Parents and teachers rally against cuts to special needs funding

Michelle Hopkins and her son, Jacob. Pic: SEND Crisis Tower Hamlets

Parents and teachers in Tower Hamlets are leading an emergency campaign to fight £1m cuts to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) funding in the borough. 

The #SENDcrisis campaign is urging people to support and sign a petition to refuse the planned council cuts in the borough, which the council say is a consequence of wider social care cuts by the Conservative government. Campaigners say the proposal will jeopardise the access to education and crucial specialised support within schools for over 8000 young people.

Tower Hamlets mother Michelle Hopkins struggled to find an adequately funded school in the borough to educate and support her son Jacob, four, who has severe cerebral palsy. Jacob eventually gained a place in a school in September but the council and SEND is increasingly struggling with rising demands and limited funding.

The planned cuts to Support for Learning and Behaviour teams will result in less inclusive schools in Tower Hamlets, and children such as Jacob being rejected from institutions due to a lack of services, claim the campaigners.

Alex Kenny, National Education Union’s District secretary for Tower Hamlets and the City, said in a statement: “As usual, the most vulnerable will lose out.”

The planned cuts would see up to a 7 per cent reduction in ‘top-up’ funding to schools to support pupils with educational needs. Around 37 per cent of children with SEND funding in Tower Hamlets would suffer from these cuts to specialist care in schools.

A meeting of Tower Hamlets Council Cabinet last night agreed a motion callling on the Government to ”urgently invest” in its SEND services and to ensure that funding kept pace with ”rising demand, complexity of need and additional responsibilities.”  

The plans would cause a further 40 per cent reduction in funding to Support for Learning Service, the Behaviour Support Team and the trusted, specialised teachers supporting and training children in schools.

Hopkins said: “When we were coming to terms with his severe cerebral palsy, the support services in the borough were crucial and the visual impairment team have become a huge support to us as a family and a counsellor to me when times are tough.”

Learning services in education are imperative to children with needs ranging from sensory, physical, medical, language, communication, learning and mental health.

A statement from the campaign said: “This is a national crisis that threatens to compromise the human rights of the country’s most vulnerable children. These new cuts, if implemented, will fundamentally undermine inclusive provision.”

Previous eras of cuts have seen parents resort to court action to protect their children’s right to education.

Labour parliamentary candidate for Tower Hamlets, Rushanara Ali, and NEU Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney, will meet with Councillor Dannu Hassell and Amanda Elliot from Hackney Special Education Crisis to discuss the cuts and take questions from parents and teachers in an emergency public meeting on November 19 at Oaklands School, Bethnal Green.

For further information visit the SENDcrisis Facebook page here:

Sign the petition here:

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