West Berkshire slashes support for kids it recognises as disadvantaged

The Inclusion Manager at Reading Borough Council, Chris Stevens, has set out that too many children with special educational needs (SEN) in Reading are facing exclusion or are missing education. This follows the announcement that West Berkshire intends to cut funding for special educational needs.

These comments have been released by getreading and were aired during an internal meeting at Reading Borough Council held to discuss the changes brought about by the Children and Families Act 2014.

Mr Stevens’ comments highlight how children with SEN, who are already disadvantaged, face further difficulties in Reading because of being excluded from school. This is leading to high numbers of children with SEN being classed as ‘NEET’ (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

We have set out here the support that is available for children with special educational needs.

In response to these issues, Reading Borough Council is preparing a charter setting out what support should be available for children with SEN. This strikes us to be very similar to the Local Offer which requires that all local authorities set out the SEN provision that is to be available in the area.

It is worth bearing in mind that these comments come shortly after a recent schools forum in Newbury during which West Berkshire Council confirmed plans to reduce funding for Higher Needs from £1.9 million to just £1 million. Within these cuts, it is suggested that the budget for specialist equipment for disabled children is halved and two specialist literacy centres are closed.

The Higher Needs Budget is for mainstream schools to provide children with special educational needs additional support, particularly in language and literacy.

It is unclear how mainstream schools are expected to support children with SEN if they are not given the resources to do so. Whilst a Statement of Special Educational Needs or Education, Health and Care Plan can carry with it specific funding, these are only available for children with the most complex SEN – approximately 20% of children  in English schools have  SEN  but only about 3% would qualify for a Statement or EHCP. This means that the vast majority of children with SEN require their support to be delivered, and funded, by their school.

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