Unfortunately, even in today’s modern world, we are experiencing budget cuts in UK schools.
In fact, a recent survey by the Guardian reported that almost all (97%) the school leaders interviewed said that funding for SEND pupils was insufficient.
Budget cuts and unfair funding allocations are now a significant concern, particularly in the context of supporting students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
As a result, SEND departments have been experiencing limited staff training and resources, which has created several challenges in supporting students' needs.
The issue has been exacerbated by the recent controversy surrounding the ‘Levelling Up’ campaign, which has led to councils in the North receiving significantly less funding than those in the South, sometimes having their applications rejected completely.
Additionally, schools have been splitting SEND Coordinator roles into a few Teaching and Learning Responsibilities (TLRs), where no one is entirely accountable, leading to inexperienced staff in positions that require high levels of expertise and experience.
These actions have had a significant impact on students, leading to poor behaviour, academic results, slow progress, and ultimately fewer opportunities for further education or careers.
According to the Guardian, 90% of English schools will run out of money next year. Budget cuts have been made across the board, but they have had a particularly devastating effect on support services for students with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).
Limited Staff Training and Resources in SEND Departments
There are a number of factors that contribute to the understaffing and underfunding of SEND departments.
The first is that SEND support is not valued as highly as it should be, which leads to less funding for these departments. This can also be seen in the fact that many schools do not have enough staff members who are trained to work with students with disabilities and needs; this lack of training creates barriers for these students when it comes time for them to apply for college or university courses, or even just enter higher education at all.
In many schools today there will still be SEND students in classrooms that they shouldn’t be due to their ability or level but the school won’t have the access to trained SEND coordinators to avoid this, or the staffing resources to provide small-group or one-to-one support where required.
There are also fewer options available than there once were: many charities dedicated specifically towards helping people with disabilities have been cut down either directly or indirectly through austerity measures implemented by both local councils and national governments across Europe over recent years.
Only when government bodies recognise the importance of training staff to work with SEND students will there be enough support for every child.
The Levelling Up Campaign and SEND
The Levelling Up Campaign is a recent initiative that aims to ensure schools in the UK receive the funding they need to provide a high standard of education for all students.
However, there is some controversy around it because it was found that a large percentage of the funding was sent to the richer south west and London rather than the North of England.
There is already a growing divide between the North and the South of England when it comes to education, and this move from the UK government will only exacerbate this problem if it isn’t remedied.
When asked about it, they defended themselves by stating that the population size affected the funding allocation, due to the population being higher in the South. This is a factor to consider but many have said that the funding still isn’t enough and it isn’t being directed to the right places.
The divide is also evident in the situation in schools right now and the fact that SEND positions are being cut, there is clearly a funding issue regardless of this campaign.
Inexperienced Staff in Critical SEND Positions
You wouldn’t accept fitness advice from someone who isn’t trained as a personal trainer, would you?
And you wouldn’t sit your driving test with someone who isn’t a qualified driving instructor either (we hope!).
So why would you choose a teacher that isn’t qualified in SEND to teach your child?
Inadequate support for SEND students is a major concern. The responsibility of teaching SEND students is not a light one and it is a position that requires years of rigorous training.
Most classroom teachers are not qualified to teach SEND students and lack the training needed to provide adequate support.
In addition, there is a shortage of qualified special education teachers in many schools, which means that some children with SEND will be taught by inexperienced staff who may not have any knowledge about their individual needs or how best to support them.
Unfortunately there have been many cases in schools recently where the SEND coordinator has had their position cut and other teachers have been expected to take on the responsibility between them, cutting down costs of senior staff and replacing them with small TLRs.
The problem here is that clasroom teachers who take on a TLR in SEND have to teach their own subjects too, leaving them very little time to focus on the SEND side of their responsibilities. This means that SEND students are neglected and therefore struggle when it comes to overall academic performance and mental health.
SEND Budget Cut Impacts on Students
Continuing on from our point above, these budget cuts don’t come without significant consequences.
We see the impact of these cuts on students behaviour, results, and overall education and wellbeing. Parents are also negatively affected and they have to deal with the struggle of ensuring their children are getting a good education while also trying to make ends meet.
This can be especially difficult when parents do not have enough time or resources at home because they are working long hours.
SEND support exists for a reason. It helps students who are at a disadvantage compared to their peers ensure they don’t get left behind, but it is also something that impacts their mental health. Imagine a child has to choose between two scenarios:
- Joining in a class that their peers are in but that covers complicated topics that are beyond their level, and taught too fast for them to keep up.
- Still joining that class but having a SEND coordinator there to explain difficult concepts and help them keep up with the writing.
Which do you think the child would prefer? This scenario will make a child feel safe and confident in their ability. As a result, they are happier in themselves and experience more positive thoughts and feelings. This can also then trickle into the home; if your child comes home after a day of scenario 2 rather than 1, life will be easier at home with your child.
Asides from the impact on mental wellbeing, it’s vital to consider the academic impact of SEND support.
Students suffering with any form of disadvantage will struggle to achieve the same results as their peers if they don’t have extra support. SEND coordinators are there to help children succeed in school and achieve their potential.
They will explain things in a way that child can understand, act as a scribe if they have trouble writing, and spend extra time with them learning in a way that works for that child and their needs. As a result children will be more likely to achieve better grades.
SEND budget cuts mean that this opportunity is being taken away from children who want to succeed in school but are unable to due to the lack of support.
The future prospects for students who have SEND needs will also be affected by these cuts because of the fact that their progression at school is limited. Making slow progress and not achieving the grades they need will hinder them when it comes to applying for jobs and further education opportunities.
If they can’t access these opportunities early on, it will become increasingly difficult as they age to gain access.
The Future of SEND Support
The budget cuts felt in SEND support is a vicious cycle that will repeat itself over and over until something changes.
Ultimately, they will have a life-changing effect on SEND students which is just not fair. Every child should have equal opportunity, regardless of their situation or of the system they are living in.
In the meantime, at Learning Cubs, we are doing everything we can to try and support SEND students where we can and reduce the impact this has on young people in schools in the UK.
We are honest and transparent in our approach to our tuition services and catering for specific needs, crafting a bespoke learning journey for every child, however, we must clarify that we don’t have the capacity to support high-spectrum children.
It's clear that budget cuts will have a detrimental effect on students and SEND support in schools. We hope that by raising awareness of this issue, we can help improve the situation for all those affected by it and that we can help those children who need it where possible.
Get in touch today to speak with us about our services and see how we can help your child!