Congress is concerned about the impact on children of austerity, the pandemic and cost of living crisis. The public services that support children have been eroded, as has the pay of the people who work in them. Cuts to local authorities, schools, NHS and other agencies mean that too often, the services children need are not there. The SEND (special educational needs and disability) system in England remains in crisis.
The failure to properly cost and then fund major reforms introduced by the government in 2014 has created a system that is failing pupils, families and schools. Current levels of funding remain wholly inadequate and local authorities simply don’t have the resources to meet the demands being placed on the system – as a result many continue to carry large budget deficits. The unavoidable consequence of this is that too many schools are struggling to meet the needs of pupils with SEND, through no fault of their own. The government’s recent SEND action plan contains some good ideas but is unlikely to address the root causes of the problem and, crucially, does not bring an extra penny in funding.
Congress recognises that support staff cuts are denying children educational opportunities. Congress recognises that this particularly impacts the most vulnerable children, such as those living in poverty, with special educational needs, or needing mental health support. Congress notes the important role of Educational Psychologists (EPs) in supporting children, the recruitment and retention crisis in the profession, and the way this stems from the combination of underfunded services, workload pressures, and real terms cuts to pay. Congress supports the AEP’s call for fair pay as essential to protecting and rebuilding services.
Congress calls all political parties to value the role of support staff in delivering an inclusive education and commit to a needs-led approach to inclusion, reasonable adjustments, and the full provision of SEND funding so that every pupil has the level of support they require, including in-classroom teaching assistant support, for more emphasis on and resources for early intervention and prevention support for children across the UK, including expanded access to specialists like EPs.
Furthermore, Congress calls on all parties to re-build the crucial support services that support children and families with SEND. Schools cannot do this work alone.