A protest is being held in Peterborough tomorrow morning over support for children with special educational needs.
As part of a national day of action, campaigners will meet outside the Town Hall in Bridge Street at 11am to “end the national crisis in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) funding and delivery”.
The campaign is being led by SEND National Crisis which will deliver a petition with more than 12,000 signatures to the Prime Minister at noon.
Complaints centre around the implementation of Educational, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Campaigners claim there have been cuts to school and college funding and that more disabled children have been “illegally excluded”.
Peterborough co-ordinator Nazreen Bibi said: “The EHCP plan for children in mainstream schools is in theory brilliant, bringing together health, education and social care, but in practice it’s not being implemented.
“Often schools are not fully equipped to meet the needs of those children and they’re very focused on meeting SATs goals. Schools will argue they don’t have enough funding. The policy is full of flaws and no one is in charge.
“Children are being excluded from schools. I know several children going for half days because schools can’t cope.
“It impacts on parents who can’t go to work. The impact on families is incredible.”
Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “In December we provided an extra £250 million up to 2020 to help manage these costs.
“This takes the total amount that we have allocated for high needs funding to £6.3 billion this year, compared to £5 billion in 2013.”
Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council have created a joint assistant director post to focus on SEND, co-produced a joint SEND strategy and staged an SEND conference this year.
Cllr Lynne Ayres, city council cabinet member for education, said: “Nationally, the number of exclusions for pupils with SEND remains high and Peterborough has a similar profile to the national picture.
“We do everything we can to support SEND pupils. Here in Peterborough we have made the decision not to cut services, despite growing demand and no increase in the funding we receive for many years.”
Beccy Forrow, senior campaigns adviser at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Make no mistake, the special educational needs system is in complete crisis. It’s heartbreaking that families in Peterborough have to march in the streets, but they refuse to stand by and watch as their children’s futures are sacrificed.
“The time for tired soundbites and kicking the can down the road is over. The Treasury and the Department for Education must urgently look at the mountains of evidence and consider the many simple, cost-effective solutions that could begin to avert this crisis.
“Everyone deserves the same start in life, but without immediate investment in this struggling system, children with special educational needs will continue to be left behind.”