Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 5th February 2020

We are failing our children. Truth be told, that statement could be made of anything from climate change to trade policy, but in this case I’m referring to something more direct.

Since 2010, the Government has regularly announced millions more for Education, but these announcements are typically less than inflation, require cuts to be made elsewhere or include money already announced,  and–crucially–the headline figures hides what sits underneath. That’s why, despite all the rhetoric during the General Election, the increases in Education funding only get schools funding back to what it was under Labour, while Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision remains in crisis.

The funding for SEN is now so short West Sussex County Council regularly refuses to even assess children, fearing they will struggle to afford the support the children will be assessed as needing. While that may be a solution for the council’s financial problems, it does nothing to address the realities for those families affected in Crawley.

Of course there’s a huge human cost to this, to both children and their loved ones. Unfortunately, such concerns don’t seem to count for much anymore, so let’s instead consider the cost of this to the UK. Countries spend huge amounts on educating young people, they do this because education enables individuals to provide for themselves, it provides the basis for future economic and technological growth in an international market place, and it ensures we have the skills we need to provide public services.

Without SEN provision all three of these things are weakened. We are creating a system in which large numbers of citizens will lack the skills they need to provide for themselves or perform a useful economic role. The end result will be that they need greater external support, at the very least in terms of benefits to cover their basic living costs and potentially social care support, while at the same time being unable to make a contribution to either UK economic growth or its tax base.

Such cuts are clearly a false economy, the question is will the Government will do anything about it?

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