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Parents protest outside Hackney town hall over ‘frightening’ special educational needs funding cuts

PUBLISHED: 16:25 22 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:17 26 February 2018

Deputy mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble announced the U-turn yesterday. Picture: Adam Holt/Hackney Council

Deputy mayor, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble announced the U-turn yesterday. Picture: Adam Holt/Hackney Council

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Parents of special educational needs children protested against “frightening” funding cuts before the full council meeting last night.

A huge protest took place outisde Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Melissa ByersA huge protest took place outisde Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Melissa Byers

Plans published in October will seen the town hall reduce the amount of high-needs funding given to mainstream schools by 5 per cent in 2018/19, with another reduction of the same amount next year.

The rally was organised by campaign group Hackney Special Education Crisis. During the town hall meeting, one mother of three children with SEND explained how, in real terms, for a visually impaired child, a 5pc cut could mean no money to pay for software used to help enlarge texts. It could also mean no money to pay for a specialist teacher to work with a child once each term, or for social groups such as Circle of Friends.

Another speaker added: “The consultation was very frightening. It just said: ‘You are going to have enormous cuts to the money your school is going to have to look after disabled children.’ My daughter is blind. She would fall down the stairs without people to help her.”

The council says the government’s decision to freeze funding has left councils in London plugging a gap of £100million. Deputy mayor Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, a former SEND coordinator in Islington, said there was a “hidden crisis”.

Campaigners made posters ahead of the meeting on Wednesday. Picture: Melissa ByersCampaigners made posters ahead of the meeting on Wednesday. Picture: Melissa Byers

All but six of the 32 London boroughs have already reported cost pressures. In Hackney, the shortfall this year was £6.1million due to increased demand and rising costs.

“The Tory government is not adequately funding SEND,” Cllr Bramble said. “I’ve spoken in the House of Commons about this. Every platform I am on I will talk about SEND. There is a hidden crisis – people don’t understand.”

She also revealed she had written to the education minister urging a review of the SEND funding freeze in October, but had received a response from a junior minister that “made it clear the government has no interest in providing adequate support for society’s most vulnerable children”.

The council has, however, announced a U-turn on the funding model for the SEND service, something that will not affect the 5pc cut to high-needs pupils.

The council has scrapped plans for a new funding model but cuts will still go ahead. Picture: Melissa ByersThe council has scrapped plans for a new funding model but cuts will still go ahead. Picture: Melissa Byers

Cllr Bramble said: “We have listened to feedback during the consultation, and in meetings with parents and teachers, and as a result I will recommend to cabinet next month that we do not to go forward with the proposed changes.

“Instead we will work together to find a way to ensure pupils continue to receive the support they need, but in a way that is sustainable.”

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