• Government funding for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services failing to keep pace with rapidly increasing demand
  • Tower Hamlets received £49.7m for SEND services, but it spent more than £56m
  • “We have now reached a tipping point”

In a letter to the new Prime Minister, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs and Cabinet Member Councillor Danny Hassell have warned that the country faces a national crisis in special educational needs and disability (SEND) funding.

The funding from the government for SEND services has failed to keep pace with the increasing demand for the same services, leaving councils to plug the gaps.

Over the period 2016/17 to 2018/19, Tower Hamlets saw a 48% increase in the number of children with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Despite this, the funding received from the Government is not linked to the rising numbers of children who rely on the services, or their complexity of need.

Last year Tower Hamlets received £49.7m from the Government for SEND funding, but it spent more than £56m on services. The Mayor and Cllr Hassell have issued a stark warning that “we have now reached a tipping point.” In previous years councils have met the gap from reserves or underspending on other education budgets, but as school budgets get even tighter this cannot continue.

The letter calls on the Prime Minister to work with the new Secretary of State for Education to immediately review the situation, to work as a matter of urgency to invest in our SEND services, to ensure that Government funding keeps pace with demand and to bring an end to the SEND crisis.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “We face a national crisis in special needs provision as the funding we get from government isn’t keeping up with the number of children and young people who rely on these vital services, leaving a gap that councils have to fill. This gap has been growing and we have now reached a tipping point, with very serious implications for the future.

“There was much talk about school funding during the Tory leadership campaign, and I urge Boris Johnson to immediately review the situation and provide additional funding to help fill the gap.”

Councillor Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Young People, said: “We are deeply proud that children with special educational needs and disabilities do so well in Tower Hamlets and that all of our special needs schools are rated by Ofsted as ‘outstanding’, but all of the progress we have made is at risk because the government is failing to properly fund high needs services. We need an urgent cash injection to bring an end to the SEND crisis.”

ENDS

Full text of the letter send to the Prime Minister:

Dear Prime Minister

We face a national SEND crisis.

During the Conservative Party leadership election, you pledged to give a much-needed boost to school budgets.

Our schools desperately need more money and while any additional funding for schools is welcome, we have heard very little about extra money for high needs funding to support children with special educational needs and disabilities. This funding enables schools and councils to provide services that support some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our country.

There are around 8,000 children and young people in Tower Hamlets who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) or are attending alternative provision. 3,000 children and young people have an Education, Health and Care plan.

Demand for SEND services is increasing rapidly and services are also responding to more complex needs. Over the period 2016/17 to 2018/19 we saw a 48% increase in the number of children with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Despite this, the funding we receive from the Government is not linked to the rising numbers of children with SEND, or their complexity of need. Nor have we been provided with any funding in order to meet the extension of our requirement to provide support to young people with an EHCP up to the age of 25.

Last year Tower Hamlets received £49.7m from the Government for SEND funding, but it spent more than £56m on services. The funding from Government has failed to keep pace and it’s leaving big gaps in budgets. Analysis from the National Education Union shows that had funding kept pace with rising numbers, and increased in line with inflation, the budget gap would almost be eliminated.

Simply put, the Government is failing to fund SEND services properly and the council has to plug the gaps.

We have now reached a tipping point. Whilst in previous years we have been able to meet the gap from reserves or underspending on other education budgets, this is no longer possible and it’s only going to get worse.

We are proud that children with special educational needs and disabilities in our borough outperform their peers nationally on a number of measures; that all of our special needs schools are rated by Ofsted as ‘outstanding’ and that many of our mainstream schools pride themselves on effective inclusion of children with a range of needs. However all of this is now being put at risk by the national underfunding of high needs budgets.

We urge you to work with the new Secretary of State for Education to immediately review this situation, to work as a matter of urgency to invest in our SEND services, to ensure that Government funding keeps pace with demand and to bring an end to the SEND crisis.

Yours Sincerely,

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets

Councillor Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Young People

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