High-needs children hit hardest by underfunding, says NAHT

School leaders’ union NAHT is warning that young people with the highest needs are hit the hardest by the government’s underfunding of schools.

According to figures from its annual survey of school budgets, 86 per cent of school leaders believe that the government is underfunding the additional needs of children, causing major financial pressures.

When asked what actions school leaders were taking to try to make their budget balance for this year, 79.65 per cent said ‘reducing number or hours of teaching assistants’ and 47.26 per cent said ‘reducing non-educational support and services for children.’

Valentine Mulholland, head of policy at NAHT says: “School budgets are at breaking point and we need some substantial additional investment. Schools are absolutely pared back to the bone and now their only means to make savings is to cut back on staff costs. Pupils who require support will be hit hardest. To support these students, staff need regular updates to their training and we have evidence that this is also being cut.

Marijke Miles, acting head of Baycroft school, a special needs secondary in Hampshire, called the cuts “short-sighted”. She said: “All too often, the successes of my students happen despite the system, not because of it. And that can’t be right. The system is creaking because it is underfunded. This reduces students’ aspirations and it is very harmful for their wellbeing.”

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “NAHT represents the vast majority of school leaders running special schools and alternative provision and those settings are some of the best in the world. They deliver amazing results every day to enable children and young people to live up to their potential. But it’s at risk if we don’t secure more high needs funding for schools, and more of the critical health and social care funding that these pupils need. The Chancellor has a moral duty to act on high needs funding.”

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