Mum’s challenge to ‘ridiculous’ education funding system

March 29 2019
Mum’s challenge to ‘ridiculous’ education funding system

A MUM has joined a parents’ legal challenge to funding cuts she believes will harm her daughter’s future.

Laura Rogers, from Winterbourne Down, is a passionate member of the parent group SEND Emergency South Glos, which is trying to launch a judicial review of funding for special needs and disabilities education in the area.

Laura and husband Greg are parents to six-year-old Eva and her brother Huey, 2.

When she was 36 weeks pregnant with Eva, Laura was told that her baby wasn’t growing properly due to a little known condition called Intrauterine Growth Restriction.

When Eva was born she was very small and, as she got older she began to miss developmental milestones. By the time she started school her poor motor skills, sensory difficulties and struggles to concentrate were more evident, and it was recognised that she needed extra help.

Eva was diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder, which was previously known as dyspraxia.

She is now in year 2 at Hambrook Primary School and, while Laura is full of praise for the school, she says it can’t fund the support which Eva needs.

Laura said: “She’s on the SEN register and gets some extra support. It’s provided by the school, they have to fund up to 6k themselves. The school have been fantastic within what they can do, but they are getting their budget effectively cut by government, because there is more to pay for and yet they receive the same or less than before.

I understand that they can’t give more to my daughter.  It’s the system that’s ridiculous. It’s not properly resourced, there’s not enough money for all kids, never mind kids with special educational needs.”

A teaching assistant supported Eva during Year 1 but the school had to make savings and there is no longer a full-time TA available.

Laura and Greg put in a parental request for an Education Health and Care Plan, (EHCP), which, if granted, can lead to more funding from the local authority. Initially it was turned down, but after they went to tribunal, the council agreed to carry out an assessment of Eva’s needs.

SEND Emergency South Glos is campaigning against a reduction in spending. It is planning to take legal action by way of a judicial review because of South Gloucestershire Council’s introduction of a ‘Ready Reckoner’: a tool for allocating SEND funding to mainstream schools which could save the council £1 million a year.

Laura said: “The Ready Reckoner brings in banding. What provision your child gets will depend on their banding and the band levels could change. I’m not certain that will work. “Legally EHCPs are supposed to be specified and quantified. They’re supposed to say, for example, that your child gets 20 hours of support by a TA with the right level of training to deliver the intervention. Secondly, as I understand it, the Ready Reckoner is based on a fixed level of assessed needs, which will not be individual to each child. So one child who needs 1:1 speech therapy could have it replaced with group therapy if that is in the Ready Reckoner as the ‘standard’ for speech therapy.”

The parents’ group aims to raise £5,000 by March 31 to fund its legal challenge. It has raised more than £2,500 so far and has a fundraising website, which can be found at bit.ly/2CpHjQw.

Laura says all parents should be concerned about SEND spending.

She said: “If they cut money from SEND kids, some people will just think it affects those families. But actually, it affects everyone, because teachers’ time is taken away from other kids as well.”

A South Gloucestershire spokesperson said: “It is important to note that the funding we provide to help pupils with SEND support needs is increasing. In terms of the decisions we have made recently to ensure we can continue to provide more effective help; the Ready Reckoner is about increasing transparency in the process for determining funding for SEND support services and at the same time drive down the costs we pay to provide that help.”

It costs South Glos more to deliver some of these services than it does for our neighbours, and we want to reduce that cost so that we can spend the money more efficiently to help more young people.”

Regarding a potential legal case, the spokesman said, “clearly we want to spend our resources on delivering care and support”.