As MPs debate school funding in Westminster today (Wednesday 24 October), yet another report has come out highlighting the lack of support for children with special educational needs. The Local Governance Association (LGA) report warns that the future of maintained nursery schools educating children with SEN is at risk.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The picture facing schools supporting children with special educational needs is bleak. Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have been severe cuts to health and social care provision. Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils.
“Maintained nursery schools have a critical role to play in the delivery of high-quality early years education, especially for children with special educational needs, but their future has been left uncertain by the government’s new approach to early years funding. Currently maintained nursery schools are funded more highly than other nursery settings, in recognition of their importance. But this additional funding comes to an end in 2020, leaving schools unsure if they will be able to carry on or plan beyond that date.
“Maintained nursery schools are often in the most deprived areas of the UK. NAHT investigated the neighbourhoods in which maintained nursery schools sit, using the income deprivation affecting children index (IDACI), and found that 60% of maintained nursery schools are in neighbourhoods in the three most deprived IDACI deciles, and 80% of maintained nursery schools are in neighbourhoods in the five most deprived IDACI deciles.
“Early years is such an important phase of education. If children fall behind at this stage it can prove difficult, often impossible, for them to catch up later, even with additional help. It is therefore obvious that the most cost-effective way to improve educational outcomes for all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is by investing in early years education.
“Without proper investment, the youngest and most vulnerable in our society will be starting off behind, with uncertain chances of catching up.”