SEND funding: Consett teacher has 'sleepless nights' over strain being put on teachers

County Durham headteacher Julia Graham said she had sleepless nights due to the strain being put on her staff. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A primary school headteacher has revealed the struggle she is facing in providing education for children with special educational needs and disabilities(SEND).

Julia Graham, a headteacher in Consett, County Durham, said she had to tell a parent she could not give their child a place due to the financial challenge - and said she had sleepless nights because of the strain being put on her staff.

She said: "I’m now having to spread them so thinly I’m worried about their wellbeing, I’m worried about their workload and the impact on other children because if they can’t provide high level support then the inclusive nature of having children with complex needs can become exclusive to other children.

"For the first time in my career I don’t have additional funds within my own budget to supplement SEND funding and SEND staffing.

"For the first time ever I’m meeting with an SEND child’s parents and we’re going to have to say we don’t have the resource to give your child a place."

She added: “It’s the worst it’s ever been. It’s the biggest challenge because everyone has a duty to be inclusive and provide for all children but financially we’re not able to and it is completely immoral."

Lindsay Main's son Ethan is due to go to secondary school in September.

Lindsay Main is concerned about how Ethan will cope if he goes to a mainstream secondary school in September. Credit: Family

The mum from Consett told ITV Tyne Tees her son meets the criteria to go to a special school, but because there are not enough spaces Durham County Council wants to place him in a mainstream one.

She fears Ethan, who has an educational health care plan, will struggle in a mainstream school and has appealed the decision.

She said: "He’s going into his classroom with 30 pupils and there’s going to be one teacher who probably doesn’t have training in autism and one TA but that TA will have four or five children.

"He needs sensory breaks and movement breaks. What’s going to happen to Ethan when he’s in a classroom with 30 children who are non-neurodiverse?

"He’s going to get lost. It’s heartbreaking."

Durham County Council said her appeal would be considered by the authority as part of its "well-established" process.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are aware that some local areas aren’t delivering education, health and care plans (EHCP) as they should. Where local areas are failing, the department will intervene, using a range of improvement programmes and support from SEND specialist advisers to address weaknesses.

“Separate to our newly published SEND and alternative provision improvement plan, to ensure all children with special needs receive the support they need, we are also putting significant investment into the high needs budget, which will be worth £10.1bn by 2023-24 – a rise of over 50% over four years – and are working to make sure there is earlier intervention, consistent high standards and less bureaucracy where children do need additional support.”

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