The Times published three articles today about special needs funding in England. A good thing, you might think, given the two recent critical reports into SEND in England by the National Audit Office and the local government ombudsman.
But the articles, all written by The Times' social affairs correspondent, suggested local authorities were being underhand in moving money from general schools funding to special needs. The headlines set the tone:
It appears The Times doesn’t think children and young people with special education needs or disabilities (SEND) are pupils.
I placed a comment on the article about pupils losing out. It began:
‘The NAO published a highly critical report in September about SEND provision in England. The DfE media department hasn't responded. At the beginning of October, a local government ombudsman report said 'severe delays' in issuing EHC plans suggested the SEND system in England was in crisis. https://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2019/10/severe-delays-in-issuing-ehc-plans-suggest-english-send-system-is-in-crisis’
‘None of this is reflected in the article above.’
‘LAs have a statutory duty to provide EHC plans. They shift funds around to fulfil this duty. That's not to say LAs are blameless: LAs wasted £100m fighting EHC appeals most of which were upheld.’
I ended by pointing out that the real culprit was underfunding which forced local authorities to push crumbs from one side of the plate to another.
It appears this comment is so incendiary it had to have approval before being published.
These articles are not worthy of The Times. They don’t reflect the crisis in SEND provision in England. Instead, the paper blames local authorities. They also contradict a Times article published earlier this months headed ‘Fears councils are rationing funding for special needs children’ by The Times’ education correspondent.
If my comment is approved, I will acknowledge it here. At the time of writing, it was still waiting.
UPDATE 16.47. Just checked and my comment's been published. I've amended the article.
UPDATE 16 October 11.45: The Times has printed a scathing rebuttal of the three articles re 'golden ticket' SEND funding. This is welcome. Unfortunately, it doesn't compensate for the emotive and divisive tone of the earlier articles.