On 27 October 2021 Rishi Sunak unveiled the 2021 Autumn Budget, setting out the government’s spending plans in the ‘post-covid’ era.
Alex Temple, Solicitor in our Education Law team, comments on the funding increase for schools and colleges, and the lack of support provided for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
The government have announced a welcome increase in funding for schools and colleges as a part of this month’s budget. Whilst commentators debate whether the £5 billion in extra money is enough to help the education sector recover from Covid-19, it is certainly a welcome start given the government’s previous refusal to commit any further money. It has been broadly welcomed by school leaders who now have breathing room after seeing their budgets decrease in recent years.
However, it must be remembered that the education system has been struggling for a long time before Covid-19 and this injection of cash will not fix everything. In a particularly stark omission, there is no new money earmarked for children with the most challenging forms of SEND, who typically require the most intensive support to learn. SEND learners have the right to go to school and the right to the support they need to access their education effectively. However, for the last decade the funding situation for SEND learners has been growing increasingly more dire. This can be seen in rising numbers of successful legal cases challenging the failures of SEND provision, increasing numbers of children without a school to go to, and whole local authorities risking financial collapse because they are not able to meet demand.
This is a serious problem as it creates a two-tier education system in which children without SEND are supported to catch up and recover from Covid-19, and those with SEND are left behind. As long as this happens, families of SEND learners will continue to struggle and miss out on the education they desperately need and they will continue to need to rely on the courts to step in to fix avoidable disputes.
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