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Vulnerable kids in Islington are ‘victims of cuts’

Disabled children are among the worst hit as funding is slashed

10 May, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Ken Muller: ‘It’s appalling that the victims of these cuts are some of the most vulnerable students we teach’

SECONDARY schoolchildren with the most severe disabilities are bearing the brunt of government cuts to education, campaigners claim.

More than £5million has been lost from Islington Council’s high needs funding since 2015 – cash reserved for children on Education, Health and Care Plans, known as EHCPs or statements.

Unions and disability campaigners have linked this fall in funding to a drop in GCSE performance by special education needs pupils with EHCPs.

Ken Muller, a spokes­man for the Islington branch of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “The authority has been hollowed out in Islington. Academisation and funding cuts have meant central services have been depleted over the years. In terms of jobs, the biggest cuts have hit support staff and they are often the ones supporting children with special needs.”

He added: “It’s appalling that the victims of these cuts are some of the most vulnerable students we teach.”

The number of children in Islington with EHCPs has increased by 27 per cent over the past four years, according to NEU data.

A spokesman for Disability Action in Islington (DAI) said: “This is the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of disabled children across the UK today who can’t even attend school at all because they can’t access the support they need. Locally, more needs to be done.

“It’s commendable that the council has challenged these cuts. However, the council must work with providers to find ways to address these results, sooner rather than later.”

Pupils with EHCPs in Islington achieved a “Progress 8” score below the national average in 2018, while in 2017 they were above the national average. Progress 8 is measured by comparing pupils’ GCSE results to those of other pupils nationally with similar prior attainment at key stage 2 – the final years of primary school.

The council’s figure is based on a group of 15 pupils last year and it says variations could be explained by a small sample size.

The government have launched a “call for evidence” on the funding arrangements for young people with special needs and those who need alternative provision.

The consultation closes on July 31.

A council spokeswoman said: “The council works very closely with parent groups and other stakeholders in Islington to ensure we meet the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

“National funding cuts have made a significant impact, but in Islington we have worked extremely hard to ensure there is high-quality support in place for children with special educational needs and in most cases their educational outcomes are above the London and national averages.”

The Tribune contacted the Department for Education but no response was provided.

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