Funding boost could help schools in TV spotlight

December 21 2018

TWO weeks after pressures on special educational needs (SEN) funding were highlighted in a BBC documentary featuring schools in South Gloucestershire, the Government has come up with more money.

Education Secretary Damien Hinds announced on December 16, just as the Voice was going to print, that he would stump up another £250m to help mainstream schools in England fund SEN provision, as well as £100m for more special schools.

The news was welcomed on social media by Will Roberts, chief executive of CSET, which runs the secondary schools that were in the six-part TV show: Mangotsfield, Marlwood and Castle.

It was also hailed by headteacher unions and lobbying groups who said that although the additional funding was not enough, it was a step in the right direction.

The money should be a help to South Gloucestershire Council, which has been consulting on how to save £3 million on its overstretched SEN budget. 

The difficulties schools can have meeting the needs of children with special needs at a time of financial constraint was a strong element of the programmes from Marlwood and Mangotsfield schools.

The series has prompted a huge response locally and around the country,  fuelling a revival of the Fair Funding for All Schools South Glos group.

Mr Roberts, a former head of Downend School - which is also part of CSET - said the intention had always been to raise awareness and provoke debate.

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, he said: "We have to make education a higher national priority, and that needs to be embraced by the public at large, not just the education profession or the government of the day. We can be very proud of what we achieve in our schools on a daily basis, but we will only sustain this in the future by being open about the challenges that we face."

The programme sparked a political row at South Gloucestershire Council. Toby Savage, the council leader, was criticised by opposition members after he said viewers would be naive to take School at face value. 

Labour's Ian Boulton said many parents, staff and students, felt it was a fair reflection of their experience of their local school.