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The Department of Education (DOE) has been causing consternation into the weekend, with a series of announcements and speeches concerning Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) and behaviour in schools.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds, addressed the National Association of Headteachers’ (NAHT) annual meeting in Telford on Friday 03 May.

He noted that there are ‘challenges’ which are ‘increasing’ within teaching, notably Send. The number of children in schools children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) increased by more than 13,000 between 2017 and 2018, with a ‘steady increase’ in the number of children no longer attending mainstream schools.

‘Specialist provision’ is ‘more expensive’ he said, with capacity issues in the number of places available. He said it was the ‘right thing to do’ in making sure that those children were supported in mainstream schools where possible by increasing personal support available to the children.

He announced a ‘call for evidence’ to create ‘a system that works for these young people’ inviting schools, teachers, local authorities and health services to join in too.

In response, general secretary of NAHT Paul Whiteman said that though they welcomed the focus on Send, the ultimate solution would be better funding for schools.

He said:“The picture facing schools supporting children with special educational needs is bleak. Not only are school budgets at breaking point, there have been severe cuts to local authority health and social care provision. Schools are left struggling to meet the needs of our most vulnerable pupils.

“We absolutely welcome the Secretary of State’s focus on this issue; the overall funding crisis cannot be solved without getting to grips with SEN support. A call for evidence is welcome, as the issue is complex, but ultimately the solution is simple: more money from the Treasury is urgently needed, both for schools and health and social care services.”

But in an apparent contradictory move that has baffled the internet, The DOE made a second announcement the next day, pledging £10 million to some 500 unspecified schools to help teachers ‘crack down’ on disruptive classroom behaviour.

School ‘behaviour expert’ Tom Bennett, will be in charge of the programme, which is exploring methods such as focusing on attendance and punctuality – two things that can be disability related – as well as effective sanctions and efficient detention systems.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “As a Government, continuing the improvement in pupil behaviour in schools is a key priority. With £10million of funding, the support provided to schools will allow teachers to get on with what they do best – teaching – and empower school leaders to implement their behaviour policies correctly and robustly.”

The Friday announced ‘call for evidence’ concerning children and young people with Send, and those who need alternative provision (AP) will come through a consultation running until 31 July 2019.

The DFE states in the consultation call for evidence documents that its ambition is for those with Send, those in AP or are at the risk of exclusion from school have the same opportunities as other children by way of school achievement and employment.

AP continues to be a challenge for Bristol City Council, with provision and Top – Up-Funding costs continuing to rise. At Bristol Schools’ Forum in April, Bristol City Council Business Manager for Send, Mary Taylor attributed these rising costs to increased demand for pupil referral units (PRU) for which the council was ‘looking to tighten up on the payment process’.

School Forum members raised the point that there was a need for a vision for AP as Bristol was spending more on AP than any other city outside of London.