One of the big election hot potatoes is around education funding, with many parents concerned about possible cuts to the money schools get.
But it’s not just schools that are experiencing challenges – services for deaf children and other children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are also under pressure.
It’s true that the Government have protected, and provided some additional SEND funding. But it’s also clear in many areas that this isn’t enough. Too many local authorities have, or are planning to, cut the vital services upon which deaf children rely.
There are various reasons why the government’s ‘protection’ isn’t enough.
- It doesn’t take into account inflation or increases in wages and pension contributions, so will still constitute a cut for many local authorities in real terms.
- It also fails to take into account the fact that the number of children and young people with SEND are rising across the board, including deaf children.
- More children are being placed in special or residential schools, which will be more expensive to the local authority. There’s been a 19% increase in special school places in the last 5 years.
- New legal duties and policies means that services are expected to do more to ensure more childcare is available for young children and to support deaf young people over 16. Whilst there are positive intentions behind these changes, the extra funding provided has not been enough to meet their ambitions.
To fund the shortfall during the past 3 years, over 75% of local authorities have had to take more than £300million from school budgets to try to meet their legal obligations to children with SEND. Even that has not been sufficient to stop some children with SEND experiencing cuts to the support they receive.
More worrying is a proposal by the Government to stop local authorities using school budgets to meet the needs of an increasing number of disabled children requiring support. This could leave families facing the prospect of cuts to the support their disabled children receive.
We’ve been monitoring and challenging reductions to spending on deaf children’s education across England for the last seven years as part of our Stolen Futures campaign. Many of the parents we work with will be seeking reassurance that the next Government will do more to protect these vital services.
One way the Government could do this is by putting specialist education support services for children and young people with SEND, such as Teachers of the Deaf, onto a statutory footing. This would mean that local authorities would in future have a legal duty to ensure sufficient specialist support is provided. We think that putting these services on a statutory footing will protect them from funding cuts and help make sure that deaf children get the support they need to get a good education.
Do you agree? If so, ask the people standing for election in your area what they will do to protect services for deaf children if they get elected. Will they commit to support a new legal duty on local authorities to provide specialist education services for children and young people with SEND?
Find out more about our election work on our website.
Brian Gale OBE has been the Director of Policy and Campaigns at the National Deaf Children’s Society since 2007. He leads the society’s research, policy and campaigning work across the UK and Northern Ireland.
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