Protest parents deliver £12m invoice to Downing Street for special education needs
- Credit: LBTH
Parents and schools across the East End have handed in an “invoice” for £12 million to 10 Downing Street calling on the Prime Minister to fill the funding gap in special educational needs.
They delivered their 'invoice' on Friday after a protest march from Parliament Square, signed by hundreds of parents and Tower Hamlets school staff.
It follows a long campaign by Tower Hamlets Council and the National Educational Union for Whitehall funding to catch up with rising costs and rapidly rising demand for special needs services which is leaving local authorities to pick up the bill.
Tower Hamlets received £49m from the government last year for special needs education — but it cost another £7m to keep the services going.
The gap is forecast to reach £12m by 2022, the East London Advertiser has learned.
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"Every child should be given the best start in life," mayor John Biggs said. "So I'm calling on the government to use the Budget to make sure special education is properly funded."
The council last year called on the government to pick up the tab. Cllr Danny Hassell, responsible for Tower Hamlets education services, sent a cross-party letter from 26 London boroughs in September to the Education Secretary calling for an end to the funding crisis.
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He said this week: "Delivering this 'invoice' straight to Downing Street will send a message about how important it is that the crisis is met head on."
Demand for special educational needs has risen in the East End by 43 per cent in the past four years, yet the funding only increased by 5pc, according to the teachers' union. This has left a £7m shortfall, which increase to £12m in the next two years.
The union's district secretary Alex Kenny said: "We have so many children out of school because lack of funding means that specialist support can't be provided."
Meanwhile, parents have signed an open letter to the mayor to cancel any planned cuts to special needs services which support 8,000 East End youngsters and to refuse to let them be treated "like second class citizens".
The services would be "unsustainable" and would leave children without support or access their "human right to an education", the letter signed by 158 parents points out.
The letter adds: "These cuts will cause further harm to families who are struggling to get their children's needs met."
Schools and Early intervention services have already faced devastating cuts in staff and closure of the last three remaining public day nurseries.
Tower Hamlets has the highest level of child poverty in the country, up to 60pc in some areas, and above-average number of children with special needs.