Derbyshire families back call for SEND changes amid national crisis

SEND special education needs campaigners at their protest picnic in Matlock
SEND special education needs campaigners at their protest picnic in Matlock

Derbyshire families hit by the crisis in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities support joined a national day of action in Matlock yesterday.

Around 60 parents, carers and children from across the county met for a campaign picnic in Hall Leys Park, as other SEND groups met in towns and cities up and down the country.

Members of the Matlock Parenting Additional Needs group taking part in the SEND protest

Members of the Matlock Parenting Additional Needs group taking part in the SEND protest

Organiser Nikola Matulewicz-Evans, who has given up her job and withdrawn her two children from school over issues arising from a lack of support, said: “It was brilliant for raising awareness and giving parents a chance to network and support each other.

“We had a few school governors and a teacher come to talk to us, and people who wanted to talk about their children’s experience.”

She added: “Fighting to get support can be extremely unpleasant and frightening, and children are suffering. Here everyone felt safe and understood.”

The national campaign delivered a petition of 12,000 signatures to the Prime Minister, calling for increased spending on SEND and protection for that money in school budgets.

By some estimates, the funding gap for high-needs SEND was at least £287million last year and is projected to reach £1.6billion in the next two years.

Nikola said: “There is already money there for SEND but it is not being used properly because it isn’t ringfenced. Schools are underfunded and maybe they need a new roof or something. These children are not always a priority.

“Some schools are in denial. They want to top the league tables and do well at Ofsted inspections, and that’s not really SEND-friendly. It’s too competitive.”

She added: ”There is a real lack of transparency in the system too.”

Half of all local area SEND services have been found to be failing, and appeals to the Special Educational Needs & Disability Tribunal have increased by 80 per cent in recent years.

Complaints to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman about SEND have risen by 150 per cent since 2015, and 87 per cent of those have been upheld.

Nikola said added: “We are calling for an increase in funding to match needs; for it to be ringfenced; for improved monitoring and accountability to improve outcomes for every child; and for a single process which all local authorities must follow.

“This movement was started by three women last year. Now we have a network of parents all over the UK and we are forming a plan of action. We are going to continue this campaign.”

Derbyshire County Council’s head of children’s services, Jane Parfrement, has offered to meet with the group to discuss their concerns.