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Scapegoating SEN will not Solve the School Funding Crisis.

The Times considered Greg Hurst's article worthy of print and to show support slapped the headline "Pupil's lose out as £400m schools funding diverted to special needs". The implication that those with special needs aren't pupils has been merely overlooked, or, maybe, this is the fruit of a society that dehumanises those deemed to have 'special needs' just enough to provide a scapegoat for the lack of funding for schools in the UK.

Despite the changed headline, the feeling of the article remains the same:

" A crisis in school special needs funding has led councils to raid their mainstream education budgets by millions of pounds to cover the gap, an investigation by The Times has found. The number of pupils categorised as having special needs has surged since funding reforms introduced in 2014 created new education, health and care plans, said one head teacher. The changes also raised the cut-off age for specialised provision from 18 to 25, greatly increasing the numbers who qualified."

Mr Hurst has found a "new" problem (never mind that it has been ongoing for the last decade). Schools are losing staff. Schools are failing to maintain their buildings. Teachers, like me, have left the profession because there is no funding to train and support them in handling complex education needs. They are expected to do too much with too little with ever changing expectations. There are serious issues with the funding in schools, issues of teacher shortages and issues of schools cutting corners and subjects to cope. There is complexity behind all these issues but Mr Hurst has found where the blame lies. Those pesky "special needs". Why has someone not thought of this before!?

Mr Hurst's solution is simple. Cut special needs provision. I mean seriously, funding special needs doesn't really help anyone does it? It clearly doesn't help normal pupils.

Maybe Mr Hurst is just ignorant rather than purposefully encouraging the dehumanisation of the disabled. Perhaps Mr Hurst's has been fortunate enough to not have to wake up in the morning and make sure his child is still breathing. Maybe he has never had to try and feed a child that might choke if their food is not the right consistency. I'd hazard a guess that he has never had to try and write a sentence while his brain jumbles up all the letters. He probably has never had to teach maths to a student who just can't work with numbers due to the way their brain functions. In fact, I wonder if Mr Hurst has ever been in a place where special needs funding is needed.

Mr Hurst seems to have ignored the fact that funding "special needs" is actually funding children - the human offspring of other humans who are actually alive and have human rights although Mr Hurst's article would see those rights eroded. To be extra clear for Mr Hurst, though he probably won't read this, the funding that goes to special needs are for PUPILS with just as much right to the funding as 'mainstream' pupils.

Apparently Mr Hurst has expertise in writing on education and yet seems to have no idea how education works. Every pupil has particular needs. Every pupil requires levels of support, but there are those who through no fault of their own need extra support to access what Mr Hurst clearly takes for granted. Just to highlight the need for SEN funding on a personal level, I currently have no idea how able my daughter is cognitively speaking. Her body currently doesn't allow her to communicate yet she is clearly able to understand what is going on around her. She clearly wants to tell us through the technology that we've been able to purchase with the support of a charity. Seriously Mr Hurst, her giggle is amazing and I reckon you'd realise your mistake in this article pretty quickly just by meeting her. She has charmed the staff at her special needs nursery, the kind of school funded by the money Mr Hurst would say is pulling funding away from 'mainstream' schools. She would quite literally be left without a voice or an education if he had his way. Without this school we would never have the support for Rosalie to access education.

What Mr Hurst also seems to be ignorant of is that mainstream schools that are inclusive of those with special needs are far better places to work in both for staff and children. It isn't without its difficulties, especially when under a government that continues to ignore its lack of funding and actively promotes an outdated model of education that only benefits the wealthy and the healthy (Grammar schools anyone?). It doesn't take a lot of research (or time on Google) to find that an inclusive school is better for everyone, and by everyone I'm also talking about those humans who just happen to require extra support.

So Mr Hurst, if you do read this, maybe you can take some time to meet these pupils with special needs. Maybe you can try to regain your humanity by realising not everyone is as privileged as you are. Maybe one day you will realise that by writing badly thought out articles like this you continue a trend to dehumanise those with disability to the extent that they won't even make it out of the womb. At least the mainstream schools would get a bit more money though, isn't that right Mr Hurst?

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