have experienced at least one academy resisting or refusing to admit a child with SEND and 14 out of 23 have experienced at least one academy inappropriately off-rolling pupils with SEND.