West Sussex education funding in crisis with more than half of schools over-budget

Education funding in West Sussex is in crisis according to a survey carried out among headteachers across the county, with support for children with special educational needs (SEND) the worst hit.

Families marched in protest against SEND funding cuts in Worthing last month
Families marched in protest against SEND funding cuts in Worthing last month

A survey carried out by West Sussex County Council found 52 per cent of responders said they expected to be unable to set a balanced budget in 2020/2021, with 40 per cent asking for parent contributions towards curriculum activities and school essentials.

A third expect to reduce teaching staff numbers this year and nearly two thirds plan to cut non-teaching staff numbers at a huge cost to supporting SEND children.

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John Gadd, head teacher at Thomas a Becket Junior School in Worthing, said the results showed the reality behind the ‘spin and smokescreens’ published by the Department for Education.

Families marched in protest against SEND funding cuts in Worthing last month

“Schools are having to provide the best education possible with less resource while at the same time the needs of many of the children entering primary schools are increasing year-on-year,” he said.

“With many primary schools having to reduce their teaching assistant provision significantly, not only is the workload for those remaining having to be shared between fewer staff, but also the range of SEND, social care, counselling and well-being support they are providing for pupils in their care is growing.”

According to charity Save Our Schools, 70 per cent of schools are seeing an increase in students with education health care plans (EHCPs), while 82 per cent are also seeing a rise in SEND pupils who do not qualify for an EHCP.

Rosemary Hudson, a SEND campaigner, said the situation ‘is a crisis’ and vulnerable children were not being supported.

"The situation is having a negative effect not only on their education but their emotional, social and mental health, with some ending up being excluded or withdrawn from schools as their needs are not met," she said.

"It is also impacting on the support available outside school, leaving some families at breaking point. Furthermore, teachers are being put under increasing pressure as learning support assistants are being withdrawn and class sizes increasing.

"The situation is unsustainable and seriously challenging the quality of education that all our children receive – despite teachers’ best efforts."

The survey results come as analysis by the three main teaching unions shows that £12.6billion of extra funding would be needed by 2022/23 to address the funding crisis.

The coalition made up of The National Education Union (NEU), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), as well as the f40 education fair funding campaign group, which is made up of 42 local authorities who are among the lowest funded for education in England, set out a long-term plan to reverse the impact of the cuts over the next four years.