By Janine Booth, RMT Disabled Members’ Advisory Committee Chair
Many of you reading this have children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Some of you were SEND children when you were at school or college. Many more of you will know someone in this situation. You will know how important SEND funding is, and how much damage the Conservative government has caused by dramatically cutting that funding.
SEND funding is the money that the government allocates to meet additional needs. It pays for teaching assistants, equipment, speech and language therapy, signers and scribes, and many more provisions that are essential to enabling disabled kids to access education on equal terms to their peers. And yet the Tory government has cut this funding while spending huge sums on tax cuts for big companies and the super-rich, and on bribing its political allies.
Five years ago, the government replaced Statements of Special Educational Needs with Education, Health and Care Plans. Since then, more and more children have needed extra help, but the funding available for them has not kept pace. The Local Government Association estimates that councils in England have £500m less money than they need for SEND provision this year. In Scotland, the number of specialist teachers supporting pupils with additional needs fell from 3,840 in 2012 to 3,437 in 2018.
Mainstream schools are expected to meet the first six thousand pounds of additional costs for special-needs children, so there is already a financial incentive for cash-strapped schools to not admit these children or to coerce families into withdrawing them, a practice that has become known as ‘off-rolling’. Disabled children are being pushed into segregate schooling, or out of school altogether. Those who remain in school are prevented from achieving their potential.
RMT members with SEND children are having to deal with the impact of their kids’ support being reduced or withdrawn – juggling this with shiftwork and other responsibilities. So RMT’s Disabled Members asked the union to support the fightback by students, parents and education workers against these cuts.
RMT supported the day of protests against SEND cuts in May, when thousands of students, parents, workers and supporters demonstrated at dozens of locations around the country.
We are now asking RMT members to contact your MP to urge them to support efforts to reverse the funding cuts. You can find a model letter on the RMT website, along with details on how to contact your MP.